No matter how sorry the St. Louis Rams‘ season, Jason Brown wants the team to know they can always count on him.
Not just on game day, either.
Brown expects to make his 56th consecutive start on Sunday at Chicago, a nice, long run. Even more impressive: He’d never missed a practice during his six-year career until Wednesday, when he was held out as a precaution with a sprained right knee.
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That he was back on the field Thursday was no surprise given he’d been a reluctant spectator the previous day, to the point he had his helmet on while riding a stationary bicycle. The mouthpiece was in, too.
“Guys picked on me. They said ‘Jason, you’re not practicing, why are you taping up your ankles, why are you taping your wrists, your fingers, putting your gloves on?”‘ Brown said. “I want to be in there. It felt very awkward standing on the outside.”
The Rams (1-10) played much of last week’s loss to the Seahawks minus three offensive line starters after Brown was hurt in the second quarter, but expect to get two of them back against the Bears. Guard Richie Incognito has taken regular snaps with the first unit the last two days after missing four games with a sprained ligament in his right foot.
“Everything starts up front,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “When you’ve got your guys back, it really does help.”
Running back Steven Jackson missed practice for the second straight day, similar to last week when he didn’t practice at all due to back spasms but then had 89 yards rushing and a touchdown while at less than full strength. He’ll try to practice Friday and expects to play against the Bears.
“It feels better,” Jackson said. “If I don’t play, I’ll be more surprised than anybody.”
Jackson’s mentality is similar to that of Brown, who craves being involved.
“Jason wants to go all the time,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “That’s Jason.”
Reliability is a point of pride for Brown, a former fourth-round pick who became the highest-paid center in the NFL when he left the Ravens for a four-year, $37.5 million free agent contract in the offseason. His streak of consecutive starts dates to 2006, and he only grudgingly agreed it was a good idea to watch practice for once on Wednesday.
Brown compensated for the inactivity with extra conditioning work and a “whole bunch of mental reps,” although he admitted keeping the streak alive might have hindered his play in the past on occasions when rest would have been better.
“It happens to a lot of guys, that’s why you definitely have to keep that line of communication open,” Brown said. “They rely on honest information from me and I rely on their expertise. It’s all about doing the smart thing, and that was giving my knee some rest.”
Brown thought both streaks might be over when he fell backward after a player rolled into his leg.
“I felt a crunch, I even heard a crunch out there,” Brown said. “My knee swelled up immediately and it was intolerable pain.”
The team’s medical staff believes the tumble might have broken up old scar tissue, and the injured area quickly calmed down to the point he was in uniform at the end of the game in case of an emergency.
Barring a setback, Incognito said he’d be in the lineup. Brown’s happy the feisty guard who’s often been accused of playing after the whistle appears ready.
“I think everybody knows what Richie can bring to the table,” Brown said. “He definitely has a toughness that he brings to the game that a lot of people take the wrong way. Sometimes they say he’s overaggressive, but I love his aggressiveness out there, I really do.”