Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Three Rams Linemen Compete to Take over at Center

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Three Rams Linemen Compete to Take over at Center

Article excerpt

Going into the final week of OTAs at Rams Park, the battle at center appears to be a three-man race involving Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones and Demetrius Rhaney.

That's not likely to change any time soon.

"We're not going to make a decision real early," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We'll let them all play. We're rotating them. They're all getting opportunities to work with (new quarterback Nick Foles), so he's familiar, not only with the exchanges, but also the communication. We'll make that decision when somebody shows us he's earned the job."

Scott Wells, an 11-year pro who won a Super Bowl and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl in 2011 with the Green Bay Packers, signed as a free agent with the Rams in 2012 and spent the last three seasons as the team's center when he was healthy.

Wells missed the first nine games of 2012 with a foot injury and sat out the final four games of 2013 with a fractured fibula. The 34- year-old battled through injuries to make all 16 starts a year ago and was released, along with tackle Jake Long, in March.

"Jake and Scott brought experience and professionalism to our program and we appreciate that commitment and hard work," Fisher said at the time. "Both of them overcame injury difficulties and provided leadership for our younger players."

Both Barnes and Jones said they learned a lot from Wells.

"I always made a point to sit next to Scott in the meeting room," said Barnes, a fourth-year pro from the University of Missouri. "Over the last few years, I asked him a ton of questions."

Jones added: "I'm grateful for the time he took to teach me a few tricks of the trade. His approach to the game, week by week, and the way he broke down film, he showed us what being a pro is all about."

But with Wells gone, there's an opportunity for someone else at center and, for now at least, Barnes, Jones and Rhaney are rotating in practice to give all three a chance to work as starters and as back-ups.

"It's kind of strange because we're good friends and we're competing for the same job," Jones said. "We're working hard and pushing each other because we know that's best for the team.

"At the same time, you try not to worry too much about the big picture because I think you can be consumed by that and it's not healthy. All you can do is work hard every day and let the rest take care of itself."

Jones, 25, won three national titles at Alabama and earned All- American honors at three different positions before being selected by the Rams in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. He entered the league as one of the most decorated offensive linemen in college football history, but his development with the Rams has been slowed by injury.

Jones suffered an injury to his left foot late in his college career, and the eventual surgery severely limited his training heading into his rookie campaign. …

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