- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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EARTH CITY, Mo. – With a heavy heart, Rams defensive end Eugene Sims returned to practice Thursday afternoon.
Sims had been gone since after the preseason opener on Aug. 8, attending to the death of his mother, Jeanelle, 42. He returned home to Mount Olive, Miss., to be with his family and for the funeral services, which took place Wednesday.
“It’s been a long week for me,” Sims said. “It’s been real stressful but it’s good to be back with the team, with my brothers, and keep myself busy to try to help myself heal from what’s going on.”
With the full support of his teammates and the organization, Sims took care of what he needed to in Mississippi. He leaned on football while he was away to take his mind off of things, something he said he plans to continue moving forward.
The defensive line, a particularly close group within the team, regularly kept in contact with Sims while he was away. End William Hayes called him every day.
When the situation at hand got overwhelming, Sims said he would study his playbook.
“My teammates have been there 100 percent,” said Sims, entering his fourth NFL season. “I have never been around a group of guys like this. They have been positive with me and they keep my head straight. All the coaches have been behind me, the whole organization actually.”
The soft-spoken Sims had something of a breakout year in 2012, becoming an integral part of the defensive-line rotation with 20 tackles, three sacks and an interception.
Getting Sims back in that rotation should help an already cohesive line continue to mesh in advance of the regular season. Of course, it should also provide an outlet for Sims at a time when it’s needed most.
“First day back, it’s good to be back,” Sims said. “I have a lot on my mind, but still at the same time I have business to take care of and I’m going to take advantage of the opportunity and go forward.”
Thursday practice notes
The Rams haven’t fully transitioned to regular-season mode but they are on the way. They closed the open portion of the preseason Wednesday night and practiced without the pomp and circumstance for the first time Thursday.
Coach Jeff Fisher said the team would begin moving things up a bit earlier and shift the schedule around before the final preseason game next week.
“The difference between yesterday and today is that we don’t have any evening meetings,” Fisher said. “So we still have a lot of work to do. Typically when you break camp, you move everything up a little earlier and that’s what we’ll do next week.”
Offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe returned to practice Thursday after sitting Wednesday because of the flu.
Offensive tackle Rodger Saffold said he hopes to play Saturday night against Denver as he comes back from a left-shoulder dislocation. He said that decision probably wouldn’t be made officially until closer to the game.