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Rams sign WR Wes Welker, hoping he can help team boost woeful 3rd down production

By R.B. Fallstrom


ST. LOUIS _ During coach Jeff Fisher’s news conference, the St. Louis Rams finalized the signing of Wes Welker. They’re hoping the 34-year-old wide receiver can help them dig out of a third-down hole.

The Rams are 4 for 37 on third down conversions the last three games. They won the first two thanks to a stout defence that permitted just 12 points, but lost 21-18 in overtime at Minnesota on Sunday.

“He’s in outstanding shape,” Fisher said. “He’s moved the chains for two potential Hall of Fame quarterbacks.”

Fisher said it was too early to say whether Welker would be active this week against the Bears. Rookie Bradley Marquez has been getting more playing time.

Fisher has never been more feisty during his time in St. Louis, also defending himself against criticism after safety Lamarcus Joyner’s low hit sidelined Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with a concussion. He chided Vikings coach Mike Zimmer for speaking out harshly, bringing up the Bountygate scandal that sidelined defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams for a season.

Zimmer consented to the slightest of drive-by handshakes after the game. Fisher said he was about to congratulate Zimmer, “and he was gone.”

“I understand that, but you also need to control your emotions after a game and go look at the tape and then adjust accordingly,” Fisher said. “Again, I don’t know who they play this week. I don’t care, but we’ve moved on. We’re on to Chicago.”

NBC studio analyst Rodney Harrison piled on Sunday night, saying he’d been injured by a hit in 2006 by Tennessee’s Bobby Wade that “chopped my knees and tore my knee up” when Fisher coached the Titans.

“I’m lying on the ground and I look at Jeff Fisher and he’s smiling and laughing,” Harrison said. “So, this is typical of Jeff Fisher-type teams.”

Fisher’s response: “Consider the source.”

The coach went on to detail highlights from Harrison’s career, including 18 unnecessary roughness calls and 77 total penalties, adding Harrison had three times been named the “dirtiest player in the NFL.”

“Absolutely absurd,” the coach added.

Joyner does not have a reputation of delivering over-the-top hits and was remorseful after the game.

“Me personally, If I could take it back I will,” Joyner said after the game. “If I have a chance to reach out to Teddy I will apologize for that.”

Fisher bristled at the notion he coaches teams that are dirty or chippy and was more concerned about pre-snap penalties, with the defence penalized five times Sunday. He was happy to hear that Bridgewater was OK and could play this week.

“We are going to be physical and we’re going to play furious and we’re going to play contact football. OK?” Fisher said. “What bothers me right now is the stuff before and after the whistle.”

Fisher said if he had to he’d line up players “3 yards off the ball” and let players “get a running start after the ball’s snapped.”

Welker was among three wide receivers who worked out with the Rams (4-4) on Monday. They needed a replacement after Stedman Bailey was suspended four games for violating the leagues’ substance abuse policy.

Fisher said when Bailey returns the player realizes it will be “his last go-around.” Bailey, a third-round pick in 2012, was suspended two games last year for using performance enhancing drugs.

Welker had 49 catches for a career-low 9.5-yard average last year with Denver but became a free agent and has not played this season. He topped 100 receptions five of six seasons between 2006 and 2012 but has a history of concussions.

Welker was among three wide receivers who worked out with the Rams on Monday. Like Bailey, he was suspended the first two games last season for violating the leagues’ substance abuse policy.

Fisher has spent a lot of time addressing the third-down failures in recent weeks, suggesting reporters to he could “go back and get the transcripts from last week.”

On the season, the Rams trail the NFL with a measly 23.8 per cent conversion rate on third down.

The offence is ranked 31st overall and went without a first down its final 12 third-down opportunities against the Vikings.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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