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Gaines back with Rams after foot injury cost him 2015 season

August 01, 2016 08:55PM
Gaines back with Rams after foot injury cost him 2015 season
By Jim Thomas St. Louis Post-Dispatch


IRVINE, CALIF. • They can forget about you quickly in the NFL. Take E.J. Gaines, for instance.

A sixth-round pick in 2014 out of the University of Missouri, Gaines was a pleasant surprise for the Rams as a rookie.

He started 15 games, recorded 105 tackles and posted a team-high 14 pass breakups. And he had two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He played so well that he made the Pro Football Writers’ All-Rookie team, and was ahead of Trumaine Johnson on the depth chart a year ago at this time in what figured to be a tight battle at cornerback.

But the competition was over before it really started. Gaines suffered a season-ending foot injury about a week into camp. Johnson regained the starting job, tied for the NFC lead with seven interceptions and will make $13.9 million this season as the Rams’ franchise player.

Who knows what would’ve happened had Gaines stayed healthy. Maybe he would’ve retained the starting job, and Johnson wouldn’t be making all that money.

“Man, that’s God’s work, ain’t it?” Gaines asked, laughing. “I’m excited for him. I’m glad that he proved himself last year and had a great season. I’m excited ’cause I think he’s gonna do the same thing. I’ve talked to him and his head’s on the same level as last year.”

Gaines and his teammates have done their part to make sure of that, teasing Johnson about his big contract.

“You know, everybody gives him a little (grief),” Gaines chuckled. “He’s the ‘Money Man’ in the corner room now. So that’s what we call him.”

As for Gaines, he’s determined to make sure nobody forgets about him this season. It’s almost a year ago to the day that Gaines suffered a fractured foot during practice at the team’s Earth City facility in the St. Louis area.

“August 3, 2015,” Gaines said. “I’ll never forget the day, so I’m just trying to get past that. It was one-on-ones, and I just cut on it wrong coming out of a break. It was a freak accident.”

He had surgery a week later, with two screws inserted in the mid-foot area; one of which still is in there. Mid-foot injuries can be tricky and take a while to heal.

“I tried to just focus on the positive,” Gaines said. “I knew if I worked hard and got back mentally and physically I’d be fine. And the coaches, they pushed me over the offseason. So I’ve just got to thank them for that — having the confidence in me.”

During practices in June, Gaines still was very much in rehab mode. He’d get in a practice rep here and there, but that was about it.

A Kansas City native who was first-team in both the Big 12 and Southeastern conferences while at Mizzou, Gaines wasn’t given full medical clearance until a few days before the now-Los Angeles Rams reported for training camp Friday.

He excelled in his conditioning tests and got off to a good start in training camp over the weekend at the University of California, Irvine, where the Rams are holding camp for the first time since 1994.

“We’re not giving him the number of reps, for a week or so, that he ordinarily would get,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “But he gives us the opportunity to have him in a position to win that job back and compete there. In addition to that, we know that he can come inside and play in the slot, because he proved that his rookie year.”

With Janoris Jenkins off to the New York Giants in free agency, the Rams need Gaines more at cornerback. To open camp, Gaines has been working with the second unit on defense. Third-year man Lamarcus Joyner has been lining up at the starting corner, opposite Johnson.

When the Rams go to their nickel package, Joyner has moved inside to cover the slot receiver, with free-agent pickup Coty Sensabaugh moving into the right cornerback spot with the starting unit.

“I’m not really concerned about where I start, it’s more like where you finish,” Gaines said.

Gaines said his first day of practice, Saturday, felt like his first day as a rookie in 2014.

“I’ve just got to come here and reprove myself every day, and just show ’em that I haven’t lost a step,” Gaines said. “I’m very anxious. Every day’s an interview like (defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams says. And I’m just excited to come out here and interview well for everyone.”

After missing so much time, Gaines realizes it’ll take a while to get his legs under him.

“But I’ll definitely be ready for Week One,” he said.

In the meantime, Gaines has another mouth to feed with the offseason arrival of his first child, Edwin Bernard Gaines III.

“We call him ‘Tre,’” Gaines said.

(If you’re wondering, the “J” in E.J. stands for Junior.)

Gaines says he’s changing his share of diapers and reports that Tre is working on his backpedal.

“Six months, and he’s already working on it,” Gaines said.

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  Gaines back with Rams after foot injury cost him 2015 season

RamBill557August 01, 2016 08:55PM