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Alexander toughs out preseason to earn spot with Rams

Tuesday, September 6, 2011 | 10:47 p.m. CDT; updated 1:23 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 7, 2011
St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danario Alexander holds onto a pass over Indianapolis Colts safety Mike Newton during a preseason game Aug. 13 in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — Danario Alexander had enough positives in the St. Louis Rams' training camp to outweigh questions about his durability.

After surviving cutdown day, the second-year receiver can worry less about his oft-injured left knee and turn his attention to Sunday's opener against Philadelphia. The grind of camp is over and so is the competition at a position the Rams addressed in the offseason.

The Rams cut receivers Mardy Gilyard and Donnie Avery, opting for Alexander — a 6-foot-5, 215-pounder who gives the team and quarterback Sam Bradford a true deep threat.

"It was a pretty big task," Alexander said. "I wasn't used to coming out here pounding every day on my knee. For me to get through it, it's truly a blessing."

Gilyard, a fourth-round pick last year, was released Saturday before signing with the New York Jets.

Avery was a second-round pick in 2008 and the first wide receiver chosen that season. He missed all of last season with a knee injury but came back this preseason and had six receptions for 91 yards, a 15.2 average, and a touchdown.

Alexander was cut just before the season opener last August while still rehabbing from a fourth knee operation, then re-signed to the practice squad and activated after Mark Clayton's season-ending knee injury. In his NFL debut, he caught a 38-yard touchdown pass against the Chargers.

That week, Alexander looked pretty much like the player who caught 113 passes and led the nation with 1,781 yards receiving at Missouri in 2009. Earlier in his college career, Alexander started ahead of future Eagles star Jeremy Maclin.

But he was not drafted after injuring the knee before the Senior Bowl, and his first NFL season was interrupted by a fifth operation. This summer, he missed time with knee soreness and recently underwent an MRI that revealed no new issues.

"For me to go out there with a swollen knee for a couple of days and still fight through it shows what kind of heart I have," Alexander said.

Alexander totaled seven catches for 109 yards in the preseason.

"We all know what he has to overcome and battle every week and he toughs it out," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "So, he's one of the guys right now."

General manager Billy Devaney said it didn't necessarily come down to Alexander vs. Avery.

"There are a lot of factors that go into these decisions," he said. "I don't want to compare the two guys because I still think Donnie Avery is going to be a good player in the league and, knock on wood, Danario is going to give us a chance on game day to be out there and make plays and help us wins games."

Alexander said he thought his performance last season and during the preseason proved he was NFL-worthy.

Now he's happy he doesn't have to prove himself with a new team.

"It's a big relief," he said. "This is my job and this is what I love to do. I love playing for the Rams and for the coaches just letting me be on the team it's a great honor for me."


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