A week after his biggest game as a pro, a 5-sack, performance against the Raiders, Gary Jeter discovered what football's emotional flip side is all about.
He limped into Rams Park Monday with partially torn left knee ligaments and a badly sprained ankle. Though surgery won't be required, Jeter is expected to be out 3 weeks to a month.
Jeter was injured in the second quarter of Sunday's 45-31 victory over the New York Giants when his foot was pinned beneath a pile of bodies during teammate Kevin Greene's 9-yard sack of quarterback Phil Simms.
Jeter left the game after the injury but returned to play "9 or 10 more plays," before realizing the extent of the damage.
Jeter came back to the Meadowlands as the National Football League's 1988 sack leader with 6 1/2. He was drafted in the first round by New York in 1977 and played 6 years there before he was traded to the Rams in 1983.
Jeter said he was definitely caught up in the excitement of the game but wasn't sure whether going back in after the injury caused further damage.
"Maybe, maybe not," he said. "At the time, I left it up to the judgment of the doctors, trainers, who I have a lot of confidence in. When I hurt my back (in 1984) I listened to them, and everything worked out for me."
Jeter then re-stated his point
"No, I don't really think so," he said, meaning he hadn't aggravated the knee by returning. "No."
Jeter said he is dealing with his sudden change of luck.
"Initially, it got to me," he said. "But the trainers and doctors are encouraged, so that encourages myself. It's not like a back. A back's a mystery. It's like you could be back in 3 weeks or you couldn't be. I've hurt my knee before, so when they say 3 weeks, that's what it means, 3 weeks."
Nose tackle Greg Meisner, just recovered from August knee surgery, will move into Jeter's spot at defensive tackle. Jeter will take Meisner's spot on the team's inactive list.
So when are the Rams going to start acting their age? There are nine rookies on this year's roster, but so far they haven't blinked in the face of hostile crowds or pressure. Remember, the Rams have played three of four games on the road.
"They've only played nine games," Coach John Robinson said, counting the exhibition season. "For them, it's like only two more left before bowl time."
So how do you figure it?
Sunday, after Pepper Johnson's 33-yard pass interception return for a touchdown cut the Rams' lead to 28-17 early in the third quarter, the Rams needed a big play.
They got it from rookie Gaston Green, who returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to pave the way for the most important scoring drive of the game.
Fullback Robert Delpino, the fifth-round rookie fullback, returned 4 kicks for 100 yards, scored on a 5-yard pass from Jim Everett and finished with 3 catches for 41 yards.
"Delpino is a stonehead," defensive tackle Shawn Miller said of the rookie's toughness. "He can go walking down a dark alley with me any time."
Rookie receiver Aaron Cox's 69-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter put the Rams up, 28-3.
So what about rookie jitters?
"Playing with the guys I play with, like Jackie Slater and Irv Pankey, I don't have time to be nervous," Cox said. "It's like, if he's not nervous, why should I be."
Robinson said the key is that his rookies have been groomed for big roles since training camp.
"These kids have done a lot of work since Day 1," he said. "They're getting older. The biggest problem they'll have is the ability to sustain."
Robinson said that one of the biggest problems he has with rookies is their eating habits. In fact, he's bringing in a nutritionist this week to discuss the subject.
"There's a problem in the first year in the league in that you live in an apartment and eat out every night," Robinson said. "You have pizza in, or you don't eat breakfast. That can physically wear you out. Every time I see them I say, 'Eat breakfast and be in bed by 9 p.m.' "
Robinson is not kidding.
"The rookies are responsible for supplying doughnuts here," he said. "But are they just having a doughnut? It's just like, let's look at your life style and let's not have cold pizza for breakfast and warm pizza for dinner."
So you thought it was easy being a coach?
The Rams will be getting special teams star Tim Tyrrell back this week. Tyrrell has missed the first four games with a pulled hamstring.