Veteran steps in for his injured teammate
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch

MACOMB, Ill. - Don't look for Bernard Holsey in an instructional fitness video any time soon. The veteran defensive tackle was doing a plyometrics workout during the offseason when he lost his equilibrium.

"It was one of those freak accidents," Holsey said. "I was doing box jumps and kind of lost my balance. I fell down and my leg kind of stayed up on the box."

He suffered a torn quadriceps tendon in his left leg and underwent surgery in February. Which is hardly the best way to begin the offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

Because of the surgery, Holsey wasn't expecting to hear from NFL teams until the start of training camp. Much to his surprise, the Rams signed him to a one-year, $660,000 contract on June 18.

"I really wasn't expecting that," Holsey said. "The Rams came out of the blue on that one. I really appreciate their trust and faith in me that everything's going to work out for the best."

For the most part, Holsey had been a spectator during the first nine days of camp as he continued rehabilitation work on his leg. Now, it's time for Holsey to reward the Rams for that "trust and faith."

Thursday afternoon, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy was lost for 10 to 12 weeks with a fractured foot. On Friday afternoon, Holsey took part in his first full-scale practice with the Rams.

Kennedy wasn't going to start this season; Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis will handle those chores. But Kennedy had shown enough to merit a spot in defensive line coach Bill Kollar's rotation.

"Obviously, he still had a ways to go," Kollar said. "But he was getting better and working pretty hard."

With Kennedy shelved for at least half the season, Holsey becomes the No. 1 candidate for the No. 3 spot at defensive tackle.

"To me, starting is not that important," Holsey said. "I'm here to play. And the way Coach Kollar rotates his guys, I'm going to get to play a good amount."

Given Lewis' injury history, Holsey could play even more than he thinks. An eight-year veteran from Duke, Holsey has played for the New York Giants, Indianapolis, New England and Washington. He has started only 33 of 104 games over that span, but started all 16 games last season for the Redskins.

"He's a stout-looking guy and stuff," Kollar said. "I know he's a tough guy, which we like."

Other possibilities for tackle help off the bench include defensive captain Tyoka Jackson and youngsters Brian Howard, Justin Montgomery and Kevin Aldridge.

"Over the last couple years, Ty has really done a good job at left end for us, and we really like him out there," Kollar said. "But he might have to go in and help inside."

Previously, Jackson had been used inside in pass-rushing situations. But that could change. Prior to Kennedy's injury, Aldridge, Howard and Montgomery were roster long shots at best. But that could change.

"It gives those guys a great opportunity to go out and show what they're able to do, and see if they can end up making the ballclub," Kollar said.

Aldridge has shown some quickness but has been slowed by a groin injury. Howard, an undrafted rookie from Idaho, has shown steady improvement early in camp. He is a high-effort player with some quickness but is on the light side at 278 and lacks strength.

Even if Holsey settles in as the No. 3 defensive tackle, Kennedy's injury increases Howard's chances of making the squad. "It should," Howard said. "But you've just got to keep playing like you've been playing. It shouldn't affect your play when somebody gets hurt like that. You just kind of do what you do."

On the starting unit, Lewis has been impressive early in camp, but the same was true last year, only to have him fizzle out during the regular season. Pickett showed up heavy for camp this summer and is working himself back into form.

For his part, coach Mike Martz says he's not worried about the defensive tackle situation.

"We've got 14 defensive linemen," Martz said. "So it's not like we're desperate here for numbers. We've got plenty of good players inside who'll do a good job. I'm more concerned about the offensive line. We're not very deep there."

As for Kennedy, he is seeking a second opinion on the foot before undergoing surgery.

"I feel bad for him because he was starting to progress," Jackson said. "It hurts our team a little bit because he was going to be a valuable part of what we're doing. But that's the NFL, to be honest with you. The train doesn't stop for anybody. . . . As a group, we have to lift our play and keep going."