As the St. Louis Rams begin rookie practices and prepare for the veterans’ first workout of training camp on Friday, they’ve made a few roster moves. In addition to swapping out several players near the bottom of the 90-man roster (Tavarius Wilson, Diontae Spencer, Abasi Salimu, and Caleb McSurdy were released, while Pat Schiller, Lawrence Wilson, R.J. Dill, and D.J. Morrell were added), the Rams placed rookies Christian Bryant and Ethan Westbrooks on the Non-Football Injury List. Both players will continue to count against the 90-man roster limit, though they can be activated at any time.
Starting camp on the NFI list is probably a sign that Bryant is not going to be a part of the Rams’ 53-man roster this season. The rookie safety, who was a seventh-round pick from Ohio State, has been recovering from a broken ankle that he suffered last year with the Buckeyes, and he still has yet to take part in any practices, including the Rams’ rookie orientation workouts, OTAs, or the early training camp practices.
Though Bryant has been holding out hope that he’ll be back to 100 percent during training camp, it’s probably best for his development that he take a “redshirt” year, get back to full health, and then come back and compete for a spot in next year’s training camp. Even if he had been healthy, Bryant was far from a lock to make the roster anyway. If he spends a year on injured reserve, it’s a win-win situation for both Bryant and the Rams, because he gets a year to get healthy, soak up the playbook and develop his body, while the Rams have another year to try to get some return value from their seventh-rounder. The Rams have several other candidates, including Lamarcus Joyner, Cody Davis, Matt Daniels, and Mo Alexander, who can fill the backup safety roles should Bryant not be healthy enough to go this year.
Westbrooks, meanwhile, is dealing with a hamstring injury that was suffered more recently. The undrafted defensive lineman from West Texas A&M, who received the largest signing bonus and salary guarantee of any of the Rams’ rookie free agents, was expected to push players like Michael Sam and Matt Conrath for a possible ninth defensive lineman spot. If he can’t get on the field, however, Westbrooks will have trouble making the team.