EARTH CITY, Mo. – The St. Louis Rams welcomed back two key contributors from the physically unable to perform list Tuesday afternoon in the form of tight end Lance Kendricks and defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo.
Kendricks (knee) and Cudjo (foot) had been on the active PUP list since the beginning of training camp as they worked to return from their injuries. Because they had the “active” designation, the Rams were unable to replace them on the roster but were able to bring them back to active duty at any time.
Neither Kendricks nor Cudjo participated in Tuesday night’s practice, but coming off the list at least allows them to take part in more team activities to get them closer to a return to the field.
“When you are on active PUP, you are not really permitted to do anything with the team,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “And so we felt like both of them are getting close so we take them off and that way they can at least participate in walk-throughs and get the benefit of walk-through reps.”
Getting Kendricks back in the mix will be particularly helpful for an offense that figures to use him in tandem with free-agent addition Jared Cook on a regular basis.
Kendricks had 42 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns last season. But his real value to the offense is in his versatility. He spent part of 2012 lined up attached to the line, sometimes in the slot and in the backfield in a hybrid fullback role.
The Rams don’t figure to use a true fullback much this season, but when they’ve wanted to work one in they’ve used undrafted free agent Eric Stevens in this camp. Kendricks’ blocking ability should allow Cook to be a movable piece who can line up just about anywhere as a pass catcher.
Quietly last season, Cudjo carved out a niche as a backup on the defensive line and proved a valuable piece of the rotation in that group. He posted 21 tackles with one sack, three quarterback pressures and three quarterback hits while playing 351 snaps. The Rams thought enough of Cudjo to reward him in March with a two-year contract.
Both Cudjo and Kendricks are aiming to return in time to play in a preseason game to knock off some rust, but the ultimate goal is to have them in shape and ready in time for the regular-season opener on Sept. 8.
“There’s no doubt [about that],” Fisher said. “There’s a chance both of them will play in the preseason.”
Other notes from Tuesday's practice:
One day after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon attended practice, Rams owner Stan Kroenke was at Rams Park for Tuesday night’s workout. Kroenke spent the bulk of the practice with Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff and general manager Les Snead. When practice was through, Kroenke chatted with Fisher and a number of players, including quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive end Chris Long. Fisher said he and Kroenke talk often. “We talk football a lot, we talk other things, Montana and all that kind of stuff,” Fisher said.
On the field, it was a good day for rookie wideout Tavon Austin, who beat cornerback Cortland Finnegan on a deep ball down the left sideline in 7-on-7 drills and later hooked up with Bradford again on a deep crossing route. He’s regularly been involved in the short and intermediate game, but the deep element was on display Tuesday.
The Rams have been working a few different combinations on the offensive line this week with tackles Sean Hooey (ankle) and Rodger Saffold (shoulder) out with injuries. Fellow tackle Ty Nsekhe was shaken up about an hour into practice as well, leaving the Rams short on bodies at the position. Brandon Washington, who has worked exclusively at guard, has been getting reps at right tackle the past two days.
Safety Darian Stewart, the most tenured Ram at his position, has been somewhat nondescript in this camp, but he showed up a couple of times during team drills. He jumped a deep seam pass from Bradford intended for Austin and made a leaping grab for an interception.
The Rams got in some goal-line work with the full pads on Tuesday. Running back Benny Cunningham showed some short-yardage toughness by taking on multiple tacklers, including delivering a big blow to safety Rashard Hall, on his way to a touchdown.
For the most part, the Rams have worked with ones versus ones and twos versus twos during the team portion of practice. But they started mixing in what appeared to be more of a scout team setup Tuesday night, with the top offense against the second defense, and so forth.
The Rams are back at it with a special-teams practice Wednesday before holding their next public workout Thursday afternoon.