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Veteran Wideout Pettis Embracing Competition

Posted Jun 14, 2014

Fourth-year wide receiver Austin Pettis hopes to provide guidance to the Rams younger receivers while bettering himself during OTAs.

Austin Pettis makes no bones about the challenge ahead of him entering his fourth NFL season in St. Louis.

The fourth-year receiver holds the distinction of the longest-tenured Ram at his position, and as a result, is the only member of the team’s receiving corps that was not acquired by the current coaching staff. As that last remaining vestige of a previous administration’s receiving group, Pettis doesn’t avoid framing this year’s roster competition in terms of an uphill battle.

“Obviously, I’m the only receiver that the current staff didn’t bring in,” Pettis said. “I know they have big expectations for the guys they brought in, so for myself, I’m just hoping I get the opportunities and a shot at making this team this year.”

Just a year ago, Pettis appeared to be positioning himself for a premium role in the Rams passing game. Pettis got off to the best start of his career last fall, becoming a reliable red-zone target for QB Sam Bradford through much of the first half of the season. Through five games, he led the Rams with four touchdown receptions.

But while he appeared on his way to a more prominent role within the team’s offensive scheme, his rapport with Bradford was interrupted in Week 7, when Bradford was lost for the year with a torn ACL at Carolina. No receiver was likely affected more adversely than Pettis, who totaled just 13 receptions over the season’s final nine games, as the Rams moved to an offense more dedicated to its ground attack, as well as yielding more game reps to third-round draft choice Stedman Bailey.

The numbers have gotten even more challenging for Pettis since the 2013 season finale. During the offseason, the Rams added veteran receiver Kenny Britt, who, along with his large frame and upper-echelon physical attributes, has previous history with Head Coach Jeff Fisher. By all accounts, Britt is off to a strong—albeit early—start in competition for a spot on the 53-man roster. The dwindling numbers among receivers acquired prior to Fisher’s tenure in St. Louis has not eluded Pettis’ notice.

“After Sam got hurt, they really wanted to go in another direction and get the guys they brought in involved a lot more. For myself, I was the odd man out, and I kind of had to sit back and take on a smaller role, and make do with the opportunities I was given.”

Given the production he started last year with, Pettis certainly doesn’t view his current role in the roster’s numbers game to be ideal, but has embraced the challenge of beating out a host of fresher faces for a spot on the 53-man roster.

“I felt like I got a pretty fair shot in the beginning of the year last year, and obviously, circumstances changed with injuries and just the way the season went,” Pettis said. “We had to get a lot of guys some experience that I was able to get in recent years.”

While he battles for his own roster spot, in the meantime, Pettis is also tasked with speeding the learning curve for some of the younger Ram receivers.

Harkening back to his days as a rookie in 2011, Pettis battled for practice reps while working behind Brandon Lloyd, Mark Clayton and veterans. Now in the position of the veteran mentor, Pettis looks to return the favor to the current crop of young Rams.

“I know when I first came in, there were guys who were in my position, and they did everything in their will and power to help me,” Pettis said. “Now I just want to return that favor and at the same time, get better myself and let the chips fall where they may.”