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Team Report - ST. LOUIS RAMS

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INSIDE SLANT

St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher did the best he could Sunday, putting on his positive face in the wake of the stunning news that quarterback Sam Bradford had suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, the same ACL that had been repaired after first being injured last October against the Carolina Panthers.

Fisher even did his best Dick Vermeil imitation after being asked about the eerie similarity to 1999 when Trent Green had his ACL torn in the third preseason game, leaving the offense in the hands of Kurt Warner, who helped lead the team to a Super Bowl win over Fisher's Tennessee Titans.

"This team's going to rally around Shaun (Hill) and we're going to go play, they really are," Fisher said. "That guy that came in (Warner) ended up being pretty good. Again, we've got all the confidence in the world in Shaun."

Fisher got the quote close (Vermeil, the Rams' head coach then, said, "We will rally around Kurt Warner, and we will play good football"), and, of course, he wasn't tearing up like Vermeil. But Fisher's message was clear.

"We move forward as a football team," he said. "Shaun is our guy. We brought him here. He's got experience. We've got all the confidence in the world in him. We have, around our quarterback position right now, probably as good of talent as we've had since we came here. Shaun is excited about that and I know he'll benefit from that.

"Players are unique nowadays. They feel Sam's right pain now and his loss, but you've got to go on. That's part of our business, you go on, and so, everybody needs to pick it up a little bit more. That's kind of a cliche when these things happen and this young group of guys will."

Fisher acknowledged being "shell-shocked" by the news, especially since Bradford wasn't hit particularly hard and the injury didn't appear that bad after it happened in the first quarter of Saturday night's game against Cleveland. He expressed optimism, while Bradford told teammates and others he thought he would be OK. That's what made the news Sunday so hard to accept.

"For Sam personally, it's devastating," Fisher said. "The news was devastating to him as you can appreciate. Anyone that's gone through that procedure and the rehab understands, and to have it happen again within the calendar year is very, very difficult. So, we're thinking of Sam. I met with him this morning. He's left the building. He's spending time with his parents. A lot of people worked very hard with him: (trainer) Reggie (Scott), his training staff, (strength and conditioning coach) Rock (Gullickson) and his strength staff, the doctors. If you saw him at practice or you saw him the last two preseason games, I think you would agree with me that he was 100 percent back and on his way."

Now he is on his way to another surgery and an uncertain future. By the end of the season, Bradford will have missed 31 of a possible 80 games in his five-year career, and 2015 is the last year of the six-year, $78 million contract he signed as the first overall pick in the 2010 draft.

However, Fisher said "it's way too early" to think about the future, and added, "We just need to get his heart and his mind right and get him focused, allow him some time to get away. We'll address that whenever we need to."

What Fisher has to do is make sure his team is focused moving forward, something he's not worried about. Last season, when Bradford was injured, there were those that predicted they wouldn't win another game, but the Rams were 4-5 with Kellen Clemens at quarterback. Hill is more equipped to be effective in the passing game than Clemens.

In 12 NFL seasons, he has played just 34 games with 26 starts, but has completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 6,381 yards, 41 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and an 85.9 passer rating.

Fisher spoke to Hill "briefly" Sunday and said, "He's ready for it. He's ready for the challenge, ready for the opportunity. He has a great feel for the offense right now and we're going to move forward with it. We're not going to change anything. He knows the system. Again, everybody knows we're going to run the football first. We're going to do that and we've got to do that well and we've got to do that to start the season. Everything else will come off of that.

"He's got a wealth of experience. He's played in games. He's been in different systems. The last few years, he's really only played in the preseason behind (Lions quarterback) Matthew (Stafford), but when he played, he played really well. He just makes good decisions; he's mobile. He understands defenses and he's very reliable."

While the Rams will be centered around the ground game, that only works when defenses know the passing attack is a threat. Without that, play-action is useless. Fisher believes that won't be a problem with Hill under center.

He concluded, "We're improving and the young guys are getting more and more experience. But Shaun's capable of getting the ball to them; there's not a throw that he can't make. He sees well, he's got great anticipation and we're going to cut him loose."

Who knows? Maybe not unlike Kurt Warner, circa 1999, in a season where the Rams organization is honoring that team on its 15th anniversary.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Quarterback Shaun Hill enters the season as the starter, and he said nothing really chanhes for him in how he prepares.

Hill said, "To be honest with you, I've always gone into every week, even as a backup, as if I was going to play. That's the only way I knew how to prepare. That's the only way I knew how to do it. So to be honest with you, my mindset is the same as it's been every week. I think throughout the length of my career, having that mindset every week has helped me for this moment so it's not anything new. I don't have to do anything different."

He also talked about a discussion he had with injured quarterback Sam Bradford on Sunday after finding out the news about the torn ACL. Said Hill, "Kind of what I told him was, 'Look, God's going to teach you something about himself and he's going to teach you something about yourself in this situation.' That's what he does in every tough situation, and that's what Sam's facing. He will come out great on the other end. I promise you that. I'm still here to support him and he's going to come back and he's going to support me during the season. I know he will. He's a standup guy. He's going to be able to help me in game planning and things like that. We have a great relationship. I look forward to that."

--With comparisons drawn to 1999 when Trent Green suffered a torn ACL and was replaced by Kurt Warner, Hill was asked he ever worked in a grocery story like Warner did.

Said Hill, "No, the closest was a fireworks stand in the summertime. Fireworks stand, lawn mower, things like that. We would start off the year, we would package and ship for Jake's Fireworks in Pittsburg, Kansas. Then as soon as the store was able to open, we'd go and run the store for a few weeks."

--As he did Sunday, coach Jeff Fisher insisted the team has had no trande talks with any other teams involving a quarterback.

"You know what I like is, 'According to sources close to the situation, we're da da da da da.' I love that OK. So no, we have not had any conversations with anybody. It's the old source deal, you can just throw that out there. There's a lot of players out there that are under contract and so you can't discuss those things. But we've not had any discussions with anybody. Again, we're going to be patient with this. There's probably a couple quarterbacks let go at 75. There will probably be some let go at the 53 and like I said, there may be somebody, a club, we may have a trade partner out there. We don't know. But we're not initiating anything right now."

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Cornerback. With Trumaine Johnson expected to miss anywhere from two to four games, the question is who will start opposite Janoris Jenkins and who will be first off the bench in the nickel. Brandon McGee appears to have the edge to start, with rookie Lamarcus Joyner challenging him in the slot and possibly seeing some time on the edge. However, McGee has missed the last two games and remained out of practice Monday. In addition, rookies E.J. Gaines, Greg Reid and Marcus Roberson will likely see a lot of time in the preseason finale.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--DT Kendall Langford, who suffered an ankle injury against Cleveland Saturday night, did not practice Monday.

--LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who has an undisclosed injury, missed Saturday's game against Cleveland and did not practice Monday, although he was running during practice.

--LB Michael Brockers, who suffered an ankle injury against Cleveland Saturday night, was able to participate in individual drills Monday.

--CB Trumaine Johnson will miss 4-to-6 weeks after suffering a sprained MCL Saturday night against Cleveland. Johnson dodged a bullet because the injury looked a lot worse than it turned out to be.

--G Rodger Saffold suffered an ankle injury against Cleveland Saturday night, but might be able to play in the preseason finale Thursday against Miami.

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