By R.B. Fallstrom
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ST. LOUIS _ Kenny Britt is easily recognizable on the St. Louis Rams’ practice field. He’s the long-striding wide receiver given to showing off his six-pack abs, grinning and trading good-natured barbs with teammates.
The Rams wanted him to grow up and he’s embraced the fresh start offered by Jeff Fisher, who had first-hand knowledge of the player’s unruly Titans years and never lost sight of the potential.
“No. 1, just a great, great emotional leader,” offensive co-ordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “One of the leaders by example, brings energy to the group every day.
“Big play capability. Powerful route runner. He’s the one leading the way,”
Britt is the top deep threat for the Rams (6-7), averaging 18.7 yards on 29 receptions with three touchdowns. He’s been making plays off the field, too, without adding to the rap sheet that made him a risky pickup in free agency after his time in Tennessee petered out.
“I’m only 26. When I came into the league I was 20 years old,” Britt said in an interview with The Associated Press. “People are going to make mistakes, people are going to go through some tough times.
“It’s your choice whether you learn from it or not. That’s the beauty of life, you’ve got a choice.”
Perhaps given his extensive experience with law enforcement officials, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Britt was the one who lit the spark of player protest against police brutality and civil unrest that’s mushroomed across professional leagues as the incidents keep coming.
Two weeks ago, it was “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” Britt’s idea.
Last week, it was “I Can’t Breathe!!!” Britt and tight end Jared Cook had those words written on wrist bands, and Britt had names including Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin on his cleats. Offensive tackle Joe Barksdale’s shoe, resting on a trash container in the locker room Tuesday night, bore those words, too.
Players wouldn’t say whether they’d planned another statement for Thursday night’s game against Arizona.
But Britt said, “It’s not one week we’re thinking about it and the next week we’ve forgotten about it. This is going to be an ongoing thing to seek change.”
Cook was designated as spokesman for the so-called ‘Ferguson 5’ in response to media criticism after he, Britt and three other wide receivers did the “Hands Up” pose coming out of the tunnel during introductions prior to the game against the Raiders two weeks ago.
Ferguson is about 8 miles east of Rams Park, just a short drive on Interstate 70. The Rams were involved at the start back in August, offering their practice fields to high school teams affected by rioting after Brown, who was unarmed, was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson.
The shooting has been a prevalent topic in the locker room, and Britt led the response after a grand jury declined to indict Wilson last month.
“We talked about the situation, what happened and what was going on around the country,” Britt said. “We’re in this, too. We’re not just concentrating on football all day, every day.”
Britt has had no off-field incidents since getting a second chance with Fisher and the Rams, who turned to him to mature and lead a young group of wide receivers.
“Well, Kenny, he’s making plays for us,” Fisher said. “He’s just making big plays, he’s blocking, he shows up every day.”
There were plenty of scrapes earlier for Britt, a first-round draft pick by the Titans in 2009 who totalled 12 touchdown catches his first two years.
He helped post bail for a childhood friend _ and convicted felon _ accused of murdering a teen-ager by throwing him into the Hudson River. He led police in Bayonne, N.J., on a high-speed chase and allegedly crushed a cigar containing marijuana to hide it from authorities, who charged him with resisting arrest. He served a one-game suspension following a DUI arrest, a charge that eventually was dropped.
In 2013, the final year of his rookie contract, Britt made just three starts and totalled 11 catches while hampered by a knee injury. In the final month he became a healthy scratch, leading him to free agency and back to Fisher with a one-year deal.
“Yeah, he’s done a real good job for us,” Schottenheimer said. “We were thrilled to get him.”
“There’s some situations I’ve been in when I’ve been treated unfairly,” Britt said. “There’s been times when I’ve been racially profiled and there’s other times when they didn’t (care) whether I was black, white or Spanish.”
He’d like it known he’s not some short of human rap sheet, either.
“Some people go off what they see or hear in the media, their words and how they feel about me,” Britt said. “They’re not around me 24/7. They don’t know me.”