There will be no exotic trips for Rams center
No, this offseason for Wells will be spent on far more normal terms. He’ll get to enjoy plenty of time with his family and get an opportunity to work toward returning to the Rams in 2013 fully healthy and ready to play a full season.
“No trips, no trips, I am going to stay stateside,” Wells said. “I look forward to an offseason to get healthy.”
Last offseason, there wasn’t much time for much of anything aside from the focus of going through a long and difficult adoption process that ultimately expanded the Wells family by three.
Wells and his wife Julie spent weeks in Uganda completing that adoption process on the heels of his signing a four-year contract with the Rams. It was a whirlwind offseason that also saw Wells squeeze in time for surgery on his knee.
Soon after signing with the Rams, Wells tweaked his knee at the team’s first offseason minicamp. With the impending trip to Uganda coming, he quickly flew to Florida to have a knee scope performed by Dr. James Andrews.
Wells then spent a month in Uganda with his wife as they tried to finish the adoption process. In the meantime, he searched for ways to rehabilitate his knee so he’d be ready to play upon return to St. Louis.
It wasn’t until about midway through training camp that Wells’ knee had healed enough for him to get back to action.
But Wells was ready to go for the season opener against Detroit and seemed to be finding a rhythm when he suddenly fractured the fifth metatarsal in his foot, leading to another surgery.
The Rams placed Wells on injured reserve and took advantage of a new league rule that allows one player to return to the active roster from that list after a six-week period.
Sure enough, Wells returned to the roster and the starting lineup on Nov. 25 against Arizona. The foot injury behind him, Wells actually had to deal with persistent lingering issues from the knee injury.
Those issues kept Wells from practicing on a consistent basis but he was able to start and finish the final six games of the season. As someone who had never dealt with any knee issues or really any serious injury issues at all, it was disappointing to miss as much time as he did.
This offseason, Wells intends to get that knee back to full strength so he can come in ready to go when the Rams return to work.
“It’s the same knee and it’s just years of abuse playing piled up,” Wells said. “Basically I am looking forward to getting healthy this offseason. I take a little time and then back to work. That’s the way it goes. You have to take a little bit of time to get away and reflect and then that gives you the boost you need to jump back in and start rebuilding the body that’s been broken down throughout the season.”
Although Wells might never have been at full strength during the 2012 campaign, his impact on the offensive line was certainly noticeable. Rob Turner filled in for Wells when he was out and was able to move back over to left guard when Wells returned.
In four of the final six weeks, the Rams were able to actually deploy the five-man line they envisioned when the season started. Even after losing right guard
“We improved game to game throughout the year, having the same guys playing for the most part the last six weeks except for Harvey, we had four out of five playing at the same position practicing together, playing together,” Wells said. “It’s just communication and trusting your technique. Our offensive line coach (Paul Boudreau) does an outstanding job of making sure we are prepared physically and mentally going into the game then it’s on us to focus and execute. (Quarterback) Sam (Bradford) also does an outstanding job of getting rid of the ball so anytime there is a guy around him; he finds a way to get the ball out.”
Having spent his first eight seasons in Green Bay, Wells grew quite accustomed to playing in the postseason. Wells didn’t play in the postseason every year but stressed the importance of taking the years where it didn’t end with games in January and using them as motivation to get there.
Wells believes that’s a lesson he can help impart on his teammates heading into 2013.
“I have missed out on the playoffs a couple times before so I understand the frustration that goes along with that,” Wells said. “But I also understand the motivation you have to carry watching the other teams play because you want to be where they’re at. And ultimately watching the Super Bowl, you want to be that team that wins that. You use it to motivate you, to prepare, to continue to improve and move forward to the next season and step your game up for that year and hopefully be able to achieve your goals that year.”
The offensive line figures to have a couple of question marks moving forward as the Rams enter the free agent and draft periods. Wells at center,
Turner and right tackle Barry Richardson are both scheduled for unrestricted free agency and could be brought back. The Rams also have a plethora of intriguing young candidates for both spots such as
Should the Rams choose to continue to develop some of that young talent, Wells knows part of his job description is helping them reach their vast potential.
“I think management did an outstanding job of bringing in a great group of guys,” Wells said. “The young guys are a lot of fun to be around and I think the main role, other than playing, of the older guys such as myself is to kind of bring these guys along, show them how to work, show them what it takes to play at the highest level. It’s been great to be around these guys and I look forward to more years (with them).”
By the end of the season, the offensive line was able to snap a 30 game streak in which Bradford had been sacked at least once in every game by keeping him clean against Tampa Bay.
As an encore, the line again performed in one of the toughest places for an offense to function by again keeping Bradford clean against Seattle.
“Hopefully we can get to 30 on that streak, too,” Bradford said.
The chance to build on the cohesion and chemistry that allowed the line to do that as well as reduce the total number of sacks allowed from 55 in 2011 to 35 in 2012.
Wells believes with the work done this season and the chance to play together even more in the offseason and training camp, he can help lead a group that can be even better in 2013.
“I think we definitely laid a strong foundation this year and that’s something we can build on and look forward to building on that,” Wells said. “We improved as the year went on; guys really stepped up and played well, played different positions which is huge to have guys that are versatile like that. It’s just keeping everybody healthy; keeping all of the guys on the field at the same time is definitely going to help us. But building on what we started this year and taking it into the offseason and into next season is going to be huge.”