Rookie Janoris Jenkins draws a vivid description of how he wants to play cornerback for the St. Louis Rams.
''I play like a ninja, an assassin,'' Jenkins said Thursday after practice at Rams Park. ''I love to be around the ball. I'm quick and physical. I just play the position with a chip on my shoulder.''
The 5-foot-10, 193-pound Jenkins has been impressive in camp since he signed a four-year contract just before reporting for practice. Frequently working with the first-string unit, Jenkins has been able to open eyes to his considerable talents.
''He physically can do everything that's required of a corner, an elite corner for that matter, with the footwork and the change of direction, tackling and ball skills he has,'' new St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said. ''He understands the defense. He's going to be a very good corner in this league.''
Certainly, his play in training camp has made his past issues seem less relevant.
The influences that helped him get kicked off the Florida team following two arrests for possession of marijuana and another charge of resisting arrest are in the past, Jenkins said.
After being dismissed by new Florida coach Will Muschamp following a second charge involving marijuana, Jenkins finished his college career at North Alabama under coach Terry Bowden last season.
Such misconduct might have caused NFL teams to avoid Jenkins in the first round. The Rams nabbed him with the 39th pick overall in the second round.
Sliding out of the first round did not bother Jenkins. Instead, he said, it's left him with a desire to show he's got what it takes to play.
''I always got a chip on my shoulder,'' Jenkins said. ''Whatever they say about me, I just look past it and come out here and play football. I put the past in the past and I move forward.''
The Rams (No. 28 in the AP Pro32) have seven cornerbacks in training camp. Cortland Finnegan was the Rams' big free-agent signing in the offseason.
After drafting Jenkins, St. Louis used a third round pick on cornerback Trumaine Johnson. Returning cornerbacks are Bradley Fletcher, Jerome Murphy and Josh Gordy. Free agent Kendric Burney, who was cut by Carolina last year, is the other cornerback in camp.
Those seven give the Rams a solid mix of youngsters, young veterans and an established veteran.
Former Pro Bowler Finnegan played for Fisher in Tennessee, and is known just as much for his tenacity as his cover skills.
Jenkins admires those traits. He said he spends as much time as he can picking Finnegan's brain about how to make the step to the next level.
Watching film has been something Jenkins as picked up from Finnegan.
That effort in the film room has caught Fisher's eye.
''He's a very, very willing pupil,'' Fisher said. ''Jenkins is very instinctual. He's made a lot of plays on the ball, and just I think purely on instincts. He just seems to have a knack for being around the football.''
Assistant head coach Dave McGinnis believes Jenkins could be a starter when the Rams open the season at Detroit.
''Absolutely. Janoris Jenkins continues to impress out here, but Janoris Jenkins loves football and he works at it. (Secondary coach) Chuck Cecil and (assistant secondary coach) Brandon Fisher are doing a tremendous job with him, getting him up to speed on what we're doing, but he's a very, very willing pupil and I've got no problems with Janoris Jenkins being on the field, believe me,'' McGinnis said
That's where Jenkins wants to be - on the field.
''Football is very important to me,'' Jenkins said. ''This is a dream come true for me.''
NOTES: RB Steven Jackson was held out of practice a second straight day for rest, Fisher said. ... The Rams open preseason play Sunday at Indianapolis. Starters likely will play ''a couple of series to a quarter'' against the Colts, according to Fisher.
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