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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Bell Excited for Opportunity

    Tuesday, March 4, 2008

    By Nick Wagoner

    Senior Writer

    As an oversized youth growing up in Ohio playing football, there was only one real option for a role model for young Jacob Bell.
    That role model hadn’t yet become a future Hall of Famer; instead he was forcing NFL talent evaluators to re-evaluate how they look at the tackle position. His name? Orlando Pace. Growing up in Cleveland , Bell spent plenty of time watching Pace become one of the most dominant blockers in college football history at nearby Ohio State . When Bell signed a six-year contract worth about $36 million with the Rams on Tuesday morning, he will get a much closer look at how his football hero handles his business.

    Soon after Bell put pen to paper Tuesday, the realization hit him that he will be lining up next to Pace as the team’s new left guard.

    “The opportunity to play next to Orlando Pace. I grew up in Ohio, and Ohio State was one of my favorite schools obviously, so to play next to him will be pretty cool,” Bell said. “I think every lineman looks up to Orlando. He’s a great player, and I look forward to playing with him.”

    While Bell mentioned playing next to Pace and blocking for the likes of running back Steven Jackson as reasons for persuading his move to St. Louis, there are more people who are plenty happy to have him on board.

    At the top of that list is quarterback Marc Bulger. Bulger has been a more constant presence around Russell Training Center this offseason and is hoping to have a bounce back season in 2008 after a difficult 2007.

    Making that task easier will be the arrival of help on the offensive line. Getting a guard many consider one of the better young interior linemen in the league will go a long way toward helping Bulger return to form.

    That’s why the signal caller spent time speaking with Bell on Monday evening and again on Tuesday morning.

    “He told me a lot of the same things I had already heard, that they needed some help, that they were banged up last year,” Bell said. “He sold me on the coaching staff and Coach Linehan and the players and the guys around here. He just told me it was a good place to be and hey, we want you and need you here.”

    Receiver Drew Bennett also put in his work to help persuade Bell to leave Tennessee, where he spent his first four seasons in the league. Bennett played with Bell for three of those years and he spoke with Bell on Friday soon after the Rams made contact to attempt to get Bell to visit St. Louis.

    After making a run at veteran guard Alan Faneca in the opening day or so of free agency, it became clear he had no intention of making visits or seeing what his suitors were about.

    Bell was different, though. He wanted to do his diligence and ensure that St. Louis was the right fit for the next six years of his life. “Probably the best thing about Jacob is that it was about wanting to be here,” coach Scott Linehan said. “Certainly it’s a big promotion and step up for him in his career, but he evaluated this as a place he wanted to be. He wanted to take the visit and then he wanted to sign the contract after he had the chance to evaluate that this was a place he wanted to be, which is very important to us.”

    Of course, there is much more to Bell than his willingness to travel. In his time with the Titans, Bell played 55 games with 46 starts. Bell made 43 of those starts at left guard with the other three at right tackle.

    Known for his quick feet and ability to get to the second level as a run blocker, Bell has the type of versatility that has become so valuable in the NFL. He can play either guard position or tackle.

    And it doesn’t hurt matters much that he turned 27 on Sunday and is entering the prime of his career. For all of those reasons, Executive V.P. of Player Personnel Billy Devaney and Co. had Bell ranked as the top interior lineman on their free agent board in terms of ability and upside.

    “We looked at him last year and this year and at this point, the arrow is still going up on this guy,” Devaney said. “He is still getting better. It also gives him a chance where to finish his career you could give him a second contract.”

    While Bell doesn’t have the Pro Bowl resume of Faneca, the Rams sought Faneca for some of the intangibles he could bring in terms of leadership. But Bell will be given a chance to grow into a leadership role and will provide more durability and athleticism for the long term.

    Instantly, Bell will step in next to Pace as the starting left guard. That quickly improves the team’s depth on the line and opens up some interesting battles at other spots. Devaney said Tuesday that the Rams will likely focus on the draft for more additions to the offensive line, though a veteran center isn’t out of the question.

    Tne possibility for the open center spot is Richie Incognito, who played there in 2006 and with improved snapping ability could be dominant at that spot with Mark Setterstrom possibly sliding to right guard or providing depth.

    The only question about Bell according to some scouting reports is strength. At 297 pounds, he isn’t the typical mauler type, but Bell says he tested out as the second strongest player on the Titans in 2007.

    The game film also doesn’t lie when it comes to strength. In games against massive defensive tackles like Jacksonville ’s Marcus Stroud and John Henderson and Carolina ’s Kris Jenkins, Bell never once got knocked over and more than held his own. And it didn’t hurt that he got to face another dominant tackle in Albert Haynesworth every day in practice for a few years, where he developed his mean streak.

    “I told him one thing that jumped out about him was he has a little stuff in his neck,” Devaney said. “He doesn’t like to get beat and if he does start losing a man he will do whatever he has to do to save a block. He has some nastiness.”

    While Bell never quite turned into Pace, playing his college ball at Miami of Ohio instead of Ohio State , he is quick to acknowledge that his new contract and opportunity is an opportunity he wasn’t sure would ever arrive.

    “This is the kind of day everybody dreams of,” Bell said. “When I was a little kid playing football in the backyard, this is what you aspire to. I couldn’t be happier that it came true.”
    Last edited by RamWraith; -03-04-2008 at 09:42 PM.


  2. #2
    Rambos's Avatar
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    Re: Bell Excited for Opportunity

    “He sold me on the coaching staff and Coach Linehan and the players and the guys around here. He just told me it was a good place to be and hey, we want you and need you here.”
    Thoughts.....

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    Chris58's Avatar
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    Re: Bell Excited for Opportunity

    Maybe I am being naive, but that quote from Bulger tells me that the morale on the team and the relationship between players and coaches is better than I imagined.

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    Re: Bell Excited for Opportunity

    Quote Originally Posted by Rambos View Post
    Thoughts.....
    I'm absolutely sure that morale is a lot better than some people would have you believe.

    I've always been amazed how so much could be made of the 'eye roll', whilst at the same time discounting what Bulger actually says and does as merely towing the party line.

    Losing is difficult, no-one likes it and whilst you're doing it relationships become strained. Saying that those relationships are beyond repair, as some have done to suit their argument, is a reach.

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    Re: Bell Excited for Opportunity

    Our low key leader (BULGER) steps up again. Hats off to Marc and his concern for our team. This guy wants to get back on the winning track!!!

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    Re: Bell Excited for Opportunity

    Well written. Glad we added an OLman.

    ---Alpha :l

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    Re: Bell Excited for Opportunity

    Quote Originally Posted by laram0 View Post
    Our low key leader (BULGER) steps up again. Hats off to Marc and his concern for our team. This guy wants to get back on the winning track!!!
    good point about Marc's leadership
    or is he just trying to stop himself getting hit so much on the field?

  8. #8
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    Re: Bell Excited for Opportunity

    Quote Originally Posted by tomahawk247 View Post
    good point about Marc's leadership
    or is he just trying to stop himself getting hit so much on the field?
    I think its a little bit of both. haha.

    But its good to see that things are starting to look sharp again. exactly what I want to hear.

  9. #9
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Bell Excited for Opportunity

    Quote Originally Posted by Rambos View Post
    Thoughts.....
    People will see it how they want to see it. Those who would like to believe the tensions are overblown will see it as candor from Bulger as he tries to improve a team he still believes in. Those who think Linehan has completely lost the team will see it as Bulger saying what he has to say to get Bell here.

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    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Bell Excited for Opportunity

    Bottom line (in process of course) is that Bell is being regarded as a very good addition to the Rams OL and will thus help improve the overall performance of Bulger and Co. for 2008.

    A 6-4, 300 lb. Bell certainly gives our chances a better, stronger ring!

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