He stood in the drizzling rain Thursday wearing full practice gear, a knitted cap and a broad smile.
Rams defensive end Robert Quinn was anything but gloomy.
Neither were his teammates and coaches.
Because after two games of unsuccessfully trying to make do without him, the Rams say Quinn has apparently recovered from a shoulder injury and appears on track to play Sunday against the New York Giants at Twickenham Stadium.
“Hopefully,” said Quinn, who was a full participant in practice, “they clear me on Sunday.”
Quinn, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, recovered from off-season back surgery and started the season strong.
He sacked Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and forced a fumble in a Week 2 victory at the Coliseum. He forced a fumble that resulted in a touchdown, and also ran down Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston as time expired to secure a Week 3 victory at Tampa.
And he helped unsettle Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer in a Week 4 victory that put the Rams in first place in the NFC West.
“I don’t think he makes any quarterback comfortable,” Rams safety T.J. McDonald said.
Said defensive tackle Aaron Donald: “You’ve seen at Tampa — if we didn’t have that guy there, you don’t know what would happen. To have him back is going to make a big difference.”
Like all teams, the Rams subscribe to a “next man up” philosophy. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams refuses to label players as reserves because all who play, he says, contribute.
That might be true, but Quinn’s presence or absence affects the entire defense.
It was apparent when the two-time Pro Bowl selection — and two other starting defensive linemen — sat out a loss to the Buffalo Bills.
All but Quinn returned last week against the Detroit Lions, and quarterback Matthew Stafford picked apart the secondary because the Rams could not unleash an effective pass rush.
“We haven’t been getting to the quarterback as much,” Donald said. “We’ve been getting certain protections to slow us down.”
With Quinn on the sideline, opponents can double-team and frustrate Donald, a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first two seasons.
If Quinn is in the lineup, “the firepower on the edge is going to require help,” Coach Jeff Fisher said.
Quinn’s return also should take some of the pressure off a secondary that must try to contain quarterback Eli Manning and a receiving corps that includes Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard.
That job becomes easier, as in shorter, if offensive linemen must deal with Quinn and Donald.
“Any quarterback you play, you hit ‘em enough and they worry about you and worry about that pressure,” Donald said.
Quinn is looking forward to applying pressure on Manning by redirecting attention from Donald.
“Hopefully, if I’m out there, we can free up [Donald] and he can be real dominant like we’re used to seeing him being,” Quinn said, “And if I’m out there, hopefully I can make some plays too.”
Former Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins has two interceptions for the Giants.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find someone playing better than he is right now,” Fisher said. “He’s playing within the scheme, he’s challenging receivers … . They’re also, if need be, matching him up against the best [receiver] and he’s winning.”
Tight end Lance Kendricks said the Rams respected a player who was a teammate for four seasons.
“We don’t expect nothing less but probably some trash talk,” he said.
Two years ago, the Rams and the Giants brawled when middle linebacker Alec Ogletree tackled Beckham after the rookie caught a pass and stepped out of bounds.
Fisher and several players said the incident was in the past.
“That’s done and over with,” Donald said. “What happened happened. We’re just moving on.”
Reserve cornerback Dwayne Gratz, recently signed by the Rams, is no stranger to London.
He played three-plus seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have played here in each of the last four seasons, including an Oct. 2 victory over Indianapolis.
“Since he’s been here so much, he kind of shows us around,” cornerback E.J. Gaines said.
The Rams have been in London since Monday. Kendricks said Thursday was “kind of the day where everybody feels like they’re back on schedule.” …. Running back Todd Gurley enjoyed a visit into the city earlier this week. His favorite part? “Seeing all the buildings,” he said. “Just kind of learning the history. It was pretty cool. Kind of reminded me of like a bigger New York.”