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15 minutes one small step for Rams’ Gurley

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The Sports Xchange

EARTH CITY, Mo. — When the offseason workouts ended for the St. Louis Rams, running back Todd Gurley had a small goal: Be on the field for the first practice of the team’s training camp, which got underway Friday.

Consider it goal accomplished, thanks to Gurley’s perseverance and the Rams’ philosophy that having him on the field even for limited work during individual drills was better than having him watching everything from the sideline, which would have been the case had he been placed on the non-football injury list.

Said Gurley, “It was pretty exciting. I’m just glad to be out there, instead of being over there with the trainer, just being with the guys and getting those 15 minutes in.”

The team’s decision was fortified when Gurley was impressive in the conditioning test for rookies conducted three days before the first practice.

Said head coach Jeff Fisher, “Todd did a great job on the conditioning tests. He’s not 100 percent; he’s not ready to play in a game right now. But our feeling (was) that the decision was based on the importance for him to be able to participate not only in the walk-throughs, but also in the individual stuff.

“There was no concern whatsoever with respect to his rehab, just because of the work that we did prior to the draft and on everything that he’s done thus far. We just felt in fairness to him, it just didn’t make sense (to put him on NFI), where the kid’s gonna stand there and watch. We want to build him. We want to add individual reps. We want him to be available to practice. We’ll just kinda add things as we move forward. Timetable-wise, I don’t know. But I’m very, very encouraged as to where he is right now.”

Still, there remains the question of when Gurley will be ready to play. Fisher wouldn’t hazard a guess, although he doesn’t want to raise hopes too high.

“I can’t say if it’s Week 1 or Week 6, but we’re hoping that it’s somewhere in there,” Fisher said. “We’re not going to take any chances or any risks or subject him to any danger. But, you can kind of read the tea leaves there. We feel like he’s ahead of schedule and he’s a tremendous athlete, and this is going to give him a chance to know the offense inside and out. I feel good about what he’s doing on a daily basis, rather than just kind of becoming that outcast they typically feel like when they’re on (NFI).”

Gurley suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on Nov. 15 against Auburn, and there were raised eyebrows when the Rams selected him with the 10th overall choice in the draft. But he attacked his rehab, and after OTAs ended June 18, he spent considerable time at the team’s facility continuing his rehab and working with trainer Reggie Scott.

Now, Gurley has to be patient and do what the medical people tell him.

“It’s frustrating because you know you just feel like you can go or you know you just feel like you can do much more than the trainers or the coaches are giving you,” he said. “But, they are just trying to protect you and they’ve been through this, they have years of experience. So, no need to rush it.”

Like Fisher, he won’t put a timetable on when he’ll be able to play, saying, “All I know is I’ve got tomorrow. I can’t worry about Week 1 right now.”

Of course, even Fisher figures there will come a time when Gurley starts clamoring to do more.

“Yes,” the head coach said with his signature smile. “That’ll become a problem eventually, I’m quite sure.”

In the meantime, running backs Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham will see most of the snaps with the first unit, and Mason realizes he will likely carry the load early in the season. Even if Gurley plays sooner rather than later, it’s doubtful he will be getting 20 touches a game at first.

During OTA, Mason admitted to being shocked when he found out the Rams had selected Gurley and wondered if it was a reflection on his play. As a third-round pick last season, he was inactive for the first four games of the season. But when he got the chance to play, Mason rushed for 765 yards in nine starts, while scoring four touchdowns including one explosive 89-yard score.

As camp opened, Mason is intent on being even better.

“Just give me the ball; I’m ready to rock,” he said. “Whatever opportunities I get here, I have to make the most of them and work to be the best I can be.”

Similar to Gurley, Mason also has the ability to break a big run any time he touches the ball.

“I feel like I can be a playmaker whenever I get the ball,” he said. “You’ve got to make a play to stop me.”


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