ST. LOUIS (AP) -- St. Louis rookie offensive tackle Rodger Saffold is not allowed to drive the Rams' Ferrari, otherwise known as $78 million dollar quarterback Sam Bradford.
But he will play a key role in keeping the engine intact.
Saffold, the Rams' second-round pick in the NFL draft, has turned heads with solid performances during the first three days of training camp. The Indiana graduate is spending almost all of his time with the first-team offense.
With a starting spot available, Saffold realizes that his future performance could be just as important to the franchise as that of the highly celebrated Bradford.
"I don't want to be the guy that lets somebody get through where (Bradford) he could get injured or something like that," Saffold said. "That would stay with me the rest of my career.
"That's one of the reasons I'm working so hard."
Saffold, the 33rd overall pick, took most of his reps on Monday at the left tackle spot, which was supposed to be held by Jason Smith, the Rams' No. 1 pick a year ago. Smith is out with a toe injury and has seen limited action. Saffold, who was originally thought to fit in at right tackle, has been so impressive on the left side that coach Steve Spagnuolo could have a decision to make when Smith returns.
"Both guys in my mind are interchangeable," Spagnuolo said. "They're all tackles. But I'm happy with what I'm seeing."
The 6-foot-5, 323-pound Saffold started 41 of 42 games at Indiana. The Hoosiers rushed for more than 100 yards 29 times, running almost exclusively behind Saffold.
The Rams felt strongly about selecting Saffold to guard their treasure.
"No pressure, I've just got to go out there and do what I'm capable of doing," said Saffold. "The biggest thing is making sure that I'm prepared. There aren't too many people that start right out with the (first team) and they kind of threw me into the fire.
I'm just going to try to continue to battle."
Saffold butted heads with St. Louis veteran defensive end James Hall throughout most of Monday's two-hour 30-minute practice session held in 91-degree heat. Saffold more than held his own and got the better of Hall on several occasions during a full contact activity.
"He's definitely making me the type of tackle I want to be," said Saffold. "I've got a lot of appreciation for what he's doing for me."
Saffold is a gentle giant, a teddy-bear type that does his job in a businesslike manner. His hard-work and dedication make him a perfect fit in the Rams' young offense.
Like most rookies, Saffold has been forced to undergo a little first-year hazing from the veterans. He has done so with a smile on his face.
"I've already carried my share of helmets, brought towels to people, brought out snacks and stuff," he said. "That's fine with me."
Saffold says the heat has forced him to make a few adjustments. The heat index hit 100 on Monday according to the National Weather Service.
"The humidity is tough," he said. "But right now, there's no place I'd rather be."
NOTES: Former St. Louis coach Dick Vermeil attended practice and spoke with the players on Monday. He is in town to promote his new wine brand, Vermeil Wines. Walking around the complex was, "a great feeling," he said. Vermeil coached the Rams for three seasons including a Super Bowl winning campaign in 1999.
Defensive lineman Chris Hovan tweaked his lower back and defensive back Marquis Johnson tweaked his left hamstring during practice. Spagnuolo said the injuries don't appear to be serious. Defense tackle Clifton Ryan suffered from cramps and left near the close of practice.
"It was a hot one, it was a hard one, it was a physical one," Spagnuolo said. "But I think we got something out of it."
University of Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert attended practice on Monday. Former Missouri standout wide receiver Danario Alexander, an undrafted free agent, watched the practice with Gabbert. Alexander passed a team physical earlier but did not work out with the Rams. He flew to Seattle late Monday to meet with Seahawks officials.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)