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Rams going with rookie kicker

Rams going with rookie kicker

April 29th, 2012 in News

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Coach Jeff Fisher ended his first draft with the St. Louis Rams on Saturday by revealing he will go with a rookie kicker this season.

St. Louis reached out to select kicker Greg Zuerlein of Missouri Western in the sixth round. Fisher, who never drafted a kicker when he coached at Tennessee, said the Rams will release veteran kicker Josh Brown on Sunday, a move that will save the team nearly $3 million in salary cap space.

"Coach (John) Fassel went out and did a number of private workouts with a number of kickers and punters and he came back and he clearly blown away at the leg and the distances on the kickoffs and the distance and accuracy of the field goal game," Fisher said of Zuerlein. "We felt like it was going to be a need. We needed to upgrade the position and so we couldn't pass on this opportunity. "Josh was a great kicker and he was tremendous here. But I spoke with him immediately after the pick and he understands."

Brown, who turns 33 on Sunday, is entering the final year of a five-year, $14.2 million deal. He's a career 81 percent kicker but was 21 for 28 on field goals last season, with five misses inside the 50 and one inside the 40.

Zuerlein set an NCAA Division II record with 21 consecutive field goals, including nine that were 50 or more yards, and was 23 for 24 overall. He kicked two 58-yard field goals last year.

"It doesn't matter what class you are in in high school or what division you're in in college, the goalposts are the same," Zuerlein said. "Fifty yards is fifty yards. It should translate to the NFL."

Earlier this spring, the Rams released veteran punter Donnie Jones. Fisher said the Rams have agreed to terms with a rookie free agent punter.

"I have no problem whatsoever," Fisher said about using rookie kickers. Then in a deadpan voice, Fisher said, "You know what, we're not going to punt this year. No, I'm not worried about it."

The Rams addressed other areas of need Saturday. St. Louis added wide receiver Chris Givens of Wake Forest in the fourth round and grabbed offensive guard Rokevious Watkins of South Carolina in the fifth round, With their first pick in the seventh, the Rams added linebacker Aaron Brown of Hawaii.

The Rams used the 252nd selection - next to last - of the draft to pick 5-foot-11, 200-pound Richardson. It was a compensatory pick for St. Louis.

The 5-foot-11, 198-pound Givens amassed 2,473 receiving yards on 163 receptions in his career. Last season, Givens set a school single-season record with 1,330 yards. He caught 83 passes and had nine touchdowns. Givens also can help the Rams in the return game. Givens returned kicks and had 45 rushing attempts at Wake Forest. Givens finished with 3,509 all-purpose yards.

Givens is the second receiver the Rams have selected in this draft to help quarterback Sam Bradford, the top pick in the 2010 draft. In the second round, St. Louis drafted wide receiver Brian Quick of Appalachian State.

Givens brings speed to the Rams. He was clocked at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That was one of the fastest times among the 300-plus players at the combine.

He is looking forward to joining Quick to give Bradford some inviting targets. In fact, Givens brought up a Rams reference from the past.

"We're going to complement each other well. That's the plan," Givens said about himself and Quick. "We're going to come in and work hard and put our best foot forward and try to get 'The Greatest Show on Turf' back going again."

The 6-foot-4, 329-pound Watkins can play inside and outside on the offensive line. Watkins played both guard positions in his junior year at South Carolina.

The Rams have an opening at left guard. Unrestricted free agent Jacob Bell left to sign with Cincinnati.

As a senior, Watkins played both tackle positions and one game at guard. He started 27 games the past two seasons.

"I played every position on the line at South Carolina except center," Watkins said. "I just do whatever coach tells me to do. If they wanted me to long snap, I would have done that, too."

The Rams used the 209th selection to pick 6-foot-1, 220-pound Brown. St. Louis has just four linebackers currently on the roster.

As a senior, Brown had 103 tackles, including 13 for loss. Brown recorded 4.5 sacks and had three interceptions. Richardson is the bother for former Abilene Christian running back Bernard Scott, who plays for the Cincinnati Bengals.