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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Bernie: Rams Give Fans Reason For Hope

    Bernie: Rams give fans reason for hope

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    For the first time in several years, probably since the last hurrah of the "Greatest Show" era in 2004, the Rams are generating a positive buzz around town.

    There are no expectations of the Rams making the playoffs in 2010, no hope of competing for a Super Bowl, no delusions about where the Rams are and how far they must go to become an elite franchise. Only a hair-on-fire optimist would predict a winning record for the 2010 Rams.

    But it's been a while since fans had something to look forward to. It's been a while since the customers were motivated to spend a Sunday afternoon at the dreary Edward Jones Dome. It's been a while since the franchise's loyal band of supporters could rally around the belief that better days are ahead.

    If nothing else, even among skeptics the curiosity level is up because of the presence of rookie starting quarterback Sam Bradford, the obvious symbol of change.

    Sunday at 3:15 p.m, the Rams will kick off the 2010 NFL season with a home game against the Arizona Cardinals. And finally, there is something to watch. There's a compelling story. The template is fresh and different. And a probable sellout crowd will file into The Ed for a new reason: The fans really want to be there instead of feeling obligated to be there.

    "While I was in church Sunday morning, a couple of people there told me, 'Hey, Steve, you have no idea how excited the town is.' And that's when I picked up on it," Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I hope our players feel it. And I hope we give the fans a reason to feel good about what we're doing."

    One by one, pieces are being put into place. New owner Stan Kroenke. Sam the Ram joins running back Steven Jackson, who ranks No. 2 in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage over the last five seasons. There are two talented young offensive tackles, Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, to anchor a potentially rugged offensive line. And new prospects at tight end. There's a dedicated young middle linebacker, James Laurinaitis. Third-year defensive end Chris Long should be more disruptive. A physical second-year cornerback, Bradley Fletcher, could develop into something special. And active safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who has 19 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries in 60 NFL starts.

    There's a sense that the Rams are actually building something rather than throwing a mish-mash of talent together and hoping to get lucky.

    There is also a long way to go as Spagnuolo and the new regime continue to pay for the hopelessly incompetent personnel mistakes of the recent past.

    The Rams selected 18 players in the 2006 and 2007 drafts. After final cuts were made Saturday only one of the 18, backup defensive tackle Clifton Ryan, remained on the 53-man roster. When two draft classes are wiped out within five years, it creates roster voids that take time to restock. But slowly a core nucleus is forming. Kroenke will be able to speed up the process by making some free-agent investments.

    "I think the potential of the youthful talent is what is exciting," Spagnuolo said. "But let's face it, with Sam and all of these young guys that we talk about on both sides of the ball, we're all very hopeful and rightly so. We're hopeful that the youthful talent will blossom into good NFL talent. It's exciting.

    "We like our last two drafts. And you knew it was going to have to be done that way. There was no way to fast-fix it with things going on (with ownership) and the financial landscape of the league. It had to be done this way."

    The Rams are still missing substantial components. They do not have a true No. 1 wide receiver, an established pass-rush force or a recognized shutdown cornerback. They lack depth, and injuries will be especially damaging. And the Rams have been curiously cautious in reaching for roster solutions at No. 2 running back and at wideout, for example. Perhaps that will change under Kroenke's direction.

    And Spagnuolo and the coaching staff must also show growth and improvement. As Spags enters his second season, he clearly has a better handle on his roster. He's also more comfortable in dealing with the all-purpose, time-consuming challenges of the job.

    It's pretty silly to attempt to quantify the Rams' progress through preseason predictions. Personally, I believe they'll win between four and six games. And that can be OK under the right circumstances, particularly with a rookie quarterback having to learn his trade without a complete offense around him.

    "Hopefully and God willing, it's the playoffs and you're playing more than 16 games," Spagnuolo said. "If it's not that, then you'd like to be able to look back and have the feeling that we're on our way. We're heading in the right direction. That we're better than we were a year ago in multiple areas. And if it's that, I'm OK with it. I certainly want to be working to make the playoffs, but aside from that you want to look back and know that there were all of these improvements from year one to year two."

    Practice resumes today. The new adventure begins Sunday. Retired quarterback Kurt Warner won't be playing for Arizona, so does that provide an opening for an upset? Would we even be talking about the potential of upsets a year ago?

    "Inside you suffer and die a little," Spagnuolo said, in reflecting on the end of last year's brutal 1-15 season. "And now we want to play a game and get out there and prove that what we're doing is right, and that things are beginning to fall into place. That doesn't guarantee a win, but I sure feel a lot better about it. And I want to go play. Let's go play."

  2. #2
    dgr828's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie: Rams Give Fans Reason For Hope

    Spags is talking Playoffs!!! I'm SOLD!!! GO SPAGS GO!!!!

  3. #3
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    Re: Bernie: Rams Give Fans Reason For Hope

    Wow...a moderately positive article from Bernie. Now I've seen everything. Credit where credit is due though, I thought it was a good read. I wish he wrote more like these. I guess I'm a hair-on-fire optimist, because I DO hope we go to there Super Bowl. I'm not expecting it, but it sure would be nice

  4. #4
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie: Rams Give Fans Reason For Hope

    It's great to read that St. Louis is excited about the RAMS. Maybe the Clan will get some help with all the noise making at the game for a change.

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