ST. LOUIS – Asked how motivated he was to show that he can again be a healthy and productive receiver in the NFL, new Rams wide receiver Steve Smith needed only two words for his reply.
It was the glare in his eyes that spoke bigger than his answer.
Finally healthy after a pair of rough injury plagued seasons, the free agent signing believes he can be the same player that had 107 receptions for 1,220 yards with the New York Giants in 2009.
And his words and body language served as a convincing combination.
“Very motivated,” Smith said simply.
Often confused with the Steve Smith who plays for the Carolina Panthers, the 27-year-old Rams wide receiver has five NFL seasons under his belt. He was a second round draft pick by the Giants out of Southern California and played four seasons in New York before spending last year with the Philadelphia Eagles.
There’s no doubt Smith has talent. The problem is, he’s had trouble staying on the field. He’s played more than nine games in just two of his five seasons while dealing with various injuries.
His last full season came in 2009, when he set the Giants record for most receptions in a season. But finally healthy from a knee injury that limited him to just 11 catches and one touchdown last season with the Eagles, Smith hopes to put his struggles behind him.
“It was real frustrating,” Smith said of the past two seasons. “Playing at a high level and then you get hurt, that’s not where you want to be so it just takes time with injuries and you have to push through it.
“I feel good now. I feel 100 percent.”
When asked if being healthy means Rams fans should expect a 100-reception, 1,000-yard season like he put up the last time he played 16 games, Smith grinned and said, “We’ll see. Only time will tell.”
Smith said the main reason he signed with St. Louis was for the chance to play under new Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who ironically is also a former USC Trojan and went to the same high school as Smith in Los Angeles.
And Fisher has been impressed with what’s seen from Smith so far – most importantly his health.
“There’s no indication that he’s any place other than where he was before the injury,” Fisher said. “He had a great offseason. He’s running well. His time in his condition test was excellent. He has no setbacks. He’s not in the training room. Hes in good shape.”
The Rams hope Smith will help bolster one of the most inexperienced wide receiver groups in the NFL. Danny Amendola returns as the most accomplished but missed nearly all of last season with triceps injury. Brandon Gibson should push for a starting spot but he had just 431 receiving yards last season.
Greg Salas and Austin Pettis were drafted just last year and Brian Quick and Chris Givens are about to enter their first NFL season. More than just the statistics on the field, the Rams hope to benefit from Smith’s experience and leadership off the field.
“It’s great to watch and learn from Steve,” Salas said. “He’s like a technician out there. We all praise him a lot in the meetings jut watching him run his routes. It’s definitely good to learn from him.”
The Rams have had just one full-padded practice and still remain more than a month away from the start of the regular season. But if the first few days are any indication, Smith appears ready to prove the doubters room.
And quarterback Sam Bradford and the Rams hope to take full advantage of it.