Rams Notebook: Roster features 5 undrafted rookies
7 hours ago
By Joe Lyons

When the Rams submitted their 53-man roster to the NFL over the weekend, it included five undrafted free agents – linebackers Ray Ray Armstrong, Daren Bates and Jonathan Stewart, defensive end Gerald Rivers and running back-kick returner Benny Cunningham.

No surprise, really. A year ago, in their first season under the direction of head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead, the Rams came into 2012 as the NFL’s youngest team and finished with a roster that included eight undrafted free agents — punter Johnny Hekker, quarterback Austin Davis, tight end Cory Harkey, safeties Rodney McLeod, Matt Daniels and Quinton Pointer, defensive end-linebacker Sammy Brown and defensive tackle Matt Conrath.

“It’s something that everybody works at. It’s a collective effort and it starts well before the draft,’’ Fisher said following Sunday’s workout at Rams Park. “It’s basically one of those deals where you get a sense for guys on the (draft) board and if they’re still left on the board when the draft’s over, you basically express interest and show a need and fortunately we got some quality players.’’

Fisher continued: “There are Pro Bowlers that were undrafted college free agents ... you spent a lot of time on the bottom of those lists (and) it’s worked out good for us so far.’’

Who knows, maybe one of these guys will turn out to be the next Kurt Warner or London Fletcher. Warner, a potential Hall of Fame quarterback, went from the supermarket to Super Bowl champ while Fletcher, a Rams free-agent pickup from Division III John Carroll University back in 1998, is still going strong as a linebacker with the Washington Redskins.

PRACTICE SQUAD SET

The Rams quickly filled their eight practice-squad slots Sunday afternoon, bringing back receiver-punt returner Justin Veltung, wide receiver Emory Blake, fullback Eric Stevens, defensive end Mason Brodine, defensive end-linebacker Sammy Brown, cornerback Darren Woodard, safety Cody Davis and offensive lineman Sean Hooey.

All eight players were cut over the weekend when the team went from 75 to 53.

Quarterback Austin Davis, who lost out to Kellen Clemens for the backup spot behind Sam Bradford, is not part of the practice squad.

Brown, who missed some time in camp with a calf injury, spent time on the practice squad a year ago. The undrafted free agent from the University of Houston was activated to the 53-man roster late last season and saw his first NFL action against San Francisco in early December.

Veltung, a rookie free agent from the University of Idaho, was picked up early in camp after he was released by the Seattle Seahawks. According to unofficial preseason stats, Veltung returned nine punts for 93 yards, with a long of 25 yards. He also had a 28-yard kickoff return, a 28-yard pass reception and a 5-yard run.

The other seven players joined the team in the spring as undrafted free agents. Some more statistical highlights:

• Blake had a pair of catches for 16 yards.

• Stevens was credited with one special teams tackle.

• Brodine finished with eight tackles and had an 18-yard fumble recovery.

• Woodard made 11 tackles and also picked off a pass.

• Davis led the squad with 14 preseason tackles.

RAM-BLINGS

Safety Matt Daniels, who’s getting back to 100 percent after offseason ACL surgery, had his right arm in a sling and did not practice Sunday. Linebacker Jonathan Stewart and quarterback Kellen Clemens also did not practice. A league source said Clemens had a family matter to attend to.

• Sunday’s brief workout was shifted indoors after a spot storm rolled through Earth City Sunday afternoon. “It came down pretty hard here,’’ Fisher said. “It really just popped up out of nowhere. It’s not an issue, we’re just kind of getting their legs back underneath them (today). We had a good session.’’

• Cornerback Robert Steeples (De Smet, Missouri, Memphis), cut when the Rams took the roster from 90 to 75 last week, worked out for the Philadelphia Eagles last week and for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

• Ex-Rams signed to practice squads Sunday included G Rokevious Watkins (Kansas City), DT Al Lapuaho (Miami), WR Greg Salas (Philadelphia) and TE Fendi Onobun (Chicago). The Bears also claimed DE David Bass (University City High, Missouri Western) off waivers. He was drafted in the seventh round and cut by the Oakland Raiders.

• The Rams’ players have two days off before returning Wednesday to prepare for Arizona, their opening opponent.