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Things are taking shape for Kennedy after wasted season

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  • Things are taking shape for Kennedy after wasted season

    Things are taking shape for Kennedy after wasted season
    By Bill Coats

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - To some degree, Rams defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy was a victim of bad advice last year as a rookie.

    "When I was in college, a lot of guys came back - LaVar Arrington and some other players that we had there at Penn State - and told me how easy (NFL) practices were, how I'd dominate on the pro level, and different things like that," Kennedy said.

    So, he acknowledged, he wasn't even close to being ready for the rigors that lay ahead of him.

    "When I came into camp last year, I felt weaker because I'd lost a lot of weight, and I didn't really know what to expect from the coaches," he said. "And I can't say my work ethic was as high as it should be. This year, I'm stronger and I know what to expect."

    And, according to coach Mike Martz, significantly closer to living up to the hype that comes with being a first-round draft pick. "He's much-improved, absolutely, from last year; there's no question," Martz said. "You notice him. He's made some plays out here."

    As the 12th overall selection in the 2003 draft, the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Kennedy was expected to make a big splash. Instead, he barely created a ripple. Kennedy, 24, played sparingly and in only 12 games, making 10 tackles.

    If he had a personal highlight, it was a tipped Jeff Blake pass that linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa intercepted in a 30-24 victory at Arizona.

    But the lows far outweighed the highs. "It was definitely frustrating going out there every game and just standing on the sideline," he said. "But it was a learning experience. I looked at it as a redshirt year."

    In the offseason, Kennedy devoted himself to the weight room, and the effects are noticeable. "It's paid off," Martz said. "To stand out and move up now, he really needs to kind of pour on the steam. He's moving in the right direction."

    When tackle Brian Young signed a free-agent deal with New Orleans, an opening was created on the defensive line. For now, Damione Lewis has moved into the first-team slot, but Kennedy is being counted on to at least provide effective depth.

    "Jimmy did not have a good year last year, but he's had a pretty good offseason," defensive line coach Bill Kollar said. "He's gotten his upper body quite a bit stronger, and we're hoping that he can come on and really help us out this year."

    Kennedy is getting plenty of reps in camp at Western Illinois University and, Martz noted, has been keeping up with his linemates. "He's up there at the same practice pace and intensity," Martz said.

    A bout with back spasms kept Kennedy sidelined for one day, but he was back the next, even though the pain has yet to subside. "It's shooting down my leg, so it must be touching the nerve or something. I'm sleeping terrible," he said. "But I'm trying to work through it."

    A year ago, such discomfort might have put Kennedy in sick bay for an extended period. But, he said, he knows now that he has much to prove.

    "These guys are trying to accommodate me so I can have success on the field. I'm just trying to stay healthy and live up to the challenge," he said. "The only thing that makes me nervous now is, I have a year in but I'm still like a rookie. And I don't want to go out there and make any rookie mistakes."

    Still, he realizes that the process won't be completed in short order. "My biggest thing is trying to be consistent," he said. "I have good practices and I have bad practices. . . . It takes time, especially at defensive line; that's a tough position to learn. You go from dealing with college-age guys to dealing with grown men, guys who've been in the league for eight, nine, 10 years. They've mastered their technique, and I'm just trying to learn my technique."

    Despite last year's disappointments, Kennedy said he never gave up. "My confidence is out of the roof," he said. "Not once has it hit me that I can't play this game. I know I can play. That's why I'm here, that's why I was a first-round pick."

    One that someday just might live up to that potential. "He's a ways from where we expect him to be," Martz said, "but he's on his way."


    Kennedy's profile

    Position: Defensive line
    Number: 73
    Height: 6-4
    Weight: 320
    Born: Nov. 15, 1979
    Hometown: Yonkers, N.Y.
    College: Penn State
    NFL experience: Going into his second season with Rams
    Miscellaneous: Kenndy was drafted No. 12 overall by the Rams in 2003

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • RamWraith
    Comeback Kennedy
    by RamWraith
    Published Friday, August 05, 2005

    ST. LOUIS - Late during his second season with the St. Louis Rams last year, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy began making some pretty big strides.

    That was very significant, considering for the first seven games last season - after breaking his right foot in training camp a year ago - the 2003 first-round draft selection wasn't able to make any strides at all.

    Now the Rams are hoping the 6-foot-4, 320-pound third-year player out of Penn State picks up where he left off last season. And so far this training camp, Kennedy, 25, definitely has left coach Mike Martz with that favorable impression.

    "He is probably the most dramatic change in any football player that I've ever been around in one year," Martz stated. "From where he was a year ago to where he is right now - he's not even the same person.

    "I think that the strength that he's gained has been pretty dramatic in terms of allowing him to do things physically on the field. We've allowed him to be a little heavier than maybe what he was in the past - what we wanted him to be in the past - and he's started to be more comfortable with it."

    That began to manifest itself late last season - after Kennedy had reassessed his career and recommitted himself to the weight room. After totaling just 10 tackles during his disappointing rookie season, Kennedy recorded 40 tackles in the final nine games last season and recorded his first sack in the NFC Wild Card game at Seattle.

    "The good thing about it was, when I broke my foot, everybody was looking at me coming into the weight room saying that I was getting bigger but my weight was the same," said Kennedy, noting he is only three pounds heavier than his 317 rookie weight. "Coach Martz and those guys saw how hard I was working on getting back. And they said 'He's one of the strongest guys on the team.'

    "They said, 'How is this guy bigger, faster and stronger?' Because my energy is up. I'm at my regular playing weight."

    But now his weight distribution, especially in his upper body, is much better suited to the rigors of an NFL defensive lineman.

    And Martz believes Kennedy's transformation has been psychological as well as physical, noting the two have gone hand in hand.

    "He's having a lot of fun," Martz said. "I think the confidence that he's gained from his strength has allowed him to do some things physically that he wasn't able to do before.

    "I think when kids come here with that No. 1 pick like that, there's so much pressure on them. And physically, he wasn't ready to play (in 2003). But there's a pride factor involved, too, so he took it upon himself to get himself physically prepared, and with that came the confidence....
    -08-05-2005, 07:34 PM
  • RamWraith
    Kennedy starts season with air of confidence
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Sep. 09 2005

    While Jimmy Kennedy's broken right foot healed last year, his psyche also was
    on the mend.

    Three months on the sideline "allowed me to appreciate what I'm doing and
    accept this job as a blessing," said Kennedy, a defensive tackle out of Penn
    State who was the 12th overall selection in the 2003 draft. "Not everybody can
    play football."

    Some observers wondered whether Kennedy could play football as he struggled
    through a wrenching rookie season. Out of shape and unprepared for the jump to
    the NFL, Kennedy wasn't even allowed to suit up for the first two games and
    didn't get on the field until the fourth. By season's end, he had recorded a
    mere 10 tackles.

    When the fifth metatarsal bone on his right foot snapped early in training camp
    last year, Kennedy feared that another season had been lost. He figured he'd go
    on injured reserve, but coach Mike Martz nixed that idea. He wanted Kennedy to
    put in the necessary work - and learn how to deal with pain - in an effort to
    salvage at least a part of the season.

    Kennedy not only bulked up in the weight room and rehabbed furiously, he
    decided to modify the way he approached the game.

    "I felt myself trying to please the organization," he said. "I forgot that the
    Rams drafted me because they had to see something in me in college, and I
    wasn't playing my game my first year. I was too busy trying to play (defensive
    line coach Bill) Kollar's game, Mike Martz's game and the rest of those guys'
    games upstairs.

    "That was because I didn't know what it took to become a pro. So I said, 'You
    know what? Just let me play the way I played in college and just pick it up a
    notch.' And that's all I'm doing right now."

    Despite considerable soreness, Kennedy started the last five regular-season
    games and both playoff contests. He defended his first-team status throughout
    camp and will be in the lineup Sunday when the Rams open the season.

    "He's had a very good preseason," Martz said. "I thought that particularly in
    the last two games, he showed up bigger and bigger. We need to have him be that
    way during the season."

    As for the foot, Kennedy said: "It feels great. I don't even think about it

    Hodges is rarin' to go

    Rookie punter Reggie Hodges, who withstood a rough start in camp as well as a
    challenge from veteran Bryan Barker, is awaiting his first regular-season NFL
    action impatiently.

    "I can't wait," said Hodges, a sixth-round draft pick from Ball State....
    -09-10-2005, 06:07 AM
  • RamWraith
    Kennedy puts best foot forward
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Thursday, Nov. 11 2004

    For Jimmy Kennedy, half a loaf is better than none. A broken foot in training
    camp sidelined him for seven games. But after making his 2004 debut in Sunday's
    40-22 loss to New England, he seems determined to make the most out of the
    remainder of the season.

    "It's always great to be back on the field," said Kennedy, the Rams'
    first-round draft pick in 2003. "It's just tough to come out with this loss."

    Unofficially, Kennedy was in for 25 plays at defensive tackle against the
    Patriots, spelling starters Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis. Kennedy dropped
    Corey Dillon for a 1- yard loss four plays into the game, and finished with
    three tackles.

    Beyond the tackling stats, Kennedy got penetration on a few other plays, and he
    displayed good hustle trying to chase down Patrick Pass from behind on a
    19-yard run in the fourth quarter. All in all, it was a solid performance.

    "I expected to be out there more," Kennedy said. "Ryan, D- Lew, we're all
    first-rounders. We all want to be out there on the field. I was on the sideline
    saying, 'Bill, let me get some action.'"

    Bill Kollar is the team's defensive line coach.

    "I found that when I was moving around, the foot wasn't bothering me," Kennedy
    said. "But when I was sitting, my foot just started to relax and it was
    starting to throb. It was hard to get the blood flowing in it again."

    After the game, Kennedy said the foot was throbbing a little, but added, "It's
    nothing I can't handle."

    Coach Mike Martz liked what he saw of Kennedy against the Patriots, and what he
    saw Wednesday and Thursday at Rams Park.

    "This week in practice, he's been exceptional," Martz said. "It's thrilling, it
    really is, for me to see him come from where he was last year to the point
    where I think he is right now. I really am anxious to see him on Sunday
    (against Seattle). ... Everything about Jimmy is moving in the right

    The same couldn't be said at this time last year. At the end of last season,
    Martz questioned Kennedy's commitment to becoming a good NFL player. He said
    Kennedy had a lot of growing up to do.

    For the most part, Kennedy put in the time last offseason in terms of weight
    training and conditioning. Following the foot injury, which occurred Aug. 5 in
    a joint practice session with the Chicago Bears, Kennedy got up close and
    personal with strength and conditioning coach Dana LeDuc.

    "I'd rather be on the field than in the weight room with 'Duke,' " Kennedy...
    -11-12-2004, 06:29 AM
  • VegasRam
    Waggoner on Kennedy - 7/30
    by VegasRam
    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.
    -07-30-2005, 02:43 PM
  • RamDez
    Kennedy's stock is rising after unproductive year
    by RamDez
    Kennedy's stock is rising after unproductive year
    By Bill Coats

    Of the Post-Dispatch


    Sure, Rams defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy acknowledged, the surgically repaired fifth metatarsal in his right foot still hurts from time to time. But he has a plan.

    "We'll make this run to the Super Bowl," Kennedy said, "and then I'll get a chance to rest it up for a little bit."

    Nice strategy, but perhaps a bit heady, considering that the Rams (5-6) are clinging to playoff hopes as they head into Sunday's contest against San Francisco (1-10) at the Edward Jones Dome.

    Still, Kennedy's upbeat attitude is understandable. Finally healthy after more than three months on the sideline, and finally making an impact after a highly disappointing rookie season, Kennedy is feeling downright bubbly these days. And if he gets his first NFL start Sunday, his exuberance will go even higher.

    "I'm not really thinking about" starting, insisted Kennedy, who spent considerable time with the first unit in practice this week. "Since I came back, we've been having a weird rotation. One day I'm with the ones, the next day I'm with the threes. ... I'm just trying to get better every day, and whatever happens, happens."

    The Rams spent their first-round draft spot, No. 12 overall, last year for Kennedy, a 6-foot-4, 320-pounder out of Penn State. They didn't get much in return: Kennedy appeared in 13 games as a reserve, recording just 10 tackles.

    He seemed to be making significant strides early in training camp before he was hurt. Martz praised Kennedy for using his down time to bulk up, and he's been a consistent contributor, with increasing playing time, in the past three games since his return.

    Kennedy had a career-high five tackles, including three solo stops, Monday night in the Rams' 45-17 loss at Green Bay. Rookie Brian Howard started alongside Ryan Pickett in place of Damione Lewis, collecting three tackles, but Kennedy got plenty of work.

    "He played very well, and he's going to play more," Martz said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do, and he's made outstanding progress."

    Kennedy, 25, said the rehab and comeback after the injury have "been a battle, a tough battle, fighting through the soreness, scar tissue breaking up and having to go out there and still practice. But the way I feel right now is, I missed so much time that even if it's sore, I still want to be out there on the field."

    And despite his optimism, Kennedy realizes that the Rams need all the help they can get in their quest for a postseason berth. He issued a challenge of sorts to his teammates.

    "Right now as a team, our backs are against the wall," he said. "We're going to have to see how we're going to
    -12-04-2004, 02:04 AM