ST. LOUIS, MO. (AP) Vernon Gholston hopes the lessons learned during a year away from the NFL means a return to the league.
The defensive end was on the field Thursday for the first time since Chicago cut him at the end of training camp in 2011. The St. Louis Rams brought him in mostly because of an apparent foot injury to Eugene Sims, who was in a walking boot Wednesday and didn’t practice Thursday.
“I’m really excited. The biggest thing is I’m here, I’m working,” Gholston said. “I’m going to work hard. I’m going to work my butt off the rest of the preseason and after that whatever happens.”
Drafted sixth overall by the New York Jets in 2008, Gholston spent the past year preparing for another chance but says he doesn’t have anything to prove about his past. If the Rams don’t keep him, he hopes whatever he shows them translates into an opportunity with another team.
He worked mostly with the scout team Thursday as he adapted to his new surroundings. Coach Jeff Fisher said Gholston helps ease the pressure on the other defensive ends in camp but his signing wasn’t done out of charity.
“We need the legs because we’re light,” he said. “We did our research and found out that he was in shape. Obviously, he was a high pick so it was an opportunity to take a look at him. So we’ll just see how he does.”
The Rams considered taking Gholston out of Ohio State in the 2008 draft with the No. 2 overall pick. Instead they selected Chris Long, who they recently signed to a four-year extension that could keep him with the Rams through 2016.
Gholston hopes to just get into another regular season game. He recorded 42 tackles and had no sacks in 45 games with the Jets. He showed up to Chicago unprepared and said the nearly five-month work stoppage because of the league’s labor dispute didn’t provide him enough motivation otherwise.
It did, however, provide a difficult lesson.
“For me, it was about getting into shape,” he said. “I felt like going into Chicago, I wasn’t into the shape I needed to be. You know, the whole lockout thing. That was on me.
“So, for now, it was about getting back into the shape I want to be in. It got me a chance to join a team again.”
He said even at the start of this summer he hadn’t reached an acceptable conditioning level and saw his chances of catching on with a team dwindling. He rededicated himself to exercising and is pleased with where he is now.
“I’ve been working out a little bit, as you can see, that’s why I put my tight shirt on,” he joked with reporters. “I’ve been working out, working hard, a lot of lifting, flexibility stuff, just staying in good shape.”
That won’t translate into much playing time Saturday when the Rams play at Dallas in their third preseason game. Teams must cut rosters to 75 players Monday and St. Louis plays its final preseason game Aug. 30, the day before all teams have to reduce their rosters to their final 53.
That doesn’t give Gholston much of an opportunity to impress the Rams.
“We expect him to play a few plays this week,” Fisher said. “We’re not going to do a lot with him, but we’ll get him out on the field and let him rush a little bit.”
At this point in his career, that’s about as much as Gholston can hope for. For nearly a year it looked like his once-promising career came to an end in Chicago. While he says he has nothing to prove about his past, he is hopeful for the future.
“It puts you in a humbling place,” he said. “In anything in life, if you step back and look at it, it lets you know where you really want to be. Playing football is what I’ve done since I was a kid and it’s what I like to do and want to continue to do.”