Harkey's toughness energizes Rams

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams have already lost key players such as quarterback Sam Bradford, and defensive end Chris Long to serious injuries that will require rehabilitation.

Bradford is out for the season with a knee injury, and Long is on injured reserve but designated to return after ankle surgery. But neither of those injuries looked as bad when they happened as the one tight end Cory Harkey suffered on Sunday in Tampa Bay.

Late in the third quarter, Harkey caught a pass from quarterback Austin Davis in the left flat, but Tampa Bay safety Dashon Goldson quickly closed in on Harkey and hit him square in the left knee. Harkey managed to limp off the field, but the hit looked bad enough that it could keep him out for a long time.

"That was a rough hit," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "Now when you saw it, that’s a byproduct of the league and the rule changes. Goldson’s a good football player, and that’s one that you just don’t like to see. We feared, I feared for the worst on it until he got to the sideline."

For his part, Harkey said even he was shaken up by the hit.

"Obviously, it was a shock. It was scary, but I knew once I was able to get up and kind of walk off that I was going to be OK, which is a good thing," Harkey said. "And God is looking out for me. But yeah, it was scary."

When Harkey returned to the sideline, he wasted no time lobbying to return to the game, a campaign that proved successful. He was on the field on the next drive and caught a pass for 6 yards about 15 minutes (in game time) after taking the hit.

That Harkey returned and contributed was a surprise to everyone except those who have seen him go from undrafted rookie to a valuable, multipurpose piece of the offense -- and one of the team's resident tough guys.

“We knew, we knew Cory was a tough guy," Fisher said. "He loves the game, and the docs felt structurally he was going to be okay. We were going to change some personnel groups and Cory said, ‘No, don’t change them. I’m going back in,’ so very impressed with him."

On Monday, Fisher revealed that Harkey actually suffered a mild knee sprain on the play. Fisher went on to say that he wouldn't rule out the possibility of Harkey playing against Dallas this week despite the injury.

Based on what Harkey did last week, it would be more surprising if he didn't.