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Healthy Joseph gets a fresh start in St. Louis/PD

Discussion in 'RAMS - NFL TALK' started by RamBill, Jun 20, 2014.

  1. RamBill

    RamBill Well-Known Member

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    Healthy Joseph gets a fresh start in St. Louis

    • By Jim Thomas

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/foot...cle_1982ce41-2ddc-5d3f-8d3a-a4ca7b228c35.html

    Davin Joseph’s free-agent visit to St. Louis in mid-March was unlike any other. Rodger Saffold, the man Joseph potentially would replace as the Rams’ right guard, was in Oakland wrapping up his new deal with the Raiders at the time.

    Joseph was out dining with Rams officials that night when the Saffold deal fell through in Oakland. The Raiders failed Saffold on his physical because of concerns about his shoulder.

    “I really didn’t understand quite what was going on the day of,” Joseph said. “I don’t think anybody really did.”

    But Joseph’s first thought was concern for Saffold — not how that might affect any chances of signing with the Rams.

    “I was thinking, man, that kinda (stinks),” Joseph recalled. “He had a great contract to go to Oakland, and then for him to get that snatched up from underneath your feet. Of course, he had a second option.”

    Saffold’s second option was returning and re-signing with the Rams. As a result, that made signing Joseph a back-burner issue. Nonetheless, St. Louis eventually has provided Joseph with a second chance.

    After eight seasons with Tampa Bay, which drafted him in the first round in 2006 out of Oklahoma, Joseph was unceremoniously released by the Buccaneers and new head coach Lovie Smith on March 8.

    But Joseph, a two-time Pro Bowler, eventually found his way back to St. Louis signing a one-year deal May 28 or roughly 2½ months after his Rams visit.

    Joseph will earn a base salary of $1.1 million this season. He received a $300,000 roster bonus on May 30, or two days after he signed. He can earn an additional roster bonus of $350,000 if he’s active for all 16 games. That totals $1.75 million.

    However, another $1 million in incentives is possible, which would bump the overall value to a maximum of $2.75 million — still less than half of what he was scheduled to make this season in Tampa.

    Joseph didn’t arrive in St. Louis as a starting guard. Those jobs belong to No. 2 overall draft pick Greg Robinson and Saffold. But Thursday’s organized team activities at Rams Park — the team’s final practice until training camp — showed Joseph’s value to the team.

    During 11-on-11 periods Thursday, Saffold was at left tackle and Joseph at right guard with the starting offense. That’s what the line will look like if Jake Long (knee surgery) is not ready to go on opening day.

    And should something happen to Saffold, who’s had his share of injuries in recent seasons, Joseph again would slide into the right guard spot. Having the luxury of bringing a former Pro Bowler off the bench speaks volumes about the kind of depth the Rams are trying to develop.

    “We really liked the (free-agent) visit, we’re really excited about what we thought he could do for us from a depth standpoint and all that stuff,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “We gave him an opportunity to come in and compete, but Davin, I think, is at a point now where you know he just wants to have fun.”

    When Rams offensive line coach Paul Boudreau was in Atlanta, he got to see Joseph twice a year playing for NFC South rival Tampa Bay. Whenever the draft rolled around with Atlanta and Boudreau was asked what kind of guard he might like to draft, his answer was always the same: Someone like Joseph.

    “He’d always be my guy as a guard,” Boudreau said. “He was quick; he was long; he finished (plays).”

    In his heyday, Joseph was among the game’s most dominant guards, particularly as a run blocker. But then came a season-ending knee injury during the 2012 preseason. Just when Joseph was ready to return, he was blindsided by a staph infection in his knee during summer of 2013. He went from being fully recovered to not being able to walk.

    “There were some difficulties coming back,” Joseph said. “Having a knee infection last summer, having to rehab it and try to participate in training camp, I just wasn’t able to really get in the groove.

    “So I really had to use the season as kind of like my practice to get better instead of hitting the season on the run.”

    Joseph did play in all 16 games in 2013 for the Bucs, but he wasn’t as effective as he was pre-injury. At age 30, and with 100 NFL regular-season games including 99 starts on his resume, Joseph is trying to get his mojo back.

    “I do feel like I’ve got a lot left,” Joseph said. “I feel like I can contribute to this team. I don’t know how big or how small my role will be. But I feel like I can contribute. So if it’s just coming out here and really working to make the guys better, that’s my job. And I’ll do it the best that I can.

    “My confidence is high. Sometimes you’re faced with challenges for a reason, right? So I’m pretty sure there’s a reason why I’ve had to go through what I’ve had to go through for the last couple years to get to this point today.”

    There’s no way the Rams would’ve gotten Joseph for the relatively modest price they did, without the right knee surgery coupled with the staph infection. In fact, Joseph might still be in Tampa Bay.

    “When he came in for the visit, his (right) leg was like half the size of a normal leg,” Boudreau said.

    When Boudreau watched tape of Joseph against Rams defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford in last year’s game against Tampa, Boudreau said, “you could see he was playing on one leg.”

    Joseph finally has two legs to stand on — and a fresh start in St. Louis.
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