With what figure to be two grind-it-out, smashmouth games in a matter of just five days looming against NFC West opponents, there is no better time than the present to have a big, powerful defensive tackle return from injury.
If all goes according to plan, that’s exactly what the Rams will have this week as first-round pick
“If he’s back and able to play, he would have an impact on our front from a pass rush standpoint and as a run defender,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “Now he’s, obviously, clearly behind because he has missed some valuable time but he’s very talented. That’s why he’s here.”
It’s been just shy of a month since Brockers last participated in a practice after he suffered a high ankle sprain in the aforementioned game against the Ravens. At the time, the estimate for a return had him coming back about now but the timing couldn’t be much better assuming Brockers has no setbacks this week.
“It’s tough (sitting out),” Brockers said. “Especially with the game you love and you want to be out there with the guys making plays. It’s tough but it’s something I had to do and all I want to do is come back, get some production and make this defense better.”
First things first, Brockers will have to make it through this week of practice without any major setbacks before he can return to play the Seahawks and running back Marshawn Lynch on Sunday.
Brockers had the boot he’d been wearing on his foot removed almost two weeks ago but didn’t do much noticeable physical activity until before last week’s game against Chicago.
There, Brockers went through an extensive pregame workout under the supervision of strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson. The workout consisted of some cutting and running and pushing the ankle to see how it responds to normal football movements.
When Brockers was done, he’d done well enough to get the opportunity to return to the practice field this week.
“(The workout was) just to show the training staff that I was able to play and felt pretty good,” Brockers said. “They didn’t want to rush it but I was showing them I was healed up and felt pretty good. I tried it out and if it was tweaked I would tell them but I think it went pretty well and I was ready to practice.”
So when the team stepped on the field for practice on Wednesday, there was big No. 90 right back in his usual spot in the middle of the defensive line, at least on a limited basis per the injury report.
Wearing what he calls a “bulky” brace, Brockers said the ankle held up well for his first practice back and didn’t feel too bad after going through the workout. Should he continue on the same trajectory this week, he’ll be able to make his official NFL debut on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
“I’m very anxious, watching those guys, the way they played these last couple of games has really got me pumped up for the season,” Brockers said. “I am real anxious to get this thing started and help this defense out.”
That’s not to say that Brockers is fully back to 100 percent. It’s possible, in fact, that he might not be 100 percent the rest of the season but for what he’s asked to do in the middle of the line, he believes he is ready to more than do his share.
“I feel like this high ankle sprain has some more weeks to go,” Brockers said. “I feel like I can hold off offensive players and be able to make some plays so I feel pretty good.”
In his time away from the practice field, Brockers has worked tirelessly to try to ensure that his return would come sooner than later. Some high ankle sprains can take up to six week or even longer in extreme cases.
But Brockers has been at the ContinuityX Training Center more often than not for early rehab sessions and extra conditioning work as he tried to get the ankle back to full strength.
While he couldn’t do much but observe on the practice field, Brockers has put his pent up energy into doing more film work and doing all things possible to stay sharp mentally so he’ll be plugged in when does get back on the field.
Brockers’ efforts have not been lost on his teammates.
“I know it’s a tough deal to come back from and he’s worked really hard,” defensive end
What may or may not have helped Brockers in his pursuit to return was the constant lobbying he did with everyone from Fisher to assistant head coach Dave McGinnis to head athletic trainer Reggie Scott, among others.
Brockers didn’t push the issue over the edge but he would try to slide in references to playing before he was going to be allowed.
“I would tell Reggie ‘I feel good, let’s go,’” Brockers said. “And you throw some slick comments in there like ‘I am ready for Chicago’ and stuff like that.”
A sharp tongue ultimately won’t have anything to do with whether or not Brockers is able to play against the Seahawks. Although all signs point to him getting back on the field this week, he will have to continue to prove he’s ready to go in the next two days of practice without any issues popping up.
“I think there’s a pretty good chance I’ll play Sunday,” Brockers said. “I did pretty well today. I felt good on the ankle, it held up in some individual drills so I felt pretty good.”
And if he does play, what does Brockers think he’ll need to do to show that he’s back up to speed?
“Just a lot of preparation in practice and just come to play,” Brockers said. “Forget about the ankle, forget about the injury and try to play like I’m 100 percent.”