Rodger Saffold says he's ready to return

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- When St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold played a preseason game in his hometown of Cleveland last season, he suffered a shoulder injury.

As Saffold and the Rams head back to Saffold's old stomping grounds for their third preseason game this year, Saffold looks poised to return from another shoulder injury.

"Of course I plan on playing," Saffold said. "I’ve felt good for awhile. I know they want to be super cautious and that’s fine but I’ve been working since I got hurt, so really I just hope this transition back onto the field won’t be that big of a transition. I feel in shape, I feel rested. I’m good all the way around."

Saffold suffered what he and the Rams call a "stinger" in his left shoulder in a training camp practice on Aug. 1. The stinger has been enough to keep Saffold on the sidelines since, and kept him out of the team's first two preseason games against Green Bay and New Orleans. He did return to practice on a limited basis Tuesday, taking part in individual drills but sitting out the 11-on-11 portion of the workout.

Although Saffold and the team have insisted it's a minor injury, all parties have opted for a cautious approach. Rightfully so, given Saffold's extensive injury history. And his shoulder was such a point of contention in the offseason that the Oakland Raiders backed out of a lucrative multi-year contract with Saffold when their doctors failed him on a physical because of it.

In no small part because of that history, the Rams made it clear to Saffold soon after the injury that they were in no hurry to get him back in the preseason. Saffold is entering his fifth season in the league and his third in Brian Schottenheimer's offense, so keeping up with the mental part of his job should be little problem.

"It was nowhere near as bad as last time, but as a coach you want to make sure you take care of your players," Saffold said. "They’ve seen me play so they know what I can do, so they say 'Why don’t you just sit this one out? Let’s just make sure you’re good so we don’t have any future problems that could really be a problem.' I just said OK."

It remains unclear whether Saffold will get to play against the Browns as the Rams continue to monitor him day to day. Saffold joked Tuesday that he's the only Ram who has yet to hit somebody in a different uniform and that he intends to test the willpower of head athletic trainer Reggie Scott this week in an effort to get back on the field.

Getting Saffold back would give the Rams a chance to have their projected starting offensive line together for the first time in a game. It would also give Saffold some needed reps at right guard.

Although Saffold showed well at his new position for the last part of the 2013 season, the sample size remains small. He is comfortable at the position. but spent the early parts of camp playing left tackle and both guard spots, rather than settling at his projected position.

The chance to get some work in preseason games should allow things to slow down for Saffold inside.

"You want to be able to be under control but still be able to play fast and physical," Saffold said. "Sometimes you can get too excited or overly excited and you move too fast and get yourself in bad positions. I’m able to recover some of those things, but I want to get my technique down pat to the point where it’s kind of easy when it comes to the game."