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Fisher's injury puts secondary in tough spot

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  • Fisher's injury puts secondary in tough spot

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    After bumpy rookie seasons, cornerbacks DeJuan Groce and Kevin Garrett felt much more at home in their second NFL training camp.

    "You can see that confidence building in them," secondary coach Perry Fewell said last week, before the team broke from Macomb, Ill. "I think they're much more comfortable and not as anxious as they were a year ago."

    That confidence and "comfort" will be put to the test after Travis Fisher suffered a fractured forearm in Monday's preseason game in Kansas City. Fisher is scheduled to have surgery today.

    Immediately after the game, coach Mike Martz indicated that Fisher could be lost for the season. He softened that stance somewhat on Tuesday, but it's clear Fisher is out for an extended period.

    "No one really completely knows when we'll get him back," Martz said. "You can be very optimistic and talk about eight to 10 weeks, and then very pessimistic and say three to four months. ...We're not going to put him on IR (injured reserve) at this point."

    But the bottom line remains the same. Fisher, an up-and-coming cornerback, will be hard to replace - and Groce or Garrett will be the replacement. "They've both had very good camps," Martz said. "In fact, Kevin had a better camp than I would have thought. He had the furthest to go, just in his skills and his background. He didn't have the discipline.

    "DeJuan was a little bit more refined. And I thought Kevin caught up pretty good in camp. In fact, I was hard-pressed to determine which one had the edge."

    Groce normally is Fisher's backup, but Garrett has stepped into that role since Groce suffered a knee injury last week in Macomb. The injury occurred while Groce was planting in coverage against Torry Holt.

    Martz said Groce is close to coming back, but may not be ready to go until the preseason finale Sept. 2 in Oakland.

    "I think the swelling is out of the knee pretty good at this point," Martz said. "It's not as sore. ... It's a day-to-day thing. But if he's not ready, he's not ready."

    Even after Fisher's injury, the Rams don't want to rush Groce back against Washington on Friday, or against Oakland. It's the regular-season opener Sept. 12 against Arizona that counts.

    "Everything is about getting ready for that opener, and that's what we have to keep in mind," Martz said.

    Groce was the team's third cornerback last season, and occasionally got thrown into some tough situations - like that start against Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and the Pittsburgh Steelers in October when Fisher was sidelined with a strained groin.

    "I got thrown into the fire sometimes last year," Groce said. "Having Aeneas (Williams) and Fisher and those guys help me out, and watching them, it's made it a lot easier this year. It's being able to go out and know what you're doing, instead of running around like a rookie."

    Groce played enough to record 15 tackles last year, including an interception of Tommy Maddox in the Pittsburgh game.

    Meanwhile, Garrett was limited to nine games because of wrist and knee problems.

    "He missed so much time that he didn't get the playing experience, and all the technique work that DeJuan got," Fewell said.

    But Garrett was making a run at Groce for the third corner spot before Groce's injury.

    "Kevin has extremely good talent," Fewell said. "He has speed, he has size, he has quickness. DeJuan Groce knows the situations of the game a little bit better. And then he got game experience last year, too."

    Fewell said both players have learned to be more aggressive at the line of scrimmage, while also learning to be more patient and not over-commit on routes and moves.

    Now they're battling for a starting spot - not the first spot off the bench - now that Fisher's sidelined.

    "That's what they're here for," Martz said. "That's why they get paid - for this opportunity. They need to make the most of it, and I'm sure they will."

    As a last resort, Martz said he would consider moving veteran Williams from free safety back to cornerback. He said he talked to Williams about that very possibility Monday night following the Chiefs game.

    "But we certainly don't want to do that," Martz said. "It's not fair to Aeneas. He's spent so much time back there (at safety) getting ready to play. He's just at the point now where he has a real good feel for it."

    On the other hand. ...

    "We've got to have our best players on the field at the best spots," Martz said. "So that could happen in an extreme situation."

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Garrett, Groce Move to Forefront
    by RamWraith
    Tuesday, August 24, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    About one year ago, Kevin Garrett and DeJuan Groce were rookies. Green as can be, the two young cornerbacks went through their first training camp with plenty of college pedigree, but little experience at the game’s highest level. They didn’t have to worry too much about stepping in and contributing on the field because of the presence of other talented corners Travis Fisher and Jerametrius Butler.

    On one play in the second quarter of the Rams’ second preseason game against Kansas City on Monday night, everything changed for Groce and Garrett. Fisher left the game after making a standard, everyday tackle, holding his right arm. It turned out the arm was broken and Fisher, who had four interceptions in 2003, could now miss the entire season. In an instant, Garrett was thrust into an unfamiliar role as the starting cornerback for the defending NFC Western Division champions.

    Fisher will have surgery Wednesday to get a plate put in his arm. He could miss anywhere from eight weeks to four months. Rams coach Mike Martz said Tuesday that he hopes to get Fisher back late in the season, but there are no guarantees. “No one really completely knows when we’ll get him back,” Martz said. “I think for us at this point, nobody really knows, so there is no sense in putting a time on it. It just gives somebody else an opportunity. That’s what they are here for.”

    Fisher’s absence leaves a gaping hole in the secondary that Garrett and Groce will attempt to fill. Groce sprained his left knee in practice on Aug. 18. He has not practiced since, but Martz said Groce would get back to workouts as early as Thursday. “We could possibly have him this week,” Martz said. “He will start running tomorrow. It’s a day-to-day thing. If he’s not ready, he’s not ready.”

    Garrett, meanwhile, appears ready to take his shot at the leading role. With Groce out of action, Garrett came in for Fisher and did a solid job in relief. Garrett was in a similar position to Fisher last year, when he missed valuable time with a fractured wrist. He played mostly on special teams in the nine games he appeared.

    Garrett is, perhaps, the fastest Ram. The second-year player out of Southern Methodist has had a strong camp, according to Martz. “Kevin had a better camp than I would have thought,” Martz said. “He had the furthest to go just in his skills and his background. DeJuan was a little more refined and I thought Kevin caught up. I was hardpressed to determine which one had the edge. That is good news.”

    If neither of the young corners can make the next step, there is one more option to replace Fisher. Aeneas Williams would probably be a pretty serviceable replacement considering he is likely to one day enter the Hall of Fame as one of the game’s all-time great cover men.

    Williams moved to safety a year ago...
    -08-25-2004, 06:41 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams cornerback trying to recapture form after injury
    by RamWraith

    Associated Press

    ST. LOUIS - The first hit was the worst part of Travis Fisher's comeback. After being out since the preseason with a broken right forearm, the St. Louis Rams' cornerback thought he had broken it again.

    "It was aching real bad," Fisher said Wednesday. "You can't help but notice it when it's hurting."

    It ended up being just a scare for the third-year player, who made it through the entire game against the Dolphins two weeks ago. That game ended up helping him shake off some rust and he'll be trying to shake off more on Sunday against the Patriots.

    "I think anytime you take a blow and break a bone, it's a setback," Fisher said. "It's going to be hard. But I'm getting there."

    Fisher, a second-round pick in 2002, was out more than two months after being injured Aug. 23 against the Chiefs in the next-to-last preseason game. So any struggles were understandable, especially considering that he only had a few practice days to prepare.

    "I felt like I could go out there and make some plays," he said. "I made a couple and I missed a couple. Those are gone and I'm working hard in practice on the things I messed up on."

    Coach Mike Martz said he probably rushed Fisher back to action, considering how long he'd been sidelined. He was anxious to get him on the field and solidify a secondary that's been banged-up much of the season.

    Fisher started 29 games the last two seasons, and last year he tied for the team lead with four interceptions. But his arm, which still is held together with a plate and screws, is not yet 100 percent.

    "I was remiss in not spelling him in that game in Miami," Martz said. "That's a coaching error on my part. He is absolutely, I think, a top-flight cornerback."

    Fisher ran and lifted weights for three days with the rest of the team last week, and on Monday he looked like a different player to Martz.

    "He had conditioned really well but still it's different than playing the game," Martz said. "He's there now, I believe."

    Fisher said the most difficult part of coming back is executing the fundamentals that become rote over time. He's a former high school sprint champion in Florida, so reacting to the pace of the game has been less of a factor.

    While Fisher was out, DeJuan Groce started four games at his right cornerback spot. Jerametrius Butler, the regular at left cornerback, started one game there when Aeneas Williams was moved to cornerback, and Kevin Garrett also started one game.

    Now, the shuffling is over.

    "I bring a lot to the game," Fisher said. "I go out and try to make something happen and I just love playing the game."

    -11-04-2004, 04:07 PM
  • RamWraith
    Garrett is eager to prove he can fill in for Fisher
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Aug. 25 2004

    While cornerback Travis Fisher had surgery on his broken right forearm
    Wednesday, Kevin Garrett was busy trying to show that he is worthy of replacing
    Fisher in the Rams' lineup.

    "I want to do well so I can prove myself and let everybody relax a little bit,
    let them know I'm capable of taking the job," Garrett said before practice at
    Rams Park. Although coach Mike Martz reported that the operation went "very
    well; there wasn't any damage to any of the nerves," Fisher is expected to be
    sidelined three to four months.

    Barring a personnel move, Garrett and DeJuan Groce, when he recovers from a
    strained knee, are the primary candidates to fill Fisher's spot. Both are
    second-year players, the 5-foot-10, 194-pound Garrett from Southern Methodist
    and the 5-10, 192-pound Groce from Nebraska. Groce started one game last year,
    which is one more than Garrett.

    Still, Groce said: "We're real confident. That's what they drafted us for. If
    anybody goes down, we have to be prepared to go in. You've just got to be
    ready. You never know what's going to happen."

    Garrett got the call when Fisher was injured late in the first quarter Monday
    night at Kansas City. Garrett was credited with one tackle in a 24-7 loss that
    dropped the Rams' preseason record to 0-2 heading into Friday night's meeting
    with Washington (2-1) at the Edward Jones Dome.

    "When I found that he'd broken his arm, it got to me that I'd have to go in
    there and step up," Garrett said. "He and (Jerametrius Butler, the other
    first-team corner) had been nursing some hamstring issues during camp, and
    myself and Groce got the chance to get some reps in camp and start in the
    Chicago game (Aug. 12). So that gave me a place to start and see where I was.

    "I feel right now like I'm ready to step in and take over for Fish and
    hopefully do my part."

    Groce ran outside while the team practiced inside Wednesday and said he expects
    to be ready to go soon. "There was always an urgency, because you just want to
    get back. It doesn't feel right, sitting on the sideline and watching your
    teammates out there," he said. "Now, there's more of an urgency."

    Bulger bruises knee

    Quarterback Marc Bulger, who took a shot to his left knee against the Chiefs,
    participated in Wednesday's non-contact practice. He said that "unless I'm told
    otherwise, I anticipate playing" Friday.

    "He's got a little bone bruise in there. It's annnoying, but certainly it's
    nothing that he can't play with," Martz...
    -08-26-2004, 07:31 AM
  • RamDez
    Rams cornerback Fisher battles back from injuries
    by RamDez
    Rams cornerback Fisher battles back from injuries
    By Bill Coats

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    The look of concern on Rams cornerback Travis Fisher's face after the Dolphins game two weeks ago was palpable. His right forearm was screaming at him, and he feared the worst.

    "It was aching real bad, and I thought I had broken it again," Fisher said. An MRI the next day alleviated his concern. "That's over, all the arm stuff," Fisher declared this past week. "I'm just trying to go out and have a big game."

    Fisher is a third-year pro out of Central Florida who started 26 of the 29 games in which he appeared in his first two NFL seasons. He was hurt in an exhibition game Aug. 23 in Kansas City, and a plate was inserted during surgery a few days later. Coach Mike Martz guessed that Fisher was done for the season.

    "It's a three- to four-month deal," a forlorn Martz said at the time.

    But almost two months to the day after the injury, Fisher was back on the field in Miami. He didn't have his best day: He missed a tackle on the Dolphins' first touchdown - an 8-yard run by Sammy Morris - and slipped to the ground on their last - a 71-yard catch and run by wide receiver Chris Chambers - in the Rams' 31-14 defeat.

    Acknowledging that he was a bit rusty after the down time, Fisher said: "I felt like I could go out there and make some plays. I made a couple, but then I missed a couple. I've been working hard in practice on the things I messed up in that game."

    Martz absorbed some of the blame for not recognizing that Fisher wasn't ready for a full workload.

    "I was remiss in not spelling him with DeJuan Groce; that's a coaching error on my part," Martz said. "He had conditioned really well, but still, you're not back to where you need to be. He's there now."

    When fit, the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Fisher is "absolutely a top-flight corner," Martz said. "I really believe he is at that level and will continue to play at that level."

    Fisher, 25, intercepted four passes last year, tying for the team high with fellow corner Jerametrius Butler, linebacker Tommy Polley and safeties Adam Archuleta and Aeneas Williams. The Rams' 46 takeaways topped the league.

    This year, though, they've come up with just six. Plus, the Rams rank 28th in the 32-team NFL in total defense and are 23rd vs. the pass. Those numbers chronicle significant downturns from 2003, when they finished 16th in total defense and 12th in pass defense.

    Significant defensive improvement Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (6-1) certainly would be a boon for the Rams (4-3). A sudden and dramatic turnaround probably isn't a realistic goal. But with the secondary healthy for the first time this season, perhaps
    -11-07-2004, 11:55 AM
  • RamWraith
    Groce warms up to heat that comes from starting
    by RamWraith
    With Butler likely out, Groce moves up



    ST. LOUIS - Cornerback DeJuan Groce said he has no apprehension about being possibly thrust into a starting role with the St. Louis Rams.

    "Getting thrown into the fire last year gives me the confidence to do it this year," Groce said.

    Groce moved up to starting cornerback last year when Travis Fisher went down with a broken arm in the preseason. He ended up starting in the team's season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

    Groce finds himself in potentially the same situation this year due to a knee injury to starting cornerback Jerametrius Butler.

    "You always look for that," Groce said of the opportunity to be a starter. "I've been looking to that since I got drafted. That was my main goal coming in. I'm happy with everything is going right now. If J.B. does come back, I know I am the nickel back and I have to take care of business at the nickel spot."

    Butler suffered a torn ligament in his right knee on July 28. He's in the process of deciding whether to have season-ending surgery or attempt to play with the injury.

    Martz said Butler visited a specialist in New York, and he was planning to visit Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

    "This was really my suggestion," Rams coach Mike Martz said Butler getting several medical opinions on his knee. "You always want him to feel comfortable, to have a consensus on what he needs to do."

    Butler showed up midway through the Rams' Tuesday afternoon practice, and then declined comment as he headed to the locker room after practice.

    Groce said Butler was holding out hope that he could play this season

    "He wants to come back, that's his main goal," Groce said. "If he can come back, he is going to come back. If he can't, he'll do anything in his power to help us out in the secondary. He has a lot of knowledge, and I've learned a lot from him."

    Martz said he's confident that Groce can handle the pressure of being a starter.

    "He's having the best camp of all the corners, by far," Martz said. "He just has been a standout all through camp. We look at him as a starter when we talk about personnel."

    Martz said Groce, 25, a fourth-round pick out of the University of Nebraska in the 2003 NFL Draft, has shown more maturity this season.

    "The thing that pleases me the most is his focus," Martz said. "At times, young players have a little of a lapse. He is focused throughout. Every play is the same to him. He's making the most of his opportunity, and good players do that."

    Groce has played in 27 games, including five starts, over the past two seasons.

    -08-17-2005, 02:45 PM