QB Austin Davis ready if called upon

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In the immediate aftermath of St. Louis Rams starting quarterback Sam Bradford's second season-ending ACL tear in as many seasons, the reaction for most was sympathy.

For the other quarterbacks on the team, that sympathy might even be more plentiful because they -- Shaun Hill, Austin Davis and Garrett Gilbert -- are the ones who spent more time with Bradford than anyone. But they also don't have time to sit around and wallow in pity for their friend because they have a job to do, a job that became more important after Bradford's injury became clear.

"It’s an extremely weird feeling," Davis said. "You really can’t describe it. It’s almost like you compartmentalize it. When you are out here at practice and playing, you aren’t even thinking about it. Then at certain times when you realize what’s transpired here, you just feel for the whole situation. It’s tough."

Upon the official diagnosis and news that Bradford would miss the 2014 season, the Rams set about the process of getting Hill ready to replace him. The trickle-down effect can't be ignored, however. Much like Hill stepping into the starting job to replace Bradford, Davis instantly became one play away from having to step in for Hill.

Such is the life of a backup quarterback. Rams coach Jeff Fisher made it clear the Rams intend to roll with Hill as the starter and gave Davis a vote of confidence as the backup, though he acknowledged the Rams would continue scouring for more help at the position. After a bit of waiting, the Rams claimed Case Keenum off waivers from the Houston Texans on Monday.

Even with Keenum in the fold, though, Davis is the backup for the time being. He's been in coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's offense for the better part of three seasons and Keenum will have to play catch-up.

More important, Rams coach Jeff Fisher has seen noticeable improvement from Davis in his third year in St. Louis.

“First off, he’s smart -- he understands what we’re doing," Fisher said. "He can extend plays if he needs to. He’s gotten much better at keeping his eyes downfield, and that’s a hard thing to learn. It’s almost a trait. But, when you can step, feel around the pocket with your eyes down the field, you’ve got a chance to make plays.”

That Davis is with the Rams, let alone poised to enter the season as the No. 2 quarterback, should provide evidence Fisher means it when he says Davis has improved.

Davis earned a roster spot as a rookie with an impressive preseason and looked like he would be elevated to the No. 2 job in 2013, but didn't perform well in preseason or camp. He returned to the roster largely because of his knowledge of the offense after Bradford suffered his initial ACL injury against Carolina last season.

When the Rams opened camp this year, Davis sat at the bottom of the depth chart. Undeterred, Davis looked more like the promising rookie than the second-year player he once was. His knack for showing up when the preseason games began also resurfaced, though he acknowledges he could be better on a day-to-day basis.

"I didn’t start playing football for the practices," Davis said. "I love to play. I think being better in practice is something I can improve on. I don’t really have an answer for it. I enjoy playing the game and try to have a lot of fun out there. If you think about it, we do 95 percent training and five percent play, so you have got to be good at the training part, too."

Having Davis as the No. 2 quarterback remains a question mark for the Rams, if only because he's never taken a snap in a regular-season game. It's only reasonable for any team to feel that way about a quarterback with no experience. As Davis points out, though, the only way for him to get that experience is to actually go out and do it.

For now, Davis is content to help Hill prepare while taking advantage of the reps he gets in practice. He doesn't have any grand plans to come in and take over games, should the opportunity to play arise. Davis said he knows his job would be to manage the game, not turn the ball over and get the offense in and out of plays.

"My approach is I’m just going to be here; I’m going to make this team better while I’m here, keep moving forward," Davis said. "Until somebody tells me something different, that’s what I’m going to do."