By Cedric Williams
St. Louis Rams starting strong safety T.J. McDonald was able to play through a shoulder injury that caused him to be listed as questionable for last week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. But this week, McDonald suffered a new injury that might actually force him out of the lineup as St. Louis heads north for Sunday’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Rams third-year pro out of USC has a foot injury that has forced him to be less available at practice every day this week. On Wednesday, McDonald participated in practice, but only in a limited capacity.
McDonald was the one player who did practice on Wednesday, but was then downgraded to unable to practice on Thursday. Even with the day off, McDonald was still not able to practice on Friday, which makes one wonder if he’ll be able to play on Sunday.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher didn’t address the McDonald injury during his usual Friday-after-practice talk with the media, but it is believed that second-year man Maurice Alexander – a St. Louis native, who attended nearby Eureka High School – would start instead, if McDonald is unable to play on Sunday.
Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, an outspoken admirer of Alexander’s, spoke at length about the former Utah State star and Rams fourth-round draft pick (2014).
“He’s come a long ways,” Williams said. “I’ll tell you this and as you guys go and talk to him in the locker room and interview him, last year he couldn’t have a football discussion. And when I say this, and it’s not any knock on him, but here’s a kid that only played one year as a defensive back in college football. One year in his career from Pop Warner to now. Now he comes in the National Football League and has to play in the secondary. I mean, it was overwhelming.
“My personality is a little overwhelming. From the structure, discipline, accountability and trying to break his spirit on a couple of things and getting him to be more structured, more accountable, more focused and he’s done fabulous. He can have conversations now where I think I’m talking to one of his coaches or both of his coaches. So, he’s listening to his coaching and then he’s got athletic ability that belongs in this league. But, he has to make sure he understands the concepts of this league. And then he’s got to stay healthy and he has stayed healthy.”
Other players listed on the Rams Friday injury report include defensive end Robert Quinn (knee), defensive end William Hayes (thigh), running back Tre Mason (ankle), running back Chase Reynolds (thigh), offensive lineman Rob Havenstein (ankle), and defensive end Chris Long (knee). Of those players, Long was the only one that was definitely ruled out. The veteran for No. 2 overall draft pick has been out of the St. Louis lineup since the Rams’ Week 5 loss to Green Bay.
Each of the other players, Quinn, Hayes, Mason, Reynolds and Havenstein, were listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Vikings.
In Minnesota, starting middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (ribs) was ruled out for Sunday. Kendricks was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in October, but he will miss the first game of his career against the Rams.
Fourth-year player Audie Cole, who has made just six starts in his career and is listed with one official tackle this season, will start in Kendricks’ place.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told the Minnesota-area media on Friday, that he was confident that Cole would play well against St. Louis’ rejuvenated run attack, which is led by running back Todd Gurley, the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Month for October.
“He’s a smart guy. He’s very passionate about his job,” Zimmer said about Cole. “He’s always looking for an opportunity to show what he can do. Most of the time, when he’s had those opportunities, he’s played well. [He] adds a lot of value to us, regardless of what he’s doing, whether it’s special teams or whatever.”
St. Louis Rams Injury Report
DE Robert Quinn (knee)
DE William Hayes (thigh)
RB Tre Mason (ankle)
RB Chase Reynolds (thigh)
OL Rob Havenstein (ankle)
SS T.J. McDonald (shoulder/foot)
DE Chris Long (knee)
Minnesota Vikings Injury Report
C Joe Berger (chest)
WR Stefon Diggs (hamstring)
S Harrison Smith (neck)
LB Anthony Barr (back)
LB Eric Kendricks (ribs)
DT Sharrif Floyd (knee/ankle)
DE Justin Trattou (foot)
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a full-time reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the NFL, as well as college and high school sports for the St. Louis American, Patch.com, and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at email@example.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.