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Receivers Austin, Bailey eager for second season with Rams

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ST. LOUIS - Wide receiver Tavon Austin expects to make more of an impact in his second season with the St. Louis Rams. Former West Virginia teammate Stedman Bailey will be part of the plan, too, after serving a four-game suspension at the start of the season.

The Rams released the depth chart for Friday's preseason opener against visiting New Orleans on Monday and the 5-foot-8, 175-pound Austin will start along with Kenny Britt.

"It's not about starting, it's about helping this team get wins," Austin said. "I'm looking forward to it. I've worked hard enough for it. Even if I don't start, it doesn't matter. I just want to help."

The Rams practiced Monday in helmets and pads. Austin, who missed the final three games last season with a high ankle sprain, caught several passes from quarterback Sam Bradford.

St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher noticed.

"Tavon's doing a lot of different things. He feels good. He is making some big catches," Fisher said. "It's just a matter of getting the ball to him in space. You could see a couple of times today he made people miss and picked up big gains.

"That's what we're looking for. We've got a good feel for him. He's got a good feel for the offence. It's just a matter of finding enough footballs to go around."

Bailey had been spending time with the first unit. He is listed as a backup to Austin on the unofficial depth chart.

One reason may be the four-game NFL suspension Bailey received for violating league policy on performance-enhancing substances. Once the preseason ends, Bailey won't be seen again until October.

Despite the suspension, Bailey is allowed to practice and play in all four preseason games.

"It's something that kills me every time I think about it, but my job is to keep working hard, keep giving my all, and when I come back, just keep looking for a show," Bailey said.

Fisher said Bailey has performed well in camp.

"He knows how to get open, and knows how to make the plays," Fisher said. "Yes, we'll miss him, but he's going to push right through camp and we'll get through his ordeal and we'll get him right back in the lineup."

Bailey was a late bloomer in his rookie season. He did not catch a pass in the first eight games, then had 15 catches for 195 yards in the final five games.

Austin and Bailey both had standout careers at West Virginia. Needing more targets for Bradford, St. Louis drafted the duo.

The Rams traded up to get Austin in the first round after he caught 288 career passes for 3,413 yards and 29 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,033 yards and six touchdowns at West Virginia. In his final season, he caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Bailey was a third-round selection. In his final two college seasons, Bailey had 186 receptions for 2,901 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Austin finished his rookie campaign with 40 receptions for 418 yards and four touchdown catches, including two of 57 and 81 yards. He also carried the ball nine times for 151 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown run and another one for 56 yards.

He had a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown against Indianapolis. Several big returns were brought back because of penalties. Austin ended with 678 return yards.

He had a treat last week when former Rams standout Kurt Warner visited camp. Warner threw some passes to Austin.

"I was little when he was going to Super Bowls," Austin said. "He's still got it. He threw some good balls. He was very nice. He said I could call him anytime."

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