When the St. Louis Rams reached an injury settlement with Todd Steussie on Sept. 5, after he had broken his left foot in the preseason finale, club officials knew they might need the 14-year veteran as an insurance policy later in the year.
Little did they realize how much.
Steussie, 36, has re-signed with the Rams, a deal that has been in the works for weeks, and likely will start in Sunday's game at San Francisco, stepping into an offensive line that has suffered physical setbacks all season. The Rams have four offensive linemen, including starting tackle Orlando Pace and starting guard Richie Incognito, on injured reserve.
It is not certain yet if Steussie will play right guard or right tackle. But even after a long layoff to rehabilitate the foot injury, he is confident that he's ready to play again.
"Muscle memory will kick in," Steussie told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
St. Louis officials took advantage of a little-known rule involving injured players to allow them to keep Steussie on the radar screen as a contingency plan in the event of injuries. A club has five days after placing a player on injured reserve to reach a settlement with him on his contract and then release him. The player becomes a free agent but, if he does not sign with another franchise, the original team can subsequently re-sign him after a waiting period.
The waiting period is determined by a formula in which six weeks is added to the number of weeks for which the contract was settled. The settlement with Steussie was for five weeks of salary, so he was eligible to come back after the 11th week. And for the desperate Rams' coaching staff, which has shuffled offensive linemen in and out of the lineup all year, his return couldn't come soon enough.
Steussie could have signed with another team, which would have scuttled the St. Louis strategy to have the veteran blocker available as a fall-back. But he kept his family in St. Louis, rehabilitated there, and stayed in touch with team officials. He had decided that if he resumed his career, it would be in a Rams' uniform.
A first-round pick of the Vikings in 1994, Steussie has played in 207 games, 179 of them as a starter, in stints with Minnesota (1994-2000), Carolina (2001-2003), Tampa Bay (2004-2005) and the Rams (2006). Before this season, the two-time Pro Bowl performer (1997-98) had missed only one game to injury in his career. Steussie played in all 16 games for St. Louis in 2006, and started 15, including eight at left guard and seven at left tackle.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for NFL.com.