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While Not Serious, Rodger Saffold's Injury Still a Concern for St. Louis Rams

Injury to Starting Right Tackle Leaves Rams With Little Experienced Depth

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COMMENTARY | When starting right tackle Rodger Saffold had to leave the St. Louis Rams' preseason opener Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns, you could be forgiven if you greeted it with something of a shrug of the shoulders.

It's not that it is anything to be taken lightly. On the contrary, any NFL injury, particularly one that requires a player to leave a game, is something to be taken seriously.

It's just that it didn't seem like anything to really be alarmed about. While he stayed down on the turf at the end of the play, he wasn't writhing in pain and he seemed very calm about it as he walked to the locker room.

Right or wrong, it probably also had to do with who it was. While Saffold is a serviceable lineman with experience, he isn't the guy that most expect to be the leader of this line. That's Jake Long, of course. He also isn't a big name that most would assume the Rams couldn't live without. In that regard, he is no Sam Bradford or Chris Long.

But I'm here to tell you that the injury is a real concern.

My first concern is that this is just another injury for Rodger Saffold. He is not a model of durability and consistency. He has played all 16 games in a season only once in his career, and that was in his rookie season of 2010.

In 2011, he was placed on IR after Week 10 with a torn pectoral muscle. In 2012, he missed much of the first half of the season with a knee injury. For that matter, he played in all 16 games in 2010, but he was listed on the injury report five times for a myriad of different ailments.

For me, the nature of the injury is also bothersome. Dislocated joints, like Saffold's shoulder, can linger. They are very sore after being placed back into socket, and those that have had dislocations before are more susceptible to having dislocations in the future. One wrong move after he returns and he is back to square one.

Then there's the depth issue. With Saffold out, I would expect Joe Barksdale to take over as the starting right tackle. Barksdale played in place of Saffold a couple of times last season, but it's not like he is a veteran with a track record of being able to do the job.

Chris Williams is more of an experienced veteran, but he has been working exclusively at guard during training camp and preseason.

That leaves Ty Nsekhe and Sean Hooey as the only other true tackles on the roster.

Publicly, head coach Jeff Fisher has said that Saffold's injury probably isn't anything to worry about and that he has complete confidence in Joe Barksdale stepping in as the starter, but I'm not sure I feel the same way about either.

The positive spin on this situation is that all of these guys are now going to see more reps than they would have if Saffold hadn't gotten injured, but I'm certain the Rams would rather just have him healthy. I know I would.

Joseph Healy lives in the St. Louis area. His work has been featured at BleacherReport.com, TheFanManifesto.com and Scout.com.

You can follow Joseph on Twitter @Joe_On_Sports.

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