Rams wide receiver hopes to bounce back
Thumb injury set him back last year
BY STEVE KORTE
MACOMB - St. Louis Rams wide receiver Shaun McDonald feels like he's starting over again in the NFL.
"I'm basically a rookie again," McDonald said. "I didn't prove anything last year, so I didn't come in here with a spot waiting for me. I just have to come in here and show that I can contribute and I belong out there."
McDonald was the first of the Rams' two fourth-round draft choice in 2003.
The shifty receiver out of Arizona State was supposed to fill the role of offensive catalyst that the Rams had been missing since Az-Zahir Hakim signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Detroit Lions after the 2001 season.
However, McDonald's rookie season was scuttled by a thumb injury suffered in the team's season opener against the New York Giants.
He ended up playing in only seven of the team's final 15 games. He caught 10 passes for 62 yards and didn't return a punt or a kickoff as he was passed over on the depth chart by both Dane Looker and Mike Furrey.
So now McDonald, 23, must re-establish him as a valuable commodity on both offense and special teams.
That process started with him catching a team-high five passes for 78 yards in the Rams' 13-10 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears last Friday in the preseason opener for both teams.
"No question he got my attention," Rams coach Mike Martz said of McDonald. "All six of those receivers (Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Looker, Furrey, Kevin Curtis and McDonald), I'm pleased with."
McDonald also got the attention of the 65,000-plus fans at the Edward Jones Dome when he returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Bears.
Unfortunately, the touchdown was negated by an illegal block above the waist on Rams rookie Dusty McGrorty. McDonald said he didn't notice the penalty flag right away.
"About halfway through the celebration, I turned around ... it's football," McDonald said. "Those things happen. We're going to correct that, and during the season, we'll probably have a few punt returns for touchdowns."
The Rams have returned only one punt for a touchdown -- Dre' Bly scampered 78 yards on a punt return against Arizona during the 2002 season -- over the past three seasons.
The Rams have allowed nine returns for touchdowns over that span.
The Rams' coverage units were victimized once again on Friday night as the Bears' Ahmad Merritt had an 87-yard return on the opening kickoff of overtime, setting up Paul Edinger's game-winning 35-yard field goal.
McDonald said the players from both teams weren't too excited about going to overtime in a preseason game.
"They wanted to win and we wanted to win, but we both kind of wanted it to be over," McDonald. "I had a conversation with a few of their guys right before the kickoff, and they are telling us to let them run it back. I was like, 'Just fumble and we'll pick it up and run it in.' I also told them they should have declined that clipping on the punt return."
McDonald said he's going into the 2004 season with a now-or-never attitude. If he doesn't make his mark this season, he might never get another opportunity.
"You don't get too many chances in the NFL, so it has to be this year," McDonald said
Re: Rams wide receiver hopes to bounce back
Couldn't have a better approach if you were to ask me. What? You didn't, you say? One season to acclimate to a new system. The 2nd to put up or shut up. The Rams desperately need stability at the return positions and explosiveness at the 3rd WO. Hopefully a gem gets polished this year.
Originally Posted by RamWraith