- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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Finnegan plans to come back not only healthy but with a chip on his shoulder reminiscent of the one that served him well in his first seven-plus NFL seasons.
"It’s been a rocky start," Finnegan said. "For me, it’s been a complete disappointment from last year to this year. I think that’s from putting a lot of pressure on myself and not doing things the way I used to do it. So it’s getting back to being a jerk Cortland Finnegan, and if you don’t like it, oh well."
Finnegan began working back in last Friday when he practiced on a limited basis. He didn't play Sunday against Carolina, though let's face it, there's never been a game where he would've been more at home.
This week, Finnegan has practiced some on Wednesday and Thursday. He was officially listed as limited on the team's injury report Thursday, but he said he's feeling good.
"Absolutely, I feel like a new nickel," Finnegan said.
Knowing Finnegan, it's hard to imagine his choice of words there wasn't intentional. In his absence, the Rams have started Trumaine Johnson on the outside opposite Janoris Jenkins. In nickel packages, the Rams have gone to a personnel group with Johnson and Jenkins on the outside, safety Rodney McLeod moving into the nickel role and Matt Giordano joining Darian Stewart at safety.
As Finnegan works his way back to full health, it stands to reason he may slowly reintegrate by working as the team's primary nickelback. Playing inside is normal for Finnegan -- he did that in the first four games -- but the idea here is that he may not work on the outside when the Rams are in the base defense. That's the way the Rams used him near the end of the 2012 season, when Finnegan was dealing with a hamstring injury.
Regardless of his role, Finnegan is excited about the prospect of returning this week. Not exactly known for his ability to sit still, he said he's been going nuts behind closed doors. He's also gained a little perspective in his time away.
"I’m super-excited," Finnegan said. "To do something you love and [for] it be taken from you, every snap is precious. Coach [Chuck] Cecil tells us every day, every snap is precious. So the older you get in here the fewer snaps you could possibly have in your career, so you want to make sure you make them count."
That's a task Finnegan is especially taking to heart after a difficult start to the season. According to Pro Football Focus, Finnegan allowed 16 completions on 19 passes and three touchdowns on balls thrown his way in the first four games.
Asked whether he was dealing with injuries in those first four weeks, Finnegan said it didn't matter because he simply wasn't playing well.
There's no critic harder on Finnegan than Finnegan himself, which is why he has something to prove in making his return.
"The first four weeks of me playing wouldn’t say so," Finnegan said, "but confidence is one of those things that is one of those things you have got to get back, and I feel like I have gotten it back and I just need to go out there and make plays."