EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In need of repetition and opportunity to play his new position in a real game, Rams offensive tackle Rodger Saffold has spent part of his week lobbying to return to the lineup Saturday night in Denver.
Saffold suffered a dislocated left shoulder two plays into the preseason opener in Cleveland, a game which doubled as his debut at right tackle after spending his first three seasons on the left side. He returned to practice on a limited basis this week but he's well aware that any playing time between now and the start of the regular season is essential in getting fully adjusted to his new position.
"Those reps are seriously important," Saffold said. "That's why I hope they lean toward putting me in for a little bit and then after that I can go from there. But I think the way we are taking it is a smart way. It feels completely stable now. I'm ready to go out and play again."
Saffold's status for Saturday night remains to be seen despite his pleas to play. Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesdsay that Saffold was "much better" and there were "expectations that he would play." What Fisher didn't say was how soon Saffold's return would occur.
In practice this week, Saffold slowly eased back into the mix. He didn't participate Monday and then did some light individual work Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday, he started to work his way back into team drills though he'd still be considered limited if regular-season designations were being used.
Wearing a brace on his shoulder underneath the pads, Saffold said he feels like the shoulder is stable and he can do normal things like reach and punch without pain. That's a step in the positive direction after an injury that initially looked like it could keep him out much longer.
Entering his fourth season, Saffold has consistently battled the injury bug. He missed six games in 2012 with a knee injury and seven contests in 2011 because of concussion, ankle and pectoral ailments. The shoulder injury set off a wave of concern for an offensive line with plenty of veteran talent but also a recent history of injury issues.
Saffold's injury happened on a simple pass protection against the Browns on Aug. 8. Cleveland pass-rusher Paul Kruger attempted to bend the right edge against Saffold. Kruger tried to slap Saffold's arms away as Saffold pushed through the arm slap, but as he attempted to work Kruger's arm to push him away he flipped over and crashed to the ground. He instantly knew the shoulder had popped out backward.
Asked if his adjustment to the right side might have led to the injury as he still tries to refine his fundamentals, Saffold acknowledged the possibility.
"When you're in a game, the adrenaline is rushing," Saffold said. "So you've got to be more patient sometimes than you are on the practice field. That's something you need to get a hold of so I don't end up putting myself in bad positions, leaning and stuff like that."
Joe Barksdale replaced Saffold against Green Bay and fared well in his stead. If Saffold can't play against the Broncos, Barksdale figures to get the call again. The ultimate decision will come down to Fisher and head athletic trainer Reggie Scott, regardless of Saffold's request.
"I always feel like I'm ready to go," Saffold said. "We've got to think about this smart, but I'm really confident. I think me telling them how confident I feel, they could give me a chance to go."