EARTH CITY — St. Louis Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines felt a sinking feeling when he walked in the team locker room Monday.
The locker that belonged to his former Missouri teammate T.J. Moe sat empty. When Moe was not out at practice, Gaines knew. His friend got cut.
“Oh man, it hurt me,” Gaines said. “I’ve been close with him since I was at Mizzou, so that was tough.”
All NFL teams had to cut their rosters to 75 players by 3 p.m. Tuesday. Former Missouri players Gaines, Michael Sam and Tim Barnes all survived the cut.
“It’s kind of my first look at it,” said Gaines, a rookie, about the NFL winnowing process. “So whenever I see people getting cut — some of my friends, some of the guys I’m close with — I realize that’s the nature of the business.”
Moe was one of 10 players that the Rams waived Monday. St. Louis made four additional roster moves Tuesday to reach the 75-man threshold.
All NFL teams must trim their rosters to 53 players by 3 p.m. Saturday.
“You see guys coming in and out,” said Barnes, a member of the Rams the past two seasons who is the team's No. 2 center. “You just got to trust that you’ve been working hard enough and know everything well enough that you’re not going to be one of them.”
Sam was not available to speak to the media Tuesday. He went through one kickoff coverage drill during Tuesday’s practice, but Rams coach Jeff Fisher said the decision to cut or keep Sam will be entirely based on his defensive play.
“He’s a defensive end,” Fisher said of Sam. “Special teams is not part of the equation for Mike. We are giving him every opportunity to do so, and he’s participating in special teams practice and everything, but that’s not going to be part of the criteria for the evaluation.”
Sam seemed to suffer an injury Tuesday that could play a role in his making the team.
At the end of a position drill with tackling dummies about 45 minutes into practice, Sam went and talked to a trainer. The trainer helped Sam do some stretching on the ground. Sam then went back to talk to the trainer at the end of the position session while the rest of the defensive ends jogged to do team defense work.
Sam played sparingly the rest of the 90-minute practice, and he grabbed his right side when coming off the field at one point after jogging slowly to the sideline.
Fisher said after practice he was not aware of any injuries during practice. Sam’s agent did not immediately respond to an email asking about Sam’s health.
Sam previously injured his right hamstring during Missouri’s NFL Pro Day in March.
Rams defensive end Chris Long said he did not see Sam get hurt, but he was not surprised with temperatures reaching 96 degrees during Tuesday’s early afternoon practice.
“It’s so hot, I’m kind of worried about not tweaking something myself,” Long said.
The Rams are scheduled to play their final preseason game at 6 p.m. Thursday in Miami. Even for a veteran like Barnes, there is an ambiguous feeling about his status on the team.
“The fourth preseason game, you never know what to expect as far as playing time,” Barnes said. “You take it how it goes and get ready to play.”
And the remaining Missouri guys hope they have a better fate than Moe.
“A lot of the guys just tell me to come in, concentrate on making plays,” Gaines said. “If you do that, the odds of getting cut are less.”
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.