Waggoner on Kennedy - 7/30
By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer wrote:Kennedy Poised for Breakout
Saturday, July 30, 2005
When Jimmy Kennedy arrived in St. Louis in 2003, he came with a confident swagger, the kind of attitude of a player ready to make a difference on the Rams’ defensive line.
Well, those plans didn’t exactly go accordingly. Kennedy played in 13 games, making just 10 tackles. He wasn’t in good playing condition and his production reflected it. Simply put, Kennedy wasn’t ready for the rigors of the NFL and he didn’t know how to put in the work to get there.
Coming out of Penn State, it was easy for a player of Kennedy’s stature to stand up and talk about his ability, but with his poor performance on the field, that confident swagger turned into a lifeless reticence.
Along with Kennedy’s loss of confidence, the coaching staff also lost confidence in him. Kennedy went into a shell, barely speaking with the media and wondering about his future in the NFL.
Oh how far he has come. No, Kennedy hasn’t earned a Pro Bowl berth or any other honors, but the confidence is back and Kennedy is clearly one of the most improved players on the field.
“Last year I was more nervous (entering camp),” Kennedy said. “But this year, after offseason was over, I just put my hand in the dirt and said ‘Who can stop me?’
“It’s going to happen, especially out there in practice because I see those guys in practice every day. It’s about how you bounce back from that after a loss, after you go out there and beat somebody, you can’t let your head go into the clouds and think I have arrived because I haven’t. I have a long way to go.”
The turning point for Kennedy’s resurrection is easy to find. After a somewhat difficult start to last year’s camp, he broke his foot and was left to face another setback. Kennedy had put in some work in the weight room in hopes of bouncing back from his difficult rookie season, but the foot injury could easily have been the last straw.
The injury forced Kennedy to make a decision about his future, not just for the season, but also for his career.
“When I broke my foot it allowed me to say ‘if this is over, would I be happy with my career,” Kennedy said. “I wouldn’t be satisfied with that. Also, it allowed the coaches to see how hard I worked. When I broke my foot, (strength coach) Dana LeDuc was seeing how hard I worked in the weight room. Coach Martz and those guys saw how hard I was working on getting back. Right now I am just a different player because I have the coaching staff as well as my teammates backing me up.”
Kennedy did indeed choose to get back to work in an effort to become the type of player he and the Rams believed he was coming out of college. Though he couldn’t participate in drills or play for most of the season, Kennedy focused his efforts on the weight room.
“I am learning what it takes to a pro,” Kennedy said. “Watching those guys like Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Tyoka (Jackson), those guys are always working year around. Our job is year around so whenever I get a chance to hit the weight room, I’m there.”
When he finally returned to action after missing the first seven games, he made 40 tackles in the final nine games. He made his first sack at one of the season’s biggest moments, making a sack in the final stages of the NFC Wild Card game at Seattle.
Flashing that glimpse of what his future could hold was enough to get Rams’ fans excited about his future.
Although Kennedy’s weight has held steady at 320 pounds, there is a noticeable difference in the definition he has, particularly his upper body strength. During the first few days of camp, Kennedy has stood out for his improved agility and strength.
With a tight grasp on a starting spot at defensive tackle, a more chiseled body and the return of the confidence he once had, Kennedy believes he is primed for a breakout year.
Kennedy isn’t the only one who believes in what he can do. Coach Mike Martz has regained confidence in his young defensive tackle; something he thinks has made a difference in Kennedy’s improved play.
“He’s confident about what he is doing,’’ Martz said. “I think physically when he first got here both strength-wise and conditioning-wise he wasn’t where he needed to be. That is embarrassing for any No. 1, and that happens all the time. There is not much you can do about it. It’s not going to happen overnight, so there is a frustration that settles in. He’s gone past that, and he’s as strong as any player we have on the team right now. His physical gains have been remarkable.’’
Armed with the trust of his coaches and teammates, Kennedy is as effervescent as ever, predicting big things for the defensive line. Kennedy is set as a starter inside with Ryan “Big Grease” Pickett and flanked on the outside by talented pass rushers Leonard Little and Anthony Hargrove.
Kennedy says that confidence he has in himself as well as from his teammates is what makes his drive to do better.
“It was a tough journey and it’s not over,” Kennedy said. “What’s helping me a lot more is the coaches seeing how hard I am working and I have that respect and that commitment. It’s not like I am in this by myself. They know what I can do now and that allows me to go out there and do that.
“The biggest thing is my confidence is through the roof. I have got the attitude that I can’t be stopped. Now, it’s a matter of going out there and practicing and becoming the best so I can show you guys instead of telling you.”
Re: Waggoner on Kennedy - 7/30
That all ends come Feb. 2006.
Kennedy hasn’t earned a Pro Bowl berth