Saffold adjusts to playing right guard for Rams

By WARREN MAYES - Associated Press
    2013-11-22 16:27

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Rodger Saffold is open to change, to say the least.

He began his NFL career as the St. Louis Rams' left tackle, then made room for Jake Long and moved to the right side to start this season. Now he will make his second start at right guard in place of injured Harvey Dahl against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

At 6-foot-5, 314 pounds, Saffold hasn't played guard since middle school in Cleveland.

''I was in the seventh grade playing for the Heskett Hornets the last time I was a guard,'' Saffold said Friday after practice. ''Then I went to tackle and had been there ever since until now.''

Saffold, the 33rd pick overall in the 2010 Draft, started at right guard in the Rams' 38-8 victory over Indianapolis. He will be there against Sunday against the visiting Bears as St. Louis comes off its bye week.

The talent Saffold has made the adjustment possible, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.

''When you've got athletic ability, which he does, and strength and power and foot agility, it's a matter of just learning what to do,'' Fisher said. ''Just get in the book and understand it. You play one position with a very good understanding of what your buddy does next to you, so that's very helpful.''

It's been a difficult journey this season for Saffold. He suffered a knee injury in Week 2 against Atlanta. Backup tackle Joe Barksdale filled in well for Saffold while he recovered. Saffold missed four games.

Saffold was unable to wrest his starting job back when he returned in Week 7 for the game against Carolina. The two tackles rotated in the next three games at right tackle. Dahl hurt his knee in the loss to Seattle on Oct. 28. Shelley Smith started in Dahl's place against Tennessee.

In the following game against Indianapolis, Fisher decided to move Saffold to guard. Fisher was pleased with what he saw in the victory over the Colts.

''Well, I thought he did a great job, obviously, in the game against Indianapolis,'' Fisher said. ''I think the bye week certainly helped to get him more comfortable with it, but doing a good job. You talk about a guy with great hip flexibility, the ability to bend and strike people.

''He's doing really, really well, so very pleased with where he's at. Again, the bye week and this week's been good for him just getting more and more comfortable.''

Saffold, who wears Orlando Pace's old number, is set for unrestricted free agency after this season. He had been the left tackle before the Rams made a big free agent signing in the offseason to get Long to play the position. Saffold switched to the right side.

The decision to switch Saffold to guard was made to get the five best linemen on the field.

''They were just like basically, `Hey, we want you to play guard so we can get everybody on the field,''' Saffold said. ''I try to do what I can to help the team win.''

So Saffold is a guard after 37 starts at tackle in his four seasons with the Rams.

''This is a new challenge,'' Saffold said. ''Everything is going real well. I'm getting a lot of help from (center) Scott Wells. I get advice from Harvey, too, so that makes it a lot easier for me.''

Saffold was agreeable to move around the line, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said.

''Absolutely, he's been great,'' Schottenheimer said. ''I think he likes it in there and we all just want to find a way to win.''

The difference from tackle to guard is one of space, Saffold said. The area is more confined. He compared it to being in a phone booth.

The speed is different on the interior of the line, too. Things happen faster, Saffold said.

''Playing guard is tougher than it looks,'' Saffold said. ''I have a lot of respect for what Harvey Dahl and (left guard) Chris Williams do. I just want to keep getting better.''

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