Rams strengthen line with patience

Saturday, October 20, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams' patience with Rod Jones is about to be rewarded.

The 330-pound offensive tackle, given an extended leave of absence in July, gets his first start for his new team in place of the injured Ryan Tucker on Sunday against the New York Jets. He's come a long way since the first day of training camp, when he abruptly quit after the morning workout.

Jones walked off the field depressed about his May 31 release from the Cincinnati Bengals, for whom he played the first five seasons of his career. That could have been it.

"You know the NFL, they say it stands for Not For Long," Jones said. "There's always somebody waiting in the wings."

Surprisingly, the Rams didn't just cut him. Coach Mike Martz got help for him and let him take an extended leave of absence.

"It's just the right thing to do," Martz said. "I don't think anything needs to be said more about it. Here's a guy that needed some help and we were in a position to help him."

Jones got over his bad experience in Cincinnati by spending time with team psychiatrist Jim Gough in Phoenix. He returned to camp on Aug. 20 after a nearly monthlong absence a new man.

"You kind of question everything in your life," Jones said. "You really don't love the game as much anymore because the business side is just too much and the politics, you kind of grow tired of."

The Rams changed that attitude.

"You see everybody isn't the same and it gives you hope," Jones said. "It rejuvenates you to be part of an organization that has that type of belief and that type of forward thinking is something I definitely want to be a part of."

Jones was kept under wraps the first four games of the season, dressing but not playing. He was ready when Tucker tried to play with a broken left hand and separated shoulder against the Giants last Sunday, getting burned for four sacks by Michael Strahan.

Tucker finally was benched in the fourth quarter and Jones battled Strahan to a standstill the rest of the way in a 15-14 victory. On Sunday, Tucker will be an emergency backup for Jones, who made 37 starts with the Bengals

"I'm definitely excited," Jones said. "I'm stepping in for Ryan until he starts feeling a little better."

In the meantime, he can ease the pounding on quarterback Kurt Warner, who was sacked six times in all and hit numerous other times.

"Rod's a good player," Warner said. "He knows what he's got to do and we expect him to step up."

The biggest challenge for Jones won't be starting, but moving to right tackle. He was a left tackle in Cincinnati.

"I've been a left tackle all my life and you get used to pushing off one leg and you have to flip plays in your mind," Jones said. "But it's all relative. You just go out and play."

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