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Rams' Austin misses practice again

ST. LOUIS — All signs point to rookie Tavon Austin spending another game day in civilian clothes.

That likely means more action for backup wide receivers Austin Pettis and Stedman Bailey on Sunday when the St. Louis Rams play the Tampa Bay Bucanneers.

“Tavon unfortunately got a little banged up,” Pettis said Friday. “So the coaches put me in that role to try to make some of those plays.”

Austin, the eighth overall pick of the draft, missed his sixth straight day of practice with a left ankle injury and coach Jeff Fisher said he’d be questionable. Austin also was questionable last week with an injury sustained when he was tackled at the end of a 56-yard run at Arizona, and did not play against the Saints.

Fisher said Austin was “improving.” The rookie has not been in a walking boot this week but appeared to favor his left leg leaving the practice field.

Running back Daryl Richardson also was out Friday with a hamstring injury and also is questionable. Richardson began the year as the starter but earlier was dogged by a foot injury and has missed the last six games.

The Rams had been hopeful of getting Austin back on the practice field this week. When Austin was drafted, he noted with pride that though he’s undersized he had never missed a game or practice at any level.

Pettis had four catches for 41 yards and Bailey, a fellow rookie and Austin’s former teammate at West Virginia, had two catches for 26 yards in the victory over New Orleans.

Pettis, a third-year player, has made five starts and has a career-best 34 receptions with a 10.6-yard average and four touchdowns. He had 22 receptions and all four scores the first five games but his playing time suffered when Austin began to emerge.

“Last week I got some opportunities early in the game and I think Kellen Clemens was comfortable with me, and we were able to convert,” Pettis said. “I know this is a business and we have a lot of guys with a lot of talent. A lot of people need to get reps.”

Linebacker Will Witherspoon and offensive tackle Mike Person returned after missing a day due to illness.

Defensive tackle Matt Conrath practiced with his left hand in a cast after breaking the ring finger earlier in the week in practice. Conrath expects to play.

“Just a little bit unlucky,” Conrath said. “Nothing too serious.”

Fisher said players were “excited” to get a chance to practice outdoors. Players weren’t about to overlook the Buccaneers, who have won four of six since an 0-8 start.

“We want to finish the season strong,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “You’re being evaluated not just on Sundays but on every little thing you do inside this building and everything you do outside the building.”

Laurinaitis said he advised players: “Don’t put bad stuff on tape, don’t be that team that tanks it in once you’re mathematically eliminated.”

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