That the Rams added Mason to a running back group that included Zac Stacy, last year’s breakout starter; his backup, Benny Cunningham; brief starter Daryl Richardson, and Pead wasn’t a good sign for the Rams’ second-round pick in 2012.
But Pead, 24, is still in St. Louis — Richardson was released after the draft — and is looking to make his mark as more than just a special teams contributor, which was his role in 2013.
"Last year was last year and this is a new year," Pead said following a recent OTA session. "I’m focusing on playing running back. Helping on special teams also, but my main focus is getting back there in the backfield."
That has been a challenge for the former Cincinnati standout, who after two seasons has just 17 carries for 75 yards in 25 career games. Ten running backs picked after him — including Washington’s Alfred Morris, who has emerged as one of the league’s top young runners, and Richardson — have produced more rushing yards than Pead.
Pead remains undaunted.
"I’m a football player," he said. "Whatever I’m doing between the lines I take it to heart when I have a role. Last year, special teams was my role. This year, early, special teams are kind of my role. But like I say, I’m looking at changing my role to running back."
The 5-foot-10, 197-pounder could get his chance this fall.
Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer insisted during OTAs that the team would have competition at running back, despite Stacy emerging as a rookie last season with 973 yards rushing and team-high eight touchdowns.
"We’re just going to let them all roll and see what happens," Schottenheimer said following one late OTA session. "You saw some guys that worked with the young guys today. Zac’s obviously a really, really good player, but we’re going to create competition for all the guys. That’s a long way off, but we know we have a good stable group of backs and they all have different skill sets, which we’ll try to use throughout the course of the year."
Schottenheimer also praised Pead’s work during OTAs.
"He’s doing good," he said. "He ran with the 1s some today; did a nice job. Obviously, again, took a big step up for coach (John) Fassel on special teams. When a guy does that he’s obviously going to be dressed every day on game day, which is a big thing for us because you don’t get everybody dressed for game day.
"He’s really getting better. I think getting comfort in the system helps. Terrific matchup problem for the defense coming out of the backfield, and he’s made some big plays for us."
Pead’s sophomore season started on a negative note, having to sit out the season opener for a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
He returned to contribute in the next two games — he had six carries for 20 yards and seven catches for 43 yards in a Week 3 loss to the Cowboys — but didn’t have another carry and had only two more catches the rest of the season. Both came in a Week 13 loss at San Francisco. He played only once in Weeks 4 through 9.
"My mindset was just getting on the field," Pead said. "… I hadn’t been playing and I went up to coach Fassel and said, ‘Can I run down on kickoffs or punts or something?’ I didn’t have a role on offense or the team, period. He gave me a role and I filled it to the best of my ability."
"Not only was he a contributor, he was a high-impact guy for us," the special teams coordinator said during OTAs. "I think a lot of people are going to see a lot of growth out of that guy — not only on special teams. And I can’t speak for offense, but I just imagine with his maturity, his work ethic, his ability, I would imagine he’s going to have a fantastic preseason."