THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Lamarcus Joyner has been playing on a broken toe since the second quarter of the Los Angeles Rams’ season opener.
Although his teammates and coaches are impressed by his resolve, the defensive back simply is determined to hold up his end of the secondary.
“I knew I had to be accountable to the defense, so I just kept my mouth closed and kept playing,” Joyner said Tuesday after practice.
Joyner broke the second toe on his left foot during the Rams’ season-opening loss at San Francisco. He said it felt like his foot “fell asleep,” and when his toe wouldn’t move after his foot woke up, Joyner knew something was wrong.
He just didn’t tell coach Jeff Fisher or the training staff until the 28-0 loss ended.
“I just strapped on my cleats and I played, man,” Joyner said. “I know it was an important game to us. If you just think about 2014, that draft, how Coach Fisher … gave up a pick for me, all that kind of stuff just ran in my mind. They’ve made a lot of sacrifices for me, so I can fight through something like this.”
Although an episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” captured Joyner suggesting he was seriously contemplating quitting football, the defensive back says he is still devoted to the sport and the Rams: He played extensively in Los Angeles’ 9-3 win over Seattle last Sunday.
After playing 134 of the Rams’ first 148 defensive snaps with only nine good toes, he intends to be in uniform again this weekend at Tampa Bay.
“It was nothing that was going to keep him from playing,” Fisher said. “You can kind of get an appreciation for his commitment to this game and his teammates. Playing through that is not easy.”
But Joyner’s toughness isn’t a surprise to the Rams.
“That’s why we drafted him,” Fisher said. “We watched him for a couple of years there at Florida State, and he’s one of those guys. He shows it every day.”
Joyner might be getting some help soon in the Rams’ secondary, which is in for a workout from Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers.
Cornerback E.J. Gaines is close to returning for his first NFL game since 2014 after participating in practice Tuesday. After missing last season with a foot injury, he has been out since last month with a left thigh injury.
Fisher suggested Gaines could even step right into the starting lineup — and though Gaines has played only 15 NFL games, the Missouri native is eager to add veteran continuity.
“I think we’ve been on a roller coaster,” Gaines said of the secondary. “Made some really good plays and made some bad plays. We’ve got to be a lot more consistent out there. I hope we can put it all together in this third regular-season game.”
A year ago, Gaines was in competition with Trumaine Johnson for the starting cornerback job opposite Janoris Jenkins before getting hurt. While Gaines watched from the sideline, Johnson earned a $13.95 million contract for this season.
After Jenkins left for a lavish free-agent deal with the New York Giants, Gaines was the favorite to fill the vacancy before his injury.
Los Angeles used second-year free agent Troy Hill extensively against the Seahawks in place of starter Coty Sensabaugh. Hill held up fairly well against repeated targeting by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.
“It’s anticipated,” Hill said. “You’ve got a proven corner on the other side, and I’m just unproven, so I’m anticipating that. I expect that every time I go out there.”