Jeff Fisher broke the news in person to Austin Davis, alone and immersed in study at Rams Park preparing for this week’s game against the Denver Broncos.
Then the St. Louis Rams coach telephoned Shaun Hill to tell the veteran quarterback he had changed his mind about sticking with Davis for the long haul. And that Hill would be starting this week for an offense that’ll try to keep up with Peyton Manning’s high-powered attack.
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"It’s never an easy decision when you make a change in the middle part of the season," Fisher said after Hill got the snaps at Wednesday’s indoor practice. "We just felt the best thing to do at this point moving forward was to lean on the experienced quarterback."
Aside from the fact Fisher had given Davis another vote of confidence on Monday, it wasn’t a shocking move given how much the offense has been scuffling.
"Not a whole lot surprises me anymore, to be honest with you," Hill said with a chuckle. "I guess a little bit."
Fisher’s first call to the 34-year-old Hill went to voice mail with a text message to call back, "so I kind of figured something was up."
This time around, Fisher isn’t making a long-term commitment about the replacement for the injured Sam Bradford.
"I’m not going to do that," the coach said. "We’re going to give Shaun an opportunity to do what we brought him here to do, and that was to be a backup to Sam."
Hill was diplomatic when he lost the job and Davis followed Wednesday.
"Obviously disappointed and would love to play through it, but that’s not the way this game works," Davis said. "I wish we could have won a few more games, but we didn’t."
The team confirmed the switch before practice. The story was first reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Hill began the season as the replacement for Bradford, who was sidelined for the second straight year with a knee injury. However, Hill injured his thigh in the opener and missed the next two games.
When he was ready again, Davis had seized the job. He threw for three TDs in both Week 3 and 4 and averaged more than 300 yards passing in his first three starts.
But mistakes had been mounting in recent games and talk Davis could be another rags-to-riches story for a franchise that rode unknown Kurt Warner to a Super Bowl title in the 1999 season abruptly ceased. The Rams are 30th in the league in scoring, putting a lot of pressure on the defense.
Davis’ task has been tougher lately because he’s faced some of the NFL’s top defenses.
In the fourth quarter Sunday at Arizona, he threw two interceptions, one of them returned for a TD, and a fumble that was returned for another score. The Rams had led 14-10 entering the quarter and lost 31-14.
"Just inconsistent," Davis said. "Just up and down. Got to find a way to play more consistent and not turn the ball over in critical situations."
Hill has had just one snap since the opener, a handoff last week when Davis had to have a knee brace adjusted.
"Austin was doing a great job, so I understood why they did it," Hill said. "You’ve got to swallow your pride, that’s what you’ve got to do, and accept my role."
Defensive end Chris Long returned to practice on a limited basis coming off ankle surgery. Fisher anticipates Long, who was placed on injured reserve-designated for return, will return before the end of the three-week window.
"It was a good start," Long said. "It was great to get back out there with my teammates. It was just really exciting to have a jersey on."
Two starters, middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (foot) and defensive end William Hayes (fibula), were among a group of seven players who did not practice. Both are expected to play.