An already inexperienced and struggling St. Louis Rams offensive line took another hit Thursday when coach Jeff Fisher announced Rodger Saffold would undergo season-ending surgery on his right shoulder.
The 27-year-old Saffold was place on injured reserve without designation for return, thus ending the season for the Rams’ most experienced offensive lineman. The second-round pick in 2010 started all 16 games last season, playing at both guard and tackle, but has endured persistent problems with shoulder injuries.
“He’s going to require season-ending surgery, unfortunately,” Fisher said. “Our doctors agreed with the second opinion, so it will take place in the next couple of days. So, he’s been placed on IR without a designation for return. It’s the other shoulder ... it wasn’t the shoulder that was problematic with him last year. So, we think that’s the best thing for his future.”
The Rams (2-3) are in their bye week and don’t return to action until Oct. 25 at home against the Cleveland Browns.
Saffold’s place at guard will be filled by veteran Garrett Reynolds, who had been serving as a backup at several spots. The Rams’ offensive line includes rookie right tackle Rob Havenstein, rookie left guard Jamon Brown, second-year left tackle Greg Robinson and first-year starting center Tim Barnes.
Saffold injured his left shoulder previously, but Fisher said this injury has nothing to do with this latest injury that occurred Sunday in Green Bay.
Concerns about the left shoulder injury caused the Oakland Raiders to pull out of a free-agent deal with Saffold in 2014. Safford returned to the Rams and played in all 16 games, then had offseason surgery.
“He was obviously very disappointed in the ball game, and then after the ballgame a little optimistic,” Fisher said. “Once we got both opinions together ... he was willing to try to play, but inevitably it’s going to come out again, when we talk about the condition of his shoulder. So, we just felt like for career-wise and future-wise, it’s best to get it fixed.”
What’s the long-term prognosis for Saffold?
“We’re getting an earlier start,” Fisher said. “His return to play and to 100 percent is estimated somewhere in February or March, so he’ll have a good offseason.”
Fisher also said tight end Lance Kendricks tore a ligament in his finger in the season opener, an injury he has played with since then. That was repaired Monday, according to Fisher, and the Rams promoted tight end Justice Cunningham to the active roster.
“Courageous effort since the Seattle game with the injury, so he’s going to be questionable for Cleveland,” Fisher said of Kendricks, who has seven catches for 85 yards and one touchdown. “We needed to get Justice up on the roster ... Justice has earned right and we’ll be fine until Lance is ready to come back.
“He may be back for Cleveland. We just don’t know.”
Cunningham has seen action in the past on special teams and at tight end.
“He knows the offense and he can play on the line,” Fisher said. “He can play the fullback position, do all the same things that Lance has done.”
There’s not much experience left on the offensive line. Other candidates include rookie guard Cody Wichmann and rookie tackles Andrew Donnal and Darrell Williams. Williams is an undrafted rookie from South Florida.
“Darrell will be up getting the work as the potential backup left tackle,” Fisher said. “Darrell understands what he’s doing and had a good week of work this week, so he can come ready to play.
“What we did the last three days is we put a number of the younger players in position to compete on the field against the defense and that’s important. We do as good of a job as we can with their reps as scout team players during the preparation week. We got them in there with the first offense.”