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Saffold Settling in on Right Side

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  • Saffold Settling in on Right Side

    Nick Wagoner

    Rodger Saffold hadn’t played any position but left tackle since his freshman year as a member of the Bedford High football team just outside of Cleveland.

    As a ninth grader playing for the Bearcats, Saffold was a right tackle. Since, he’s played in dozens of games, exclusively on the left side.

    But now, after the Rams’ high-profile signing of four-time Pro Bowler Jake Long to play left tackle, Saffold is re-learning a position long since forgotten.

    Like anything, there will be some growing pains for Saffold in making the switch but he said it hasn’t been as difficult as he might have estimated originally.

    “Just with changing stances, it’s difficult because what you are used to doing, you have got to get that muscle memory and change everything up,” Saffold said. “Honestly, it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it was going to be.”

    In some sense, the main part of the transition is simply teaching the body to do the same things he’s been doing for years on the left side on the other hand. The mechanics and footwork will almost certainly take some time to learn but the details will take a bit longer.

    Although Saffold has been working during on-field drills on his footwork and learning the right side for about a month now, this week has offered his first chance to participate in any sort of actual drills against competition.

    The Rams held their first Organized Team Activity on Tuesday and went through No. 2 on Thursday. While the sample size has been small, Rams coach Jeff Fisher has been pleased with what he’s seen from Saffold in making the move.

    “Football is football,” Fisher said. “The responsibilities are the same. It’s just at the point of attack when the ball goes to the right. Typically, the right tackle may have a tight end outside of him more often than the left tackle does. With a right handed quarterback you are typically right handed. But he’s done a great job since we moved him over.”

    Saffold has left no stone unturned in getting familiar with his new position. He’s spent time with defensive end Chris Long, who has helped him get acquainted with some of the pass rushing techniques and looks that he can expect to see while playing right tackle.

    In addition, Saffold has made a habit of staying after practice to get more footwork drills in and get some additional guidance from offensive line coach Paul Boudreau.

    So far, Saffold has noticed some differences on the right side but doesn’t believe any of them will make or break his transition.
    “There are a few things that are different,” Saffold said. “When you switch up, sometimes your depth perception of the defensive end is different. It’s hard to feel whether they really got your edge or you overset to let somebody inside. It’s repetition and with a good amount of reps that is all going to change.”

    Considering Saffold had spent his first three seasons and started 35 games in that time all on the left side, reports surfaced during the offseason that he was unhappy with the team’s decision to sign Jake Long.

    But Saffold said Thursday that he was aware of the possibility and after he took some time to go home to Cleveland and get away from it, he came back energized and ready to have his best season yet.

    “I talked to my coach and basically they said they have a lot of faith in me to play right tackle and try to use my versatility as an advantage for the team,” Saffold said. “I went home; had some time just in Cleveland just to get away from football just a little bit and I came back ready to work. I’m a hard worker, I’m a loyal guy to my team so whatever adversity is in front of me, I continue to work through it. So honestly, it really didn’t matter.”

    Indeed, Saffold reported to Rams Park with the rest of his teammates on April 15 for the start of the offseason conditioning program. He’s been here for the entirety of the program working on the adjustment to the right side.

    The always optimistic Saffold is happy to be back for this part of the offseason program given that he had to sit out a year ago while he continued to rehabilitate from a season-ending pectoral injury.

    With veterans such as Saffold, Long, Harvey Dahl, Scott Wells and Chris Williams supported by some intriguing young talent, Saffold believes the offensive line could take another step forward if it gets a chance to coalesce.

    “We are working together and trying to succeed and get better,” Saffold said. “Now we are just waiting to be on the field as a complete unit so we can really focus on our meshing. That’s how we have got to use OTAs.”

    As for the left tackle spot, Saffold is taking steps to make sure he doesn’t completely discard the fundamentals that go with his position. He’s well aware that injuries can happen and he wants to be prepared to move seamlessly between the two positions.

    “I have been trying to do a lot of things with the right and the left just in case,” Saffold said. “If I’m ever needed, what I’m trying to focus on is just being a football player and doing what I have to do no matter where they put me.”

    And while things might be coming to him a bit easier than he first anticipated, Saffold knows he still has plenty of time to perfect his work on the right side and ensure he’s ready to go by the time the opener arrives in September.

    “I think that I got better today than I did yesterday and I’ll continue getting better tomorrow,” Saffold said.

  • #2
    Re: Saffold Settling in on Right Side

    Gotta like Saffold's attitude here, I think he's a great fit on the right side. If Long regains his Pro Bowl form the Rams arguably have the best tackle tandem in the league.

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    • MauiRam
      Saffold Muscles Up ..
      by MauiRam
      Saffold Muscles Up


      By Nick Wagoner

      Considering that Rodger Saffold suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle during a routine bench press exercise in November of last year, it would be understandable if he had a bit of apprehension to get back under the barbell, load up the plates and get back to work.

      And, by his own admission, Saffold did have those fears upon being cleared to resume workouts. After all, the injury had brought his second season to an end with seven games to play and Saffold had missed an opportunity to get even more experience under his belt.

      “It’s been a road for me because it was hard to get back on the bench after getting injured like that and then get back in there and lift that kind of weight again,” Saffold said. “It was tough. But I was able to get through it.”

      To say that Saffold has been able to get through it would be a bit of an understatement. Of the nearly 90 players on the Rams roster, there might not be one who has undergone a more impressive and serious physical transformation than Saffold during the team’s offseason program.

      Saffold, who said he has usually played somewhere between 312 and 315 pounds, appears as though he has had no problems doing any weight work as he’s bulked up to about 325 pounds.

      From the looks of it, that additional weight is all muscle and most of it appears to have settled in his upper body. He credits strength and conditioning coaches Rock Gullickson and Adam Bailey with his transformation.

      “Oh, I’m a lot bigger,” Saffold said. “It’s thanks to those guys. Adam and Rock did a great job. I’ve gained weight just lifting weights and eating right. It’s helped me a lot to stay here and work with the same people who know about my injury. I’m going to be ready to go for training camp.”

      Saffold had to ease his way back into weight lifting but once he did, he said he has gotten more comfortable each week with being back in the weight room. He’s back to lifting large amounts of weights and challenging his teammates to get on his level.

      “You are always going to feel that (apprehension),” Saffold said. “But now I have gotten so comfortable that I know that it’s OK so it’s been good. I have been making strides every week.”

      While Saffold has been packing on muscle, he’s also been slowly working his way back into the mix on the field as well. During the team’s Organized Team Activities and minicamps, Saffold has participated exclusively in individual drills as he continues to recover from the pectoral injury.

      As a precaution, the Rams have brought Saffold along more slowly when it comes to working in team drills and lining up at his customary left tackle position. The competitive part of Saffold wants to be on the field with his teammates but he also understands that it’s more important for him to be at full speed...
      -06-14-2012, 10:39 PM
    • r8rh8rmike
      Move To Guard Changed Much For Saffold
      by r8rh8rmike
      Move to guard changed much for Saffold

      March, 14, 2014
      By Nick Wagoner | ESPN.com

      EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For all of the bizarre things that took place in the past week to get offensive lineman Rodger Saffold back as a member of the St. Louis Rams and addressing the local media in a news conference Friday afternoon, the one move that really started it all happened Nov. 10.

      That was the day Saffold made his debut as a right guard against the Indianapolis Colts. It's hard to know for certain given the vagaries of the NFL but if that day had never happened, there's a strong possibility that Saffold wouldn't be a Ram nor would they have made much effort to keep him.

      To that point, the 2013 season had been relatively tumultuous for Saffold. Given Saffold's injury issues in 2012, the team signed Jake Long to play left tackle and asked Saffold to move to the right side. It was a move he didn't love but never publicly complained about. Then, after early-season injury issues again popped up, Saffold found himself sharing the right tackle spot with Joe Barksdale upon his return from a Week 2 knee injury.

      The previous three weeks before the game against Indianapolis, Saffold split reps with Barksdale. But the Rams wanted to get their five best offensive linemen on the field and with Barksdale and Saffold alternating at right tackle, they took one of those five off the field for chunks of the game. Long before that, there had been whispers that Saffold might be a better fit inside but it had never been tried because the Rams didn't have many options at tackle.

      So it was that Saffold, in looking for a chance to be on the field consistently, and the Rams, looking to put their best line together, hatched the plan to put Saffold at right guard. Rams coach Jeff Fisher recalled the pivotal decision spurred by offensive line coach Paul Boudreau on Friday afternoon.

      "Well, the conversation was initiated by Coach 'Bou'," Fisher said. " It’s hard to find a better one in the league than ‘Bou.' He just felt like with his understanding and his knowledge, the fact that he would line up next to Scott [Wells], and Scott could be of assistance to him and athletic ability -- it was an easy decision."

      Saffold worked at guard all week leading up to the Colts game, an experience that was foreign to him. But nearly from the moment he jumped into the lineup at guard, it looked like a natural fit.

      The pass protection part became easier as Saffold was no longer forced to cover so much ground against speedier rushers on the edge. He held up fine in that regard, but it was his ability as a run blocker that opened more than a few eyes to his potential inside.

      Saffold's athleticism and size allowed him to become the prototype pulling guard as the Rams often got him on the move and allowed him to open holes for...
      -03-15-2014, 01:52 PM
    • Rambos
      Rams OT Rodger Saffold pushing to play
      by Rambos
      By Nick Wagoner | ESPN.com


      EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In need of repetition and opportunity to play his new position in a real game, Rams offensive tackle Rodger Saffold has spent part of his week lobbying to return to the lineup Saturday night in Denver.

      Saffold suffered a dislocated left shoulder two plays into the preseason opener in Cleveland, a game which doubled as his debut at right tackle after spending his first three seasons on the left side. He returned to practice on a limited basis this week but he's well aware that any playing time between now and the start of the regular season is essential in getting fully adjusted to his new position.

      "Those reps are seriously important," Saffold said. "That's why I hope they lean toward putting me in for a little bit and then after that I can go from there. But I think the way we are taking it is a smart way. It feels completely stable now. I'm ready to go out and play again."

      Saffold's status for Saturday night remains to be seen despite his pleas to play. Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesdsay that Saffold was "much better" and there were "expectations that he would play." What Fisher didn't say was how soon Saffold's return would occur.

      In practice this week, Saffold slowly eased back into the mix. He didn't participate Monday and then did some light individual work Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday, he started to work his way back into team drills though he'd still be considered limited if regular-season designations were being used.

      Wearing a brace on his shoulder underneath the pads, Saffold said he feels like the shoulder is stable and he can do normal things like reach and punch without pain. That's a step in the positive direction after an injury that initially looked like it could keep him out much longer.

      Entering his fourth season, Saffold has consistently battled the injury bug. He missed six games in 2012 with a knee injury and seven contests in 2011 because of concussion, ankle and pectoral ailments. The shoulder injury set off a wave of concern for an offensive line with plenty of veteran talent but also a recent history of injury issues.

      Saffold's injury happened on a simple pass protection against the Browns on Aug. 8. Cleveland pass-rusher Paul Kruger attempted to bend the right edge against Saffold. Kruger tried to slap Saffold's arms away as Saffold pushed through the arm slap, but as he attempted to work Kruger's arm to push him away he flipped over and crashed to the ground. He instantly knew the shoulder had popped out backward.

      Asked if his adjustment to the right side might have led to the injury as he still tries to refine his fundamentals, Saffold acknowledged the possibility.

      "When you're in a game, the adrenaline is rushing," Saffold said. "So you've got to be more patient sometimes...
      -08-23-2013, 09:31 AM
    • Rambos
      Saffold Working His Way Back
      by Rambos
      Nick Wagoner

      When Rodger Saffold crumpled to the ground, writhing in pain from a knee injury back in week 2 against Washington, he couldn’t help but wonder what it meant for his season and, big picture, his career.

      A year after having his second NFL season cut short by a torn pectoral injury in a weightlifting incident, Saffold wondered if he’d once again have to watch the bulk of the season from the sideline.

      “It just lets you know about the game,” Saffold said. “I had a long time to think. I didn’t know what was going on in my knee; it hurt so bad that I didn’t know if I’d be back this year. Right now it’s just been a bunch of blessings and getting a lot of help from (head athletic trainer) Reggie (Scott) and a lot of advice from the guys that has helped me get through it.”

      Nearly seven weeks from suffering that knee injury against the Redskins, Saffold appears to be on the verge of a return. In Wednesday’s practice, Saffold participated on a limited basis, working mostly in individual drills.

      On Thursday, Saffold followed a similar regiment as he continues to strengthen his left knee and work his way back.

      “They really don’t want me to go out there and just put everything on the table, especially during this week,” Saffold said. “So thankfully I am going to go out there and hopefully do a little bit more but if they decide to keep me continuing to do the same amount of reps I have been doing now, I just have to deal with that until next week.”

      The Rams have a bye week this week which should allow Saffold to continue to get healthier heading into next week’s preparation for the game against San Francisco. It remains to be seen if he’ll be back at full strength in time for that contest though that would ideally be the plan to plug him back in at left tackle for the *****.

      By his own admission, Saffold is not yet feeling close to 100 percent though he seems to be getting a bit closer with each passing day. In the meantime, he has not missed a single team-related event whether it’s a meeting or a trip to London.

      “No, not yet,” Saffold said. “Right now we have the bye week so this is a good time for me to continue to get up and do what I’ve got to do. From being in meetings and all those types of things, it’s been good for me; I am just staying in the game mentally. Every win and loss I have been with this team.”

      That Saffold’s knee injury happened in the first place was the result of a freakish incident not unlike the bench pressing one that befell him in 2011.

      In the first quarter of that Sept. 16 meeting with the Redskins, Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo broke through for a sack on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. In the process, Orakpo jarred the ball loose and Saffold scooped it up at Washington’s 28.

      Instead of falling on it, Saffold attempted to save his team some...
      -11-02-2012, 07:39 AM
    • MauiRam
      Rams' Saffold finds peace in switch to right tackle
      by MauiRam
      Ben Frederickson

      ST. LOUIS -- Rodger Saffold wasn't pleased.

      The position was a part of his identity. In the 47 games the St. Louis Rams had played since 2010, he had started there 35 times. Only injuries had kept No. 76 from his place. He was the Rams' left tackle, a title synonymous with big money and respect. He was the protector of star quarterback Sam Bradford's blind side.

      Until suddenly, without a chance to fight for it, the job was no longer his.

      "I think it was more of a shock than anything," St. Louis Rams offensive line coach Paul Boudreau said. "He had some moments, as we will say in our room."

      When the Rams signed former Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long to a four-year, $34 million contract in late March, the team described the acquisition of the elite lineman as a no-brainer. Long was the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, a 6-foot-7, 319-pound mountain of a man who had made four Pro Bowls in five years. The team celebrated while Saffold wrestled with the request he knew would come next.

      His agent had made it clear Saffold was not interested switching positions when the Rams started courting Long. Some wondered if Saffold, entering the last year of his rookie contract with the team, would skip voluntary organized team activities as a sign of protest.

      "I hadn't played right tackle since ninth grade," Saffold explained, after the dust finally settled.

      Boudreau understood Saffold's initial reaction, the 'moments' he would rather leave in the past. He figured his upset tackle would come around, and he was right.

      "Rodger is not that kind of kid," Boudreau said. "He wants to win. He wants to be part of the winning tradition we are going to start here. So, he’s going to make it work.”

      So here was Saffold this offseason, relearning a position his 25-year-old body had not played in a decade. He says he is on board now, and his coaches have praised his selflessness for embracing the switch. His continued willingness to adapt will be influential for the Rams' 2013 season, as well as the rest of Saffold's career.


      Boudreau uses a baseball metaphor.

      Imagine a Major Leaguer changing his swing from left to right. The instincts that make the hitter a pro, his ability to track pitches and send the ball a certain way, are still there. It's the awkwardness of the unfamiliar swing that makes it hard.

      Or, here's one anyone can try.

      "If you're right-handed, start writing left-handed," Boudreau said.

      Boudreau has coached NFL offensive linemen since 1987. He knew Saffold, unlike some left tackles, could make the switch to the right side. He cited the 6-foot-5, 314-pound player's all-around athleticism, hip flexibility, use of leverage and proficiency at run blocking as evidence....
      -07-12-2013, 11:56 PM
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