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Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold spoke publicly Friday morning for the first time following a whirlwind stretch where he agreed to a huge contract with the Raiders on Tuesday, had the offer rescinded following a failed team-administered physical on Wednesday afternoon and re-signed with the St. Louis Rams on Thursday morning.
The Rams held a press conference to welcome him back and put an awkward period to rest.
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“It’s been a roller coaster couple of days,” Saffold said. “This was something like I’ve never experienced.”
Saffold initially told the Rams he would be playing elsewhere in 2014 despite their pleas to stay, and eventually struck a five-year, $42.5 million accord with the Raiders shortly after free agency began Tuesday afternoon.
It was a big moment for the Raiders, who were excited to bring their lone big-money acquisition into the fold. The Raiders brought Saffold’s family to Oakland and had a large portion of staff on hand for a formal contract signing.
Then came that infamous physical.
Saffold said Friday that doctors told him he passed the exam without issue. He was shocked to find out later he had not.
“After that it went through a filter of many different places,” Saffold said. “It went through the front office and the trainers and everybody involved. Exactly what happened, that doesn’t even matter to me any more.”
To recap, multiple sources close to the situation acknowledged that the Raiders red flagged Saffold’s left shoulder, which was dislocated in the 2013 preseason but didn’t hold him out long. The Raiders found a torn labrum and, according to sources, team physicians believed it required surgery and rest to repair. Saffold still could’ve been ready by training camp, and several members of the Raiders front office were prepared to accept and deal with the setback.
Those sources indicated that owner Mark Davis took issue with the pre-existing condition – Saffold has a long injury history that has sidelined him 17 games in four NFL seasons – and strongly suggested that the Raiders pull the offer. While general manager Reggie McKenzie technically made the final call, it was at Davis’ urging. Before Davis' objection, McKenzie was ready to proceed with the acquisition.
One source indicated that Davis' trepidation stems from McKenzie's recent history of signing players with medical issues, including cornerback D.J. Hayden and quarterback Matt Flynn.
While Davis saw unnecessary risk, the Rams did not. They swooped in and agreed on a five-year contract to bring him back to St. Louis.
“We passed Rodger at the end of the season, as far as a physical was concerned,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s been working out here all offseason with no issues. I’m sure they were surprised by everything that happened. They contacted us, and within an hour to 90 minutes we were able to put the deal back together.
“That says something about (everyone involved in) making this happen, because what they went through is unprecedented.”
Saffold did his best to deflect queries regarding his interaction with the Raiders and keep focus on a return to St. Louis, but he admitted the Wednesday’s events weighed heavily on him.
“This is a business and I understand that crazy things can happen,” Saffold said. “That was all fine. Once it was over, I just didn’t want the Rams feeling a certain way about me trying to come back. They’ve been welcoming even after I decided to go to Oakland. … Knowing they still had interest after everything that transpired was just great.
“I’m grateful that everything with the Rams happened so quickly. I was able to get back the next day, get everything done and finally have this weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Saffold broke social-media radio silence on Thursday a series of tweets about the fiasco, with two directed towards a fan base he was never formally introduced to.
Fans of #RaiderNation I'm sorry that you had to go thru this loyal fans don't deserve this. I'm thankful and value the support from you all— Rodger Saffold (@Rodger_Saffold) March 13, 2014