ST. LOUIS — Rodger Saffold was the St. Louis Rams’ left tackle his first three NFL seasons, wearing his boyhood idol Orlando Pace’s No. 76 jersey and leading the protection for Sam Bradford.
He’s had several months to handle the reality that it is no longer his position.
“I mean, it’s a business,” Saffold said. “I enjoy the left tackle position but at the same time I’m loyal to the team, anybody will tell you that. Now, I’m just trying to see if I can put it all together.”
Saffold said he’ll make the transition, and get the job done.
“I’m not used to folding, that’s the biggest pressure,” he said. “It’s going good as long as I keep working.”
Jake Long got a four-year, $34 million free agent deal to be the left tackle. So Saffold, a natural lefty, is adjusting to right tackle.
Hitting the weight room could help him make the transition.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to come in and play at a Pro Bowl level, and knowing you’ve got that anchor on the blind side, it really helps,” Bradford said.
Thus far, defensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said Saffold has been a fairly quick study.
“In the spring there were some growing pains, I think,” Schottenheimer said. “He obviously worked extremely hard over the break and he’s really looked good.”
Defensive end Chris Long goes against Saffold every day in practice, and was impressed after an estimated 1,400 fans attended the first full-pad practice of camp Monday.
“I’ve always had a lot of faith in Rodger as a player and I think he’s in a really good spot,” Long said. “He’s really done a great job of kind of embracing the change.”
Saffold was a right tackle for a few weeks during OTAs as a rookie in 2010 before displacing Jason Smith. Aside from that, he hasn’t played there since the ninth grade in Bedford, Ohio.
He’s the latest in a long line of starters at a revolving door position. Since moving to the Midwest in 1995, only Smith, Alex Barron, Ryan Tucker and Wayne Gandy have held the spot more than one year.
Saffold follows a one-year shift by Barry Richardson, who was following in the footsteps of Adam Goldberg, John St. Clair, Kyle Turley, Grant Williams, Darryl Ashmore, Brandon Gorin and Zach Wiegert.
That incessant shuffling could end with Saffold, a second-rounder in 2010 who’s battled injuries but has made 35 career starts at left tackle.
The training camp experience has been occasionally stressful for Saffold, but the newness also has been a positive.
“It makes camp more interesting definitely,” Saffold said. “I’m a little more excited to get there on the field because I’m doing something I haven’t done very much, and haven’t done in a long, long time.”
The 6-foot-5 Saffold is listed at 332 pounds, nearly 20 pounds heavier than the weight on the team Website. He takes pride in being the last offensive lineman to leave the weight room. He’s done bench press repetitions at 420 pounds.
“Now,” Saffold said, “I’ve got a little extra oomph.”
The first of four full-pad workouts this week also marked rookie offensive lineman Barrett Jones’ debut after missing the first week rehabbing from left foot surgery. Jones was a fourth-round pick after a successful career at Alabama and also participated in a walkthrough Sunday.
“Physically, I feel really good,” Jones said. “Mentally, it’s the NFL. I’ve got a long way to go and I feel really rusty, obviously.
“Really, every rookie is just kind of thinking a lot right now and you’ve got to just go out there and play fast and quit thinking.”
The other draft picks have been thrown right into the mix led by versatile first-rounder Tavon Austin, who’s been as quick as advertised.
The Rams also had a special teams practice in pads on Sunday in the buildup for a scrimmage on Saturday at the Edward Jones Dome.
“As always is the case the first day in pads, you look and your team just slows down,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “You’re running around fast with great team speed and then you put the plastic on, so it’s a process.
“By Saturday, I think they’ll feel very comfortable.”