Ravens, Rams hopefuls get final shot to impress
A 21-second YouTube video helped Canadian long snapper Jorgen Hus get a taste of training camp with the St. Louis Rams. That he's back on the street after the first round of cuts did not come as a surprise to anyone.
Long before the dreaded summons earlier this week, he'd been appreciative of the opportunity and realistic. Hopeful also that the video accumulated during the summer would help him land a shot somewhere else.
''If nothing else, worst-case scenario, I'll put out good game tape for the other 31 teams,'' Hus said.
The final public tryout session for the Rams (0-3) is Thursday night against the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (2-1) and both teams probably have just a handful of roster spots up for grabs. The ultimate goal for the Rams, who might give starters some action, and the Ravens, who figure to go with a cast of backups and won't use quarterback Joe Flacco, is to emerge healthy for the games that count.
When incumbent long snapper Jake McQuaide got a contract extension just before camp opened, the Rams signaled that the competition had already been settled. Hus absorbed some of the workload until he, like so many other NFL hopefuls, was no longer needed.
For the coaches, exit interviews are the hardest part.
''Well, it's emotional, there's no question, when you have that conversation because you understand what's at stake, and you're a part of his dreams,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ''We have to make a lot of tough cuts.''
McQuaide is entering his third season after replacing long-time veteran Chris Massey in a move that saved a bit of salary. Special teams coach John Fassel believes with improved skills after the snap, McQuaide can become one of the NFL's best.
But one can never stop pushing in the NFL.
''Mostly, I'm just focused on myself,'' McQuaide said. ''I don't feel like I've made it or I've arrived. I have plenty I need to work on every single day, that's my mentality.''
Hus' little video, a two-man production with his brother, had about 7,000 hits before he signed with St. Louis and about 78,000 when he was waived.
Rams special teamers had their own online efforts, including a polished Dude Perfect presentation that had more than 1.5 million hits. It featured stunt punts, passes and quips from punter Johnny Hekker, and included a 25-yard snap by McQuaide that swished through a basketball net.
Hekker punted one from the roof of the practice facility into a small wading pool near midfield (when he wasn't answering whimsical questions such as picking three Pokemons to go to battle with).
''The part I did wasn't that much different from what I usually do, about 10 yards longer,'' McQuaide said. ''So I snapped it a little bit high and they had it all set up. They did a good job of making us look good.''
The Rams have at least one starting spot to decide with Chris Williams apparently holding an edge over Shelley Smith at left guard. They haven't declared a winner at one safety or at backup quarterback, and are looking for depth chart clarity elsewhere.
At safety, Rodney McLeod has capitalized on playing time with Darian Stewart, the front-runner heading into camp, hampered by a hamstring injury. McLeod made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent last year.
''I think I've done my job, but I still have a lot of work to do,'' McLeod said. ''The more you play this game, the more you've been around, the better your game gets.''
Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor could be a game-time decision after taking a test for concussion-like symptoms although Harbaugh thought he'd be available.
In the past, Rams coach Jeff Fisher has increased playing time for starters throughout the preseason. On Tuesday he was circumspect about his plans, saying ''We may adjust that ever so slightly this week.''
Offensive tackle Rodger Saffold, who returned from a dislocated left shoulder last week, said his goal was getting closer to 100 percent for the opener Sept. 8 at home against Arizona.
''If I play a little, if I play a lot, if I don't play at all, I'm still going to have the same focus,'' Saffold said.
Harbaugh wants to finish the preseason with a win ''within the parameters of what helps our team going forward into the regular season.''
Both coaches said it's possible jobs could be won Thursday night. Or lost. Or that nothing alters the pecking order established in the offseason, preseason and practice field.
''There are a couple guys that, perhaps if they really, really play well, they could really play themselves on (to the team),'' Harbaugh said. ''Or guys could play themselves off.''
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