While the Rams season has come to its conclusion, and we all take in a heavy dose of ‘what to do in the offseason,’ there are several former Rams players that will take the field on Sunday, and one [possibly two] of them will be heading to New Orleans for the Superbowl. Outside of Josh McDaniels’ sidekick - Brandon Lloyd - there are THREE former Rams’ tight ends in the AFC Championship game.
For the Ravens, that former Ram is none other than Billy Bajema. Bajema, who signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Rams prior to the 2009 season, it marks his first trip to a conference championship game. After a whole lot of blocking, and 31 receptions [between 2009-2011], Bajema was released by the Rams, and the Ravens picked him up in free agency on August 1st, 2012.
To be fair, you probably won’t see much from Billy Bajema today. He’s certainly no Dennis Pitta. Bajema’s game log for 2012 looks like a sheet of plywood that’s been riddled with buck shot. One target on the season….and a healthy dose of goose eggs in every other statistical column.
Things get a little bit more interesting on the New England side of the ball. First, former Rams tight end [from 2008-2010], is Daniel Fells. Fells, another player pushed out the revolving door of tight ends in St. Louis, had a short [relatively uneventful] stint in Denver in 2011, before landing in New England prior to the onset of the 2012 season. As you could imagine, playing time has been sparse for Fells, who’s in competition with tight ends the likes of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
A window of opportunity has recently opened in New England, though, as Gronkowski was placed on injured reserve just a few days ago. Fells, who played in roughly 25% of the Patriots snaps when Hernandez and Gronkowski dealt with injuries, was inactive for the last Sunday’s game against the Texans. Guess who stepped in?
Michael Hoomanawanui. "Illinois Mike, Uh Oh, Hoo-Man" or whatever other litany of names he’d received while in St. Louis, was drafted by the Rams in 2010, but was released after two seasons due to his inability to stay healthy. For most, seeing him leave was bittersweet, as he certainly had the tools to prove beneficial to the Rams woeful offense, and showed good rapport with Sam Bradford when on the field.
After being cut by the Rams on September 2nd, 2012, he remained a free agent for all of the three days, prior to being picked up by the Patriots. Again, it’s not an easy team to simply slide into the starting rotation. Hoomanawanui has been patient. Interestingly enough, ‘Hoomanawanui’ means ‘to be patient’ in Hawaiian.
Present day, Illinois Mike appears to be the Patriots answer to a Gronk-less offense. All signs indicate that HoHo will get the nod today against the Ravens, and it comes at a critical point in the season. Hoomanawanui had only five catches [for 109 yards] for the duration of the 2012 season.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see - and to what extent - Fells [if active] and Hoomanawanui are able to contribute in the Patriots offense this afternoon. The Patriots, as you’re well aware, aren’t shy about tossing the ball around, so it’s quite possible that the ball could make it’s way into a former Rams hands. Hauling it in, and more importantly holding onto it, is never easy when the Ravens defense is on the field, though.
Quite the turn of events, isn’t it? Three of the Rams former TE’s have a shot at making the Superbowl in such short period after having been released by the team. Good fortune for them. As Rams fans, however, we’ll just continue to mock Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz to the Rams in our 2013 NFL mocks. If either gets drafted by the Rams, it appears that there’s little guarantee that they’ll be in St. Louis in 2015, but they can feel pretty good about their shot at making it to a Superbowl elsewhere. I kid, I kid…
What do you think Rams fans? Who are you rooting for today? Did the Rams make a mistake by cutting these guys? Who - if anyone -would you give a second shot?
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