The No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft had started 35 straight games at left tackle, and he had been looking forward to the reunion and a chance to perform before his mother and grandmother in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, located about an hour from his hometown of Thibodaux, La.
But Robinson, who has struggled with penalties and mistakes, was not only benched by Coach Jeff Fisher, he was made inactive. He could only watch from the sideline in street clothes as the Rams lost, 49-21.
At 6 feet 5 inches and 332 pounds, Robinson is a large man. But as the 24-year-old stood in front of his locker Wednesday and spoke to reporters about the experience, his emotion was palpable.
“I tried my best to support the team as much as possible just to show that it really didn’t bother me,” he said. “But deep down it was frustrating.
“My mom and my grandma, they didn’t get to see me play back home, and I don’t know when the next time I’ll probably be back in the dome.”
Robinson’s frustration increased after Rodger Saffold, who started in his place, suffered a hand injury in the second quarter against the Saints. Seldom-used Andrew Donnal finished the game as the protector of rookie quarterback Jared Goff’s blindside.
“On the sideline, it kind of got me down,” Robinson said, “but there was nothing I could do about that.”
After the game, Fisher said that Robinson was inactive because he “needed a moment, he needed a break” because of penalties and mental errors. He added that there was good chance Robinson would return to the lineup Sunday against the New England Patriots.
After Wednesday’s practice at Cal Lutheran, coaches said Robinson appeared motivated.
“Every once in a while, when you take a step back and watch what’s going on and see things through a different window — it’s life-changing,” Fisher said. “He is really excited right now. He’s been in here early, he’s staying late, he’s focused.”
Said offensive coordinator Rob Boras: “Any time that you feel threatened, and you get something taken away, I think it refocuses your energy and channels your focus. We’ll see how he handles it, but everything is pointing in the right direction right now.”
Robinson’s problems were a combination of mental and technique issues, Fisher said.
“I don’t want to call this a day care, but things come up outside and there’s distractions and you have to deal with them and you have to put them in perspective and we did that — and he did that,” he said. “He’s embracing it right now.
“It’s a combination of technique, it’s a combination of some outside distractions and some misunderstandings — maybe a little lack of preparation. By all accounts right now, he’s ready to go play, so I’m proud of him.”
Saffold did not practice Wednesday and his status for Sunday’s game is uncertain. Robinson is preparing to play.
“All I can do is just get better,” he said. “It’s a coaches decision. It’s a business at the end of the day, so take it how it comes and just continue trying my best to get better each day.”
Robinson, who played at Auburn, started three games at guard and nine at left tackle as a rookie. Last season, he started every game at left tackle.
Robinson said during organized-team activities — and repeated upon his arrival at training camp — that he was intent on improvement in his third season.
Fisher complimented Robinson’s play after several exhibitions and early-season games. But once the season began Robinson continued to accrue penalties: He was cited 12 times in the first nine games.
Then, in the fourth quarter against Miami, Robinson was called for an illegal block in the back after Goff scrambled 11 yards for an apparent first down.
Fisher said the next day that he was considering personnel changes, referencing unnamed “repeat mistake-makers.”
Robinson said he was told last Tuesday that he would not be in the lineup. He did not know until Sunday that he would be inactive.
“It was the decision they made and all I can do is just accept it,” he said. “It wasn’t like I could tell them, ‘No, I’m not sitting down.’
“If it was smart for him to allow me to take a break, I feel like I used it [to] the best of my ability and just accept it… and just try to move on.”
Former Rams tackle Jackie Slater, a Hall of Famer, said Robinson was extremely talented and “unbelievably strong.” He occasionally texts Robinson to offer encouragement.
“I see a guy working hard,” Slater said. “I see a young guy trying to find his way technically as he goes along.... He’s still learning how he has to use his body.”
Robinson said he felt like he was “progressing in many ways” even if it was not apparent to all. He is focusing on knowing and completing his assignments with speed.
“As long as I know I feel like I’m getting better, then I’m satisfied,” he said. “There’s no limits. I just have to continue getting better each day.”
Reflecting on his experience last week in New Orleans, he said there was an upside.
“It was good to see my family and just to get them outside of the neighborhood and just to come together for once and do something in terms of supporting me,” he said. “It was a great experience. I wouldn’t trade it for nothing in the world.
“It’s just I would like to get that opportunity back and play in front of my family.”
Injury report: Defensive end Robert Quinn (concussion protocol), receiver Tavon Austin (chest), center Tim Barnes (foot) and tackle Andrew Donnal (hip) also did not practice…. Fisher, when asked if there were any developments in the Eric Dickerson situation: “No, it’s the first time I’ve heard his name since [Tuesday]. Not a word. All about the Patriots.”