IRVINE, Calif. (AP) Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines knows it could be a lot worse.
Such as last year when he injured his foot during the first week of training camp, had surgery and missed the season.
Or during offseason workouts, when he stood impatiently on the sideline in uniform but still not cleared to practice.
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So this is definite progress with the Rams opening their 2016 camp at UC Irvine and Gaines finally cleared to play.
''I was just cleared last week,'' Gaines said. ''I'm pretty much 100 percent. The coaching staff is taking it slow with me, but for the most part I've pretty much been out here for all the snaps.''
Not all the snaps he would normally take. The Rams are being careful to ease him back, continuing to build his foot and leg strength as he regains any timing lost to an offseason on the sideline.
''We've been increasing his reps,'' Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. ''We just have to see how he tolerates that.''
At Wednesday's practice, the Rams suspected he was feeling the effects of early training camp and shut him down for the last part of the afternoon. They are being careful with his return.
The Rams need him to stay healthy.
Gaines, 23, started 15 games as a rookie in 2014 when Trumaine Johnson was injured. He went into camp last season in a competition with Johnson to start. Johnson won when Gaines was injured. The Rams used their franchise tag on Johnson ($13.9 million) to secure him.
Meanwhile, the other starting corner, Janoris Jenkins, signed as a free agent with the New Giants for five years and $62 million ($29 million guaranteed).
The Rams need another starting corner. If Gaines is the logical replacement, he still has to prove himself fully healed and ready to go.
''That's no problem,'' Gaines said. ''I've always played with a chip on my shoulder. I think this is just another year I get a chance to go out there and showcase my talent.''
The 5-foot-10 Gaines came to camp listed behind Lamarcus Joyner and Coty Sensabaugh at right corner, but defensive backs are being rotated throughout practice. Sensabaugh got most of the snaps with the starters on Wednesday.
''Coach keeps saying there really are no starters and backups right now,'' Gaines said. ''Everybody is pretty much rotating to keep it competitive. I think that's the best for everybody.''
The first preseason game is Aug. 13. The Rams opener isn't until Sept. 12 in San Francisco. Gaines figures that's plenty of time to prove he's healthy and earn playing time.
''He's coming on and making progress,'' Fisher said. ''He's worked hard, came back and hasn't missed a snap. We're not giving him the snaps for a week or so that he would normally get, but he gives us the opportunity to have him be in a position to win that job back and compete there.''
Sensabaugh is a fifth-year pro signed in the offseason as a free agent. He started 15 games last season for the Tennessee Titans. The 5-foot-8 Joyner is in his third year with the Rams. He started six games last season.
Now the Rams look to see exactly where Gaines is in his comeback.
''I'm pretty much in good shape and ready to go,'' he said. ''They gave me a long time to rehab and get my strength back in my legs. It hasn't been an issue for me to this point.''
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