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  • Garrett, Groce Move to Forefront

    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 and flourished with one of his best seasons, finishing with 113 tackles, four interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Martz said moving Williams back to his original position is unlikely, but not out of the realm of possibility. “I would hate to move him,” Martz said. “You’d have to consider it if DeJuan wasn’t ready to go and Fish is out and some other things going on. I talked to him about it last night, the potential that it could happen in a desperate situation. We certainly don’t want to do that.”

    It wasn’t too long ago that Fisher and Butler were the young corners stepping up in to a new role and succeeding, for the Rams’ pass defense to continue to improve, it will need to happen again

  • #2
    Re: Garrett, Groce Move to Forefront

    I hate to have the guy I called out as being the one who will make headway this year get his chance like this, but that's the nature of pro sports. Step up when injury or playing time is required.

    Garrett will be ok in the secondary.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Garrett, Groce Move to Forefront

      reminds me of the situation last year when we were all saying the same about fisher and butler... wonder what happened !!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Garrett, Groce Move to Forefront

        I feel pretty good about Garrett.I think he's gonna be a solid player.I'm still not sure what to think about Groce.Lets just hope these guys can stay healthy and injury-free through the remainder of the pre-season.
        ST.LOUIS RAMS:THE MOST FRUSTRATING TEAM IN THE NFL!!!

        Comment

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        • RamWraith
          Fisher's injury puts secondary in tough spot
          by RamWraith
          By Jim Thomas
          Of the Post-Dispatch
          08/24/2004

          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...
          -08-25-2004, 06:40 AM
        • 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
        • RamsFan16
          Groce could be key in Rams secondary
          by RamsFan16
          Groce could be key in Rams secondary
          By Jeff Gordon
          Of the Post-Dispatch

          Rams safety DeJuan Groce has proven his flexibility. When healthy last season, he moved here, there and everywhere as various players either got hurt or failed.

          He started games at left cornerback and nickel back, got some looks at safety again and returned a kickoff. “I played all over the place,” Groce recalled.

          Now the Rams want Groce to prove he is as capable as he is flexible. Groce is widely viewed as one of the pivotal players for 2005.

          He has fully recovered from the hamstring and knee injuries that sidelined him for five games last season. This is his third NFL season, so it’s time he broke out and established himself.

          If he plays well, Groce can help get this unit back to where it was under former coordinator Lovie Smith.

          If he fails, he could become a candidate for the ’05 Tommy Polley Vanishing Prospect Award -– which comes with a one-way ticket out of town.

          The Rams know their front seven is much better than a year ago, thanks to the addition of two veteran starting linebackers. But the team still needs dramatic improvement from its secondary, which was riddled with injuries last season.

          To that end, coach Mike Martz brought in an uncommonly deep supply of cornerbacks, looking to create heated competition. Given the crowd in this camp, Groce figured to fight for the nickel back role, with incumbents Travis Fisher and Jerametrius Butler manning the corners.

          Dwight Anderson was also bidding for that job, along with veterans Terry Fair and Corey Ivey and rookie Ronald Bartell. Anderson seemed to take the early lead during the camp sessions.

          But the sorting out is underway and Groce is emerging as a key piece of this defensive puzzle. With Anderson gone for disciplinary reasons and Butler contemplating knee surgery that could end his season, Groce has moved back into a starting assignment at cornerback.

          So far, anyway, Martz likes what Groce is showing him.

          “The thing that pleases me the most is his focus,” Martz said after Tuesday’s morning practice at Rams Park. “It’s easy to do out there, have a little bit of a lapse.

          “He is making the most of his opportunity, which is what good players do.”

          Martz has held out hope for Butler, who is seeking secondary medical opinions on his knee. He has seemed inclined to play with the injury.

          But will the knee hold up? And how well could Butler play with that injury? With those questions looming, Groce must step in and perform.

          “I’m happy with how everything is going,” Groce said Tuesday. “If (Butler) comes back, I’ll move back to nickel.”

          What about punt returning? Does he want another crack at the job he held for much of the 2003 season?

          “I still...
          -08-16-2005, 07:11 PM
        • RamWraith
          Groce warms up to heat that comes from starting
          by RamWraith
          With Butler likely out, Groce moves up

          BY STEVE KORTE

          News-Democrat


          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.

          "I'm...
          -08-17-2005, 02:45 PM
        • RamDez
          Groce gets a chance to prove himself
          by RamDez
          By Bill Coats

          Of the Post-Dispatch
          09/19/2004

          DeJuan Groce (24) tries to force wide receiver Mike Furrey to give up the ball during a Rams practice session.
          (Chris Lee/P-D)



          DeJuan Groce thought he'd saved the day.

          The Rams were clinging to a six-point lead late in the third quarter last Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, but Arizona was driving. On a third-and-7 play from the Rams' 16-yard line, Groce picked off a Josh McCown pass near the goal line.

          But a defensive-holding penalty nullified the interception, and the Cardinals moved in front 10-9 on the next play. After the Rams came back to win 17-10, Groce could shrug off his personal disappointment.

          "Oh, well," he said. "I have a lot more (interceptions) to go."

          How many more games he has to go as a first-team cornerback probably depends on how long it takes Travis Fisher to recover from surgery on the forearm that he fractured Aug. 23 in an exhibition game vs. Kansas City.

          Groce said he realizes that, but he also is eager for the chance to show that he can handle the position, too.

          "It's a little of both," said Groce, 24. "You're here to prove yourself ... (and) they have confidence in me in starting me. So I'm going to go out there and fill (Fisher's) shoes until he gets back."

          For a time, that job appeared to be Kevin Garrett's. Groce went down Aug. 18 at training camp with a strained knee and didn't return to the practice field until Sept. 6, which was less than a week before the regular-season opener. In the meantime, Garrett was teamed with Jerametrius Butler at corner. But the 5-foot-10, 192-pound Groce got the call in the regular-season opener.

          His performance against the Cardinals, coach Mike Martz said, buttressed that decision.

          "DeJuan played exceptionally well," Martz said. "He missed that time in camp, but right now it doesn't look like it. ... He's got such great confidence, quiet confidence. Nothing seems to shake him up."

          That might be because Groce has plenty of big-game experience. He played college football at Nebraska, where the competition is stout and the pressure is heavy.

          He started 27 games for the Cornhuskers, recording 142 tackles and eight interceptions, plus he had five punt returns for touchdowns.

          Groce, a native of Garfield Heights, Ohio, said he went to Nebraska for one main reason: coach Frank Solich.

          "He's a good guy, and he knew a lot about football," Groce explained. "Plus, he's an Ohio legend from when he played high school football there."

          Solich was an all-state and All-America running back at Holy Name High in Cleveland.

          He was Tom Osborne's hand-picked successor, and he went 58-19 in six seasons as
          ...
          -09-19-2004, 04:45 AM
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