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Smith Feeling Better, Hedgecock to Start
Thursday, October 5, 2006
By Nick Wagoner
Paul Smith has spent most of his football career as a human wrecking ball. There is really no other way to describe his dual role as a fullback on offense and wedge buster on special teams.
For those who aren’t familiar, a wedge buster has the unenviable task of running down the field and crashing into as many people as possible in an attempt to divert the kick returner away from the “wedge” or opening in the blocking and toward one of his teammates.
Smith has been doing that job for as long as he can remember and has had his share of collisions, but to his recollection, he’s only had one crash as vicious as the one that happened to him last week against Detroit.
“I had one collision similar to that,” Smith said. “I got up from that one. This one was about the hardest.”
When he was with the Lions, Smith ran down the field and slammed into a pair of offensive linemen blocking for a kick return. That time, Smith was able to walk off, get some smelling salts and return to the game.
This time, Smith wasn’t able to return. After crashing into a pair of blockers, including Detroit’s Frank Davis, with whom Smith shared a hospital room, Smith found himself unable to see out of his left eye and feeling woozy on the FieldTurf at the Edward Jones Dome.
The original diagnosis focused on a concussion, a concussion Smith said wasn’t too bad. The real damage had been done to his left eye, where Smith says he had a pair of tiny fractures, one above the eye and the other to the right close to his nose, from when his helmet was pushed down his forehead.
“I was out of it for a couple of minutes, but that was mostly because of when I got hit I couldn’t see out of this eye,” Smith said. “I just laid back down on the field and waited for someone to come get me.”
Smith, who earned the starting fullback job in training camp, will be out this week and probably next week against Seattle. He reports that he is already feeling better as he went outside for the first time Thursday. With a bye week to go, he could return in time for the game against San Diego at the end of October.
In the meantime, the man he beat out for the starting job, Madison Hedgecock will handle the fullback duties. Hedgecock started all of last season at the position and has played plenty this year.
Smith and Hedgecock are different types of players. Smith is more of a hammer coming through the line while Hedgecock is the better pass blocker.
Coach Scott Linehan says he is comfortable with Hedgecock as his main fullback though the team will use tight ends Aaron Walker and Joe Klopfenstein in the back field as well.
“He’s done a good job,” Linehan said. “When he played these last two weeks, he did a real nice job of blocking, knows his assignments, and has enough experience where you feel good about him playing. He played quite a bit last year and did a nice job. This is a great opportunity for him to get some more snaps.”
When Smith does return, don’t expect him to come back with fear of doing what he always does. The way he figures it, playing scared would only increase the chance he could be hurt worse.
“No hesitation,” Smith said. “That’s my style of play to go in there as hard as I can. If you hesitate then you will get hurt, especially on special teams. I’m going to just keep playing hard and doing what I do.”
PICKING UP THE PACE: Left tackle Orlando Pace returned to practice Wednesday and was limited in the workout. In Thursday’s practice, Pace participated in almost all of the drills and he continues to recover from a concussion suffered on Sept. 17.
“He did a lot more,” Linehan said. “He took a lot more reps in team. He told me he felt a lot better than he did last week at this time so we’ll still evaluate it day to day.”
Pace is still questionable on Thursday’s injury report, but most signs are pointing to him returning to his spot at left tackle after missing last week’s game against Detroit.
INJURY REPORT: The only other Ram on the injury report is starting cornerback Fakhir Brown. Brown has some tenderness in his ankle and was limited in his work in practice Wednesday and Thursday.
“He is doing better,” Linehan said. “He’s still sore. He practiced a little bit more today and was somewhat limited.”
Brown is probable on the injury report and will almost certainly be available for the game against Green Bay this weekend.
Re: Smith Feeling Better, Hedgecock to Start
i would be really really careful with brown. we need him against seattle and then he will be able to rest in the bye week.
ramming speed to all