Mason confident there'll be no drop-off while Gurley rehabs

ST. LOUIS (AP) Draft day could not have been a pleasant experience for St. Louis Rams running back Tre Mason. Imagine how jarring it must have been to see his team take Todd Gurley with the 10th overall pick.

Sooner or later he'll lose his starting job. While Gurley rehabs from left knee surgery, there's incentive and opportunity.

''Our approach with Todd is a common-sense approach,'' coach Jeff Fisher said Saturday. ''We're going to take care of Todd and get him ready to play.''

Mason could be the starter for the first few weeks of the season, and it shouldn't be a step down given his performance as a rookie. Rather than brood about the pick, he concedes nothing.

''It didn't faze me much,'' Mason said. ''I've got goals of my own. Same as I always feel, control what you can control and just do what you can do.''

The third-round pick and former Heisman Trophy finalist out of Auburn was inactive the first four games behind Zac Stacy. He seized the job for good in Week 5 and Stacy was a forgotten man, eventually traded during the draft.

Mason led the team with 765 yards rushing to go with a 4.3-yard average and four touchdowns, including 100-yard games against Denver and Oakland. He was versatile, too, catching a 12-yard pass on his first pro snap.

''Tre was somewhat of a slow starter last year and he got going,'' Fisher said. ''Playing without the ball is really important and once we got comfortable with where he was, we cut loose.''

Mason broke an 89-yarder against the Raiders and in five other starts had at least one 20-yarder.

''Give me the ball, I'm ready to rock,'' Mason said. ''That's how I feel about the situation.''

The most important lesson Mason said he learned his rookie year was that he belonged. At first he was impressed by the speed.

''When I first got here I felt like `It's the NFL, my God, everybody's that much better,''' Mason said. ''But it's really a mindset, how you're going to attack a game and how you feel like you want to take over a game.''

He's more comfortable in pass protection, too. Though the Rams have a new offensive coordinator, Frank Cignetti, the basic concepts have not changed.

''I actually know exactly who I need to pick up, where I need to be, the route I need to do,'' Mason said. ''Being prepared helps me be more calm, comfortable and stay poised in all situations.''

The Rams (6-10) also have valuable Benny Cunningham back. Undrafted out of Middle Tennessee, Cunningham led the NFC with a 27.5-yard average on kickoff returns and also had 598 yards rushing and receiving, so he's established a nice niche.

''I'm excited, ready for Todd to get healthy,'' Cunningham said. ''I feel like he can most definitely help this team.

''Watching some of his games in college, I can tell he'll make a good impact.''

So there's no reason to rush Gurley into action, and the player understands.

''You know you just feel like you can go or you just feel like you can do much more than the trainers or the coaches are giving you,'' Gurley said. ''But they're just trying to protect you and they've been through this, they have years of experience.''

Gurley is getting individual work early in camp and that's fine with the team for now, about nine months after surgery on his left knee.

''We're not going to take any chances or any risks or subject him to any danger,'' Fisher said. ''But you can read the tea leaves.''

Notes: WR Brian Quick will be limited early in camp rehabbing from a shoulder injury that sidelined him the last nine games. ... Among those attending practice was a fan wearing a No. 8 Sam Bradford jersey with Nick Foles name taped over Bradford's name on the back.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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