ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Rams' less-heralded rookie wide receiver from West Virginia could be in line for more playing time.
Stedman Bailey was hidden in the shadow cast by the explosive Tavon Austin, his former college roommate with the Mountaineers. So far, this season, Bailey has still been in Austin's shadow.
The Rams moved up to take Austin, who caught 215 passes in his final two years in college, eighth in the first round of the draft. Austin is third among rookie receivers with 31 receptions this year.
Bailey, a third-round pick, hauled in his first NFL reception for a 12-yard gain last week in a 28-21 loss to Tennessee. He caught the ball over the middle in traffic and got 5 yards after the catch. Two plays later, the Rams scored their first touchdown.
"I never thought it would take this long to catch a pass. It's something I've been waiting on, getting that first catch," Bailey said after practice Thursday at Rams Park. "It's pretty big for me to get in the game and get my first catch. I'm looking ahead to my opportunities that I have coming up this week."
His coaches have noticed.
"Made a great play last week in the game, kind of stumbled, caught it, fell and got back up and climbed for a few yards," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "Very talented young man, I think the arrow is pointing up.
"Obviously, his ability speaks for itself, great change of direction, so you'll definitely see him out there."
That's what Bailey wants — to be on the field with the offense. The Rams have used Bailey primarily on special teams. He plays on all four units — kickoff and punt coverages and kickoff and punt returns.
He had two tackles against the Titans, giving him four for the season.
Bailey played a season-high 11 offensive snaps against Tennessee. Those were his first plays on offense since Week 3 against Dallas.
For now, Bailey remains behind Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, Brian Quick and Austin on the receiving corps.
That's not how Bailey envisioned his career starting.
"I kind of thought I'd be stepping in and playing, you know, right away," Bailey said. "But I keep a positive mindset and keep coming out and working hard. I know my time will come."
Coach Jeff Fisher agreed. He likes what he's seen from Bailey.
"His time's coming. He's improving on the practice field," Fisher said. "It was a great play, keeping his balance and picking up extra yards and so we'll get him more involved."
The 5-foot-10 Bailey has worked primarily with the scout team in practice, showing he can create separation from defenders. He's also kept learning the playbook and is now putting that knowledge to work.
"Here's a guy that has worked his way up with opportunities," Schottenheimer said. "He's now very, very comfortable with the system."
Count quarterback Kellen Clemens, who is playing in place of the injured Sam Bradford, among Bailey's fans from their time together on the scout team.
"I said from Day 1 that I thought Stedman Bailey in the third (round) was a steal. He's a very talented, young kid," Clemens said. "He's got a lot of upside. He's got a bigger catching radius than people think based on his size and he's got what you would typically call a high football IQ.
"He understands coverages. He understands how to get open. So, I'm excited for his opportunity. He's worked hard. When you talk about the body of work of this season, I've probably thrown to him on show team more than I've thrown to any of the other guys. So, there's a comfort level there with Stedman, certainly."
NOTES: RB Zac Stacy (foot) was limited in practice after sitting out the day before. ... TE Lance Kendricks (finger), G Harvey Dahl (knee) and QB Brady Quinn (hip) did not practice.
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