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Clemens Playing Catch-Up

Posted Dec 9, 2011

Although the chilly temperatures would tell him different, the simple act of observing the many quarterbacks on the practice field at practice Friday had Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels thinking otherwise.

“(It’s like) training camp,” McDaniels said. “It’s been interesting.”

Point of fact, after the Rams added veteran Kellen Clemens via waivers on Wednesday night and promoted Tom Brandstater from the practice squad last week, the Rams are carrying four signal callers on the roster for the first time since the brief stay of undrafted rookie Taylor Potts way back in July.

Clemens is the latest addition to the group, making him the one with the most to learn as the Rams sort through a muddled situation headed toward Monday night’s game against Seattle. 

“It’s always a challenge when you have a new face come into your room as a position coach,” McDaniels said. “I think it’s more of a challenge in that regard because you have to catch him up on the things that he doesn’t know along with teach him the game plan for the team you are getting ready to play. There’s quite a bit of teaching on the side and then trying to find some time just meeting on our own. It’s always different but it happens with every coach. It’s part of the year.”

The Rams and quarterback Sam Bradford remain hopeful that he’ll be able to start on Monday night but he didn’t practice for a third straight day Friday and is likely going to be a gametime decision that will be determined by how much the extra rest will come in handy.

In the meantime, the task falls on McDaniels to get Brandstater, who had taken the bulk of the repetitions with the first team Wednesday and Thursday, and Clemens up to speed and ready should they have to fill in.

Brandstater has been with the Rams for more than a month total and came with previous experience from his time with McDaniels in Denver.

Clemens comes with no such previous knowledge. 

“I do have a little bit of knowledge of the Patriots stuff because when I was in New York we played them twice a year, sometimes three times,” Clemens said. “So when I was doing scout stuff we were doing what they were doing. So I’ve seen it before but this is the first time I am getting coached on it from Josh and it’s a lot of fun.”

Clemens has had to hit the ground running upon arrival in St. Louis. He spent the past couple of weeks in Houston after Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart suffered season ending injuries.

When the Texans released him, Clemens was admittedly taken by surprise but understood their decision to go with the experience of Jeff Garcia. On the flip side, he was excited to get the call to come to the Rams, who claimed him Wednesday night.

“It’s a little shock to get the call, especially because we had gone in there and worked really hard,” Clemens said. “So to get a call was a little bit of a surprise. But the one thing I have learned in this business is that you have got to bounce back quickly. That’s part of being a quarterback in a game. If you throw a pick, you have got to bounce back and the fluidity of rosters in this business you have to take it stride.”

Clemens returned to his home in Washington when he got the call from the Rams and went on a whirlwind trip that finally got him to St. Louis late Thursday afternoon.

McDaniels and Clemens, who knew each other a bit from when McDaniels worked Clemens out when he was coming out of Oregon, went right to work into the late hours of Thursday night.

By Friday morning, Clemens was wearing No. 10 and making his practice debut. He worked with the first team for a bit but also on special teams and made a good first impression on coach Steve Spagnuolo. 

“I was thoroughly impressed with him stepping in the huddle and rattling off the terminology,” Spagnuolo said. “But he’s been in the league awhile and been in a few systems. This particular system and terminology he has had experience with. He wasn’t in it for a full year with a team or anything but coaches he has worked around have used the terminology so it’s not new to him. There’s still a learning curve here but I thought he did a good job.”

Clemens says he doesn’t think his limited knowledge of the offense will be that much of a detriment even with just a few days to study the playbook and only a pair of practices to get up to speed.

The hard part for Clemens is making sure he gets the language right so he can call plays if he gets in.

“It’s a fortunate situation in that he and I have somewhat similar offensive philosophies, if you will,” Clemens said. “I can get on the same page as him on most things. Now it’s a matter of I was speaking Spanish last week and now I’m speaking German trying to get this offense down. It’s just a matter of making sure I can the play in the huddle the correct way, get the guys up to the line of scrimmage and give us an opportunity.”

Most likely, Clemens won’t get the call to start against the Seahawks but he will have to be prepared to play should Bradford be unable to go or if something happens to Brandstater if he gets the start.

For his part, McDaniels believes – from his initial interaction with Clemens back before the 2006 NFL Draft - that Clemens is capable of getting up to speed enough to at least be able to run the offense even if it’s a pared down version. 

“I thought he was really smart,” McDaniels said. “I thought he learned well. I spent a little time with him out there in Oregon and he threw the ball accurately. He’s a good decision maker so there are a lot of things that are positive and he’s got some experience too. He’s a guy that battles and he did a nice job today on short preparation.”

Two practices certainly don’t seem like enough time to get up to speed on the offense, learn the terminology, grasp the game plan and get timing down with the receivers.

Unquestionably, that would be a tall order for anyone. But Clemens insists that it’s not impossible. 

“I don’t think I would throw the panic flag completely,” Clemens said. “There will be some newness having me in there but I think it would be doable. I am not going to guarantee anything but I think it would be doable.”