Despite the expected gloom that hung over Rams Park Monday when it became official that quarterback Sam Bradford would miss the remainder of the season, coach Jeff Fisher had to do what all coaches usually have to do on a yearly basis: Send a believable message to his team that life goes on after a major injury, and that there are games to be played and hopefully won.
In 1999, then-coach Dick Vermeil emotionally said to the media after quarterback Trent Green was lost for the season with a knee injury, "We will rally around Kurt Warner and we will play good football."
No one expects Kellen Clemens to be Kurt Warner, but as the players gathered in the team meeting room this week, Fisher told them this would be "Give 'em hell with Kell week." The coach later told the media, "Kell liked it."
Fisher also referred to a book written by Willie Jolley called "A Setback is a Setup for Your Comeback."
"I referenced that back to them," Fisher told reporters Monday. "So that's what we're going to do. Our comeback's already in place."
When told that most people outside the team facility think the season is doomed, Fisher added, "What I've told the players is between me and the players, but one would expect that I would not tell the players something along those lines. We're going to play. We're going to play hard. Now, yes we've been dealt a setback but we'll come around. They'll come around. They're excited about having a chance to play on Monday against the Seahawks.
"Yeah, it's a difficult day for us, but we'll move forward. Fortunately, we have an extra day and we met with the team this morning, explained to them the situation and the challenge is obvious in this world where you have an impact player go down with a season-ending injury, everybody else just has to step up - coaches included. Everybody in the building has to pick it up."
Fisher said he is genuinely "excited to see (Clemens) play with a week of preparation. He has huddle presence, command. He can make all the throws. What Kell does well is moves into throwing lanes. He'll extend plays. He has a very good understanding of our offense and we'll have him ready to play."
Clemens was originally acquired by the Rams on waivers from the Houston Texans on Dec. 7, 2011. Bradford had a high ankle sprain and backup A.J. Feeley had injured his thumb in a Dec. 4 game against San Francisco. The irony is that five days after being claimed on waivers, the Rams were playing the Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Clemens didn't play in that game, but started the final three games of the season.
"That's your role as the backup," Clemens told reports Monday. "You're the emergency plan that nobody really hopes gets used. But that's the situation that we're in. I've been in this offense for quite a while. I know the ins and outs. I think I have a pretty good rapport with most of my teammates. You'd have to confirm that with them. But I'm ready to play."
Defensive end Chris Long confirmed it, saying (with a little Vermeil-speak), "We will rally around Kellen. It will be fun to see him get out there. He has the guys' respect. He practices hard. It will be fun to see him get his shot."
Fisher concurred, saying, "Kellen is great in the building. On the field, he does a great job. His former role was to help the defense get ready, and then support (Sam) and be ready in the event that he needed to play.
"So he prepares himself. He has a really good understanding of this offense. He's kind of a gunslinger, he's gonna run around and just make plays. He's a tough guy and he's a great teammate."
When Clemens became the starter in 2011, the team's record was 2-11 and the season was already lost. He began playing with only a handful of practices. This time, the record is 3-4 and there are only seven NFC teams that have won four or more games.
Clemens concluded, "The fort's gonna have to be held for quite a while. I have a lot of faith in my own abilities to play the position. I've worked really hard for the last several years. And I've got some experience. This won't be my first game. So I'm excited for the opportunity and excited first and foremost by the way my teammates have responded."
*With Bradford on injured reserve, the Rams signed two quarterbacks to back up Clemens. Brought back was Austin Davis, who had competed for the No. 2 job with Clemens in training camp. Also signed was Brady Quinn, who was released on Monday by the Jets. Davis had a brief stint on Miami's practice squad after being waived by the Rams.
Quinn had a tryout with the Rams when he was an unrestricted free agent in 2012, but elected to sign with Kansas City. That was before the Rams opted to re-sign Clemens.
Quinn started eight games for the Chiefs last season, completing 59.6 percent of his passes with two touchdowns, eight interceptions and a passer rating of 60.1.
The career numbers for Quinn and Clemens are quite similar. Quinn has a completion percentage of 53.8 with 12 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a 64.4 passer rating. Clemens' numbers are 51.8 percent, seven touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 62.2 passer rating.
*In the wake of the injury to Bradford, Fisher made it clear he remains the quarterback going forward.
Fisher said, "I'm especially disappointed for Sam just because of the work and the effort and the progress that he's made. He was off to a great start so it was unfortunate, but he'll be back. He's our quarterback."
Asked about Bradford being ready to play for the start of the 2014 season, Fisher said, "There is no reason to think otherwise. I'm not going to make a soap opera out of the thing. He's going to have his surgery and he's going to rehab and he's going to push through the offseason. When he's ready, he'll be ready, but there's no reason to expect otherwise."
*Tackle Rodger Saffold returned to the active roster Sunday after missing four games with a left knee injury and split snaps with Joe Barksdale at right tackle. Saffold played 30 snaps and Barksdale 31.
"Rodger played well," Fisher said. "It was good to see him. He was very active, second level in the run game. Pass protection was good, strong, short of dominating at times in the game. As did Joe. I think we'll stick with that, the rotation right now."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "His experience. Clearly, his experience and everything that took place on the practice field, and how productive he was on the field and his understanding of this offense." – Coach Jeff Fisher on why Kellen Clemens won the backup job in training camp from Kellen Clemens.