St. Louis Rams rookie running back and first-round draft pick Todd Gurley has been cleared to return to practice and 7-on-7 drills, but still will not play in a preseason game according to head coach Jeff Fisher.
Gurley, the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft out of Georgia, is coming off ACL surgery that limited him to six games last season at the University of Georgia. He finished his three-year college career with 3,285 yards rushing and 36 touchdowns.
He had only been doing stretching and individual drill work, but until Monday hadn’t been cleared to join the entire team for workouts.
“We’re going to progress him slowly but he’ll be able to participate in the 7-on-7 and the team drills,” Fisher said Monday. “Up to this point he’s just been participating in the one-on-ones. We’ll take it slow, but it’s going to be fun to get him on the practice field.”
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Fisher said Gurley was cleared for more extensive activities by Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedic surgeon that repaired Gurley’s knee. Fisher added that Gurley will still be wearing a knee brace.
“We have a testing protocol that we do here that we forwarded to him,” Fisher said. “He was pleased with the results. We’re just going to slowly increase his reps and see how he progresses. He may need a day off here and there, but it’s good news.
“Dr. Andrews was really pleased with his progress, so he’s cutting him loose.”
Asked whether Gurley would be ready for the Rams’ season opener Sept. 13 against Seattle, Fisher was non-commital.
“Don’t know,” Fisher said. “Going to bring him along slow. He’s really excited. He had a blast in the warmups (Sunday) night and then his fun stopped when the game started because he wanted to play, but he understands the situation that he’s in.”
Fisher also said wide receiver Brian Quick, coming off shoulder surgery, will lose the yellow hat he’d been wearing over his football helmet that let everyone know not to hit him during practice. That yellow hat will be worn by Gurley.
Quick has been cleared for contact after sitting out the first two games. Coming off shoulder surgery that cut short his 2014 season, Quick now can participate fully in both practices and games.
“I think he’s got a chance to play this week,” Fisher said. “I may have a ceremony tomorrow and let Brian graduate and pass it over to Todd.”
Rookie guard Cody Wichmann (calf) was cleared to return from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Fisher said guard Rodger Saffold (shoulder) and defensive tackle Michael Brockers, both held out of the Tennessee game Sunday with injuries, could play Saturday night in the Rams’ preseason home opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
Asked about the Rams’ first-string offense, which has produced one field goal in six preseason possessions over two games, Fisher showed little concern.
“If you go back a year from now, two years from now or three years from now, you guys all ask me the same questions: What’s up with your offense?” said Fisher, whose team has gotten the bulk of its offense in the second half once the starters were out. “We keep it basic. Our philosophy is to just play and work on fundamentals during the preseason.”
Besides a new quarterback in Foles, the Rams also are working in three new starters on the offensive line — including two rookies — and also have another new offensive coordinator in Frank Cignetti.
Some apparent confusion on an early pass route between quarterback Nick Foles and veteran receiver Kenny Britt led to an interception returned for a touchdown by the Titans.
“Nick wants that ball back, he’d love to have that ball back,” Fisher said of Foles, the former Eagles quarterback who has completed 6-of-12 passes for 87 yards in the preseason with no touchdowns and one interception. “That wasn’t a good decision by Nick and that’s not the first interception he’s thrown - and not the last one he’s gonna throw. He’s had a great camp, I have no concerns whatsoever.
“Our offense is coming, it’s coming. We saw a lot of good things out of our offense against the Cowboys (during the scrimmages).”
Foles said the bottom line is both he and the offense need to be better.
“We needed to get the ball in the end zone,” Foles said. “We didn’t do our job. We need to get some points on the board, but it’s one of those things where there’s a lot we can learn from. Everything out here is fixable and we can fix it.
“The second group right now is moving the ball really nicely. There are a lot of good things and we’re just going to improve on the things we didn’t do well.”
Fisher said he noticed Foles has a strong bounce-back mentality, even when reacting to interceptions.
“(He reacts) the same way he reacted when he got hit in the mouth,” Fisher said. “He would come up and throw a rope for a first down, either the next series or the very next play. It’s how he is. He’s unique in that he has a very short memory, and that’s good.”
There’s also an unsettled situation at center that Fisher said probably won’t be decided until the season opener. Tim Barnes (leg injury) sat out the Titans game, with Demetrius Rhaney starting and Barrett Jones seeing a lot of playing time.
“It’s going to be a really good race,” said Fisher, who felt Barnes would be able to play against the Colts. “I think Barrett’s coming on just with the play time, because Barrett hasn’t played much in games. Demetrius I thought played pretty well last night, so we’ll continue to evaluate the position.”