Rams release rookie Sasser due to pre-existing heart condition

Bud Sasser, a sixth-round draft pick of the Rams, caught a team-leading 77 passes for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns at Missouri last year.

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ST. LOUIS — The most noticeable story during Rams OTAs Thursday was an absence.

The Rams’ sixth-round draft pick, Bud Sasser, agreed to terms with the team yesterday, then was designated with a non-football related illness (NFI). The Rams declined to specify the illness, except to say that it was a pre-existing condition, but Nick Wagoner of ESPN reports that it was a heart condition.  

Part of the reason the Rams were unaware of Sasser’s medical situation before the draft is because the wide receiver, who played four years at Missouri after redshirting as a freshman, did not receive an invite to the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, which meant teams were unable to thoroughly examine him.

"Typically, what you do is you contact the university, which we did, and this is just one of those things that kind of slipped through the cracks," Fisher said.

Fisher explained the Rams did extensive studies on Sasser after the draft and discovered the pre-existing condition. Both team doctors and outside physicians recommended he not play. Based on the experts’ analysis, the Rams did not think there was anything that could be done medically to alter that status.

Sasser’s camp, however, may not agree with that assessment, according to comments his agent made to the Columbia Daily Tribune:

In a text, Sasser’s agent Scott Thiel said the receiver got a second opinion from doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, who told Sasser that his heart is "fine."

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"He has a very small case of the diagnosis given in St. Louis, he is at little to no risk, he should be able to play," Thiel wrote. "The doctor told Bud he in fact knows there are others in the league playing with this same issue."

Thiel also indicated to the Tribune that deciding to keep Sasser off the field is a team doctor’s call. "Hopefully, another team will see things our way," Thiel said.

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First-round draft pick Todd Gurley’s rehab process on his torn ACL is "going well," according to Fisher, though that doesn’t mean the running back isn’t getting antsy.

"He’s probably a little frustrated, probably deep down inside, not really happy right now," Fisher said. "But he’s anxious to get out there."

If there’s a timeline doctors have given Gurley for his return, however, he’s not sharing — according to him, the schedule is mainly day by day.

"I feel good, I just know I can’t play football right now," Gurley said.

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Meanwhile, offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, who had shoulder surgery this offseason, acknowledged his recovery process has been smooth. He started doing individual work this week and anticipates there will be no restrictions in that area following next week. He admits it may be a while before he’s able to fully participate with the team.

He acknowledges the most difficult part of the process now is staying patient.

"Right now, I’m ahead of the curve," he said. "It’s just being patient, is the hardest thing."

The sooner he returns, however, the better it will be for the Rams’ offensive line, which could use a veteran presence on what’s shaping up to be a fairly inexperienced unit. Tackle Greg Robinson is entering only his second year, and it’s possible the Rams will start two rookies on the right side this season: second-round draft pick Rob Havenstein and third-rounder Jamon Brown.

Right now, Saffold is doing what he can to help the newcomers get acclimated and provide leadership on the unit.

"It’s kind of hard because you’re not in practice, but (I’m) just staying engaged with the guys as far as them getting mental reps, because a lot of these young guys aren’t going to get a lot of reps," Saffold said. "The O-line room was pretty much vacant most of the year, and now there’s nowhere to sit. So you’ve got to really be able to help these guys out. Right now, I’m kind of like a coach. I’m just sitting there, reading the scripts, and helping out where I can."

You can follow Elisabeth Meinecke on Twitter at @lismeinecke or email her at ecmeinecke@gmail.com.