ST. LOUIS -- More than a season-and-a-half after the St. Louis Rams drafted Jimmy Kennedy in the first round, he's starting to return on the investment.
There's a good chance the defensive tackle will get his first career start on Sunday. It's been a long wait for the 12th pick of the 2003 draft, who was a seldom-used backup as a rookie and then broke his right foot early in training camp this year.
"He's making outstanding progress," Rams coach Mike Martz said Friday. "He's done everything we've asked him to do, and he's getting a lot better."
The Rams (5-6) have been preparing Kennedy as a reserve the last four games, giving him progressively more playing time. Kennedy could get the nod on Sunday against the 49ers (1-10) ahead of another former No. 1 pick, Damione Lewis, after undrafted Brian Howard started at left tackle last week.
"It's been a battle, a tough battle fighting through the soreness, scar tissue breaking up and going out there and still practicing," Kennedy said. "The way I feel right now is I missed so much time that even if it's sore I want to be out there on the field."
The foot bothers him most when he switches surfaces. The Rams work out on grass outdoors, have a Fieldturf indoor facility and play their home games on rock-hard artificial turf.
"Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it bothers me when I plant, and sometimes it hurts me when I'm just running," Kennedy said.
As a rookie, Kennedy was criticized by coaches for being overweight and for having a lackadaisical attitude. He's happy with his play thus far this year.
"I think they're starting to get a little respect for me," Kennedy said. "That being said, I've still got a long way to go. If I go out there saying I have something to prove I feel like I'm at the top of my game, and I'm far from being at the top of my game."
Kennedy is one of perhaps three new starters for Sunday's game. Steven Jackson will start ahead of a gimpy Marshall Faulk, bothered by a bruised left knee, and Antuan Edwards, a waiver pickup from Miami last month, will start at free safety ahead of Rich Coady.