It would be hard to script a better debut than Greg Zuerlein's rookie season, the first half of it anyway.
John Fassel, the St. Louis Rams' special teams coach, watched the Missouri Western product fire shells from his leg howitzer last spring. Raw power and guided missile accuracy convinced the front office to spend a sixth-round pick on the kicker.
Crowds cooed in training camp when the rookie started plunking windows at Rams Park. In Week 1, the rest of the world saw just what he was capable of when he went three-for-three, including a 46- and a 48-yard shots. It was the start of a perfect 18-for-18 run through his first five weeks, including a 56-yarder at windy Soldier Field and a franchise record 60-yard field goal the week after that.
Just as the legend of Greg the Leg was born, his kicks started to miss. He hit just 50 percent of his 18 attempts over the last 10 games of the season.
"He started on fire and then he kind of just, you know, toward the end of the season," Fassel said after Sunday's special teams practice. "A lot of that had to do with just a young guy that just kind of got worn out from the combines and all the workouts in the preseason and in the Spring leading up to the season."
But the Rams have a simple plan for getting Zuerlein back on track: Rest.
"I don't want to say how long, but he rested," Fassel acknowledged. "He stayed fit, but he stayed away from kicking for quite a while."
Fassel made it sound as though it was exactly what Zuerlein needed after a busy senior season in college and an even more hectic run up to the draft. All that kicking takes it toll on a kicker, especially a rookie.
"He came off an injury in college after his junior year," Fassel said. "He rehabbed it and kicked his whole senior year in college and right when his senior year ended, he's kicking at a combine in Detroit. I went and worked him out twice, six other teams went and worked him out private, then he had the OTAs, and then we had him here in the summer kicking. It just became so much that by November/December he was tired."
Well-rested and stronger, Fassel assured the press on Sunday that Zuerlein's offseason program would leave him in much better shape for the stretch run this year. The Rams will need The Leg at full strength too, with dates against the 49ers, Bears, Saints and Seahawks over the last six games of the season.