By Howard Balzer
Friday, September 19, 2008

He beat the Rams with late field goals in two 2006 games that were the difference in the Seahawks winning the NFC West with a 9-7 record and the Rams finishing one game back at 8-8.

Now, he is with the Rams, which makes Sunday's game at Seattle a strange one for Rams kicker Josh Brown.

"It's going to be emotional," Brown admitted.

Said good friend Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle's quarterback, when asked what will be the reaction from Seattle fans, "They'll boo him and they'll throw things at him. They'll probably make him cry, to be honest. I know Josh. They'll probably make him cry."

Brown said he and Hasselbeck text messaged back and forth all week, and said the crying comment and other things said were all just joking around. However, Brown did acknowledge, "I'm sure I've said some things that will end up on their bulletin board."

Said Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren when asked about the potential reaction, “I am not going to tell you but I kind of think I know what reaction he is going to get. He was a very popular guy here and I think he broke a lot of hearts when he left. I will leave it at that.”

"It's been the question that everybody's been asking, and honestly, I don't know what's going to come," Brown said. "I'm praying for 50-50. I'm praying I get booed half the time and 'yay' the other half. I had a lot of fans there and a lot of great people that supported me. But then again, there were a lot of people that were mad at me when I left. I'm going to come out and just kind of experience it as it goes."

Brown quickly signed with the Rams when free agency started last February, replacing the retired Jeff Wilkins. The decision shocked the Seahawks, who were negotiating with Brown and thought he would stay.

Said Holmgren, "I don’t usually enter in the negotiations or the money part of it but in Josh’s case I did. He asked me to and I did. I was very surprised because I thought we worked out an understanding and then before I knew it he was gone. Every player has his reasons for doing things like that and I am not going to judge that. Those are personal reasons but I like Josh, he did a great job for us. I know last week he kicked a couple long field goals so he is a very capable guy.”

Said Brown, who kicked two 54-yard field goals last Sunday against the Giants and has accounted for 10 of the Rams' 16 points thus far, "There were things done and said, and the way they wanted to do things is not the way I wanted to do things. Sometimes, a fresh start is the best thing for a player. With the situation that was presented to me, that was exactly what I needed to do.

"There were things said and there were opinions shared that I didn't really care for. I don't hate anybody. I felt like they didn't really see me as a major value. They compared me to kickers in the league that I really didn't think were of the same caliber."

Brown liked the fact he received $4 million immediately from the Rams. The Seahawks were willing to guarantee $4 million, but $1 million was up front with the rest guaranteed salary.

He said, "I made more money upfront, and I did it in a shorter amount of time, where I'll be able to get another contract when I'm 32 years old. It just fit better for me."

Brown and the 0-2 Rams now face the also 0-2 Seahawks in an important division game. Said Brown, “It’s making it a little easier to walk into that stadium, that they’re 0-2, with the situation here. What can you say? The only thing I can do is what I can control. This team has a lot of talent and a lot of spark and we have to put a complete game together, we really do and this is a great opportunity to do that against a team that is wounded. We have to take advantage of that.”

By the way, Brown's two 54-yard field goals makes him 15 of 24 (62.5 percent) from 50 yards or longer in his career. He has made 5 of 6 from 54 yards in his career. Here is the breakdown on Brown's 50-plus-yard kicks: 50 (2-4), 51 (2-3), 52 (3-5), 53 (1-3), 54 (5-6), 55 (1-1), 56 (no attempts), 57 (0-1) and 58 (1-1). Interesting that from 54 yards or longer, he is 7-for-9 and 8-for-15 from 53 yards or less.

Speaking of kickers, it's only two weeks, but field goals are being made at an amazing rate. There have been 115 field-goal attempts, with 102 made (88.7 percent). The kickers on 21 teams haven't missed a field goal, with three only having one attempt and four having two.

SIMPLY NOTING

*Cornerback Ron Bartell did not practice Thursday because of a bruised lower ribcage, an injury that occurred on the final play of Wednesday's practice. The injury is not expected to prevent Bartell from playing Sunday against Seattle and he is expected to practice today. Cornerback Ricky Manning worked as the nickel back Thursday with Bartell on the sideline.

*Guard Jacob Bell did some work in team segments Thursday and was better than he was Wednesday. The starting left guard, Bell did not play against the Giants because of a hamstring injury. It should be known today whether Bell will be able to play this week. It's considered a 50-50 chance that he could play. ... Defensive end Leonard Little is also 50-50 to play Sunday, but it's expected he will miss his second game because of a hamstring injury suffered in the season opener.

*Running back Brian Leonard, inactive the first two games, has been getting more reps in practice, and could be active this week against the Seahawks.

*The Rams usually pipe in loud noise during practice before road games so the crowd noise can be simulated. Usually, the noise is just, well, noise. Thursday, music blared from speakers when the Rams' offense was in the huddle and at the line.

Said coach Scott Linehan, “I have a bad headache right now from the noise, I don’t know if that’s fake airport noise or crowd (noise), I’m not sure what that is, but I just wanted to change it up a little bit, give us some music and make sure it’s loud, work the noise. There is music and there’s all kinds of different noise. It always sounds like there’s some kind of weird noise coming out of their stadium when they come up to the line of scrimmage half of the time.”

One of the songs being played was "Eye of the Tiger." No jokes, please.

IT'S OFFICIAL

I give a lot of credit to Mike Pereira, the NFL's vice president of officiating. Some people might have issues with the job NFL officials do, but at least Pereira steps up and takes the heat when obvious mistakes are made.

Each week, he appears on NFL Network and discusses controversial plays and the decisions made. There was probably never a tougher week for him than this week after the issues that came up in the Broncos' victory over San Diego.

Not only did referee Ed Hochuli blow the call near the end of the end of the game that enabled Denver to retain possession and eventually win the game, but there was a computer malfunction earlier in that game that didn't allow a play to be reviewed.

Said Pereira, "Of all the things that happened, I’ve been upset all week, but this is another one that drives me to the brink. We’ve gotten new equipment here that has worked well, but all of a sudden we have a breakdown. Then as odds would have it, the system freezes as computers have a tendency to do and we get a challenge to review a critical play and quite frankly, all we can do is sit and listen to the guy upstairs as they try to reboot the system.

"It is a computer. We are going to have problems with the computer at times. We have a backup system built into the original system that’s supposed to kick in, but apparently there was a cracked disc in the hard drive, which created our problems. We’ve gone through a status check of every system in every stadium now. We’re doing that before every game we have at home this weekend. This has happened so rarely that I’m confident that it won’t happen again, but then again, I wouldn’t have thought it would have happened this weekend. This is very disturbing to me."

Pereira brought up an interesting point in response to those that believe it should be a no-brainer to allow a team to take possession on a fumble, even if the whistle has blown, which is what occurred in the Denver-San Diego game.

Hochuli's call of an incomplete pass blew the play dead when the whistle was blown. The Chargers recovered, but after the whistle. Replay ruled it a fumble, and the ball was moved back, but Denver retained possession.

Two years ago, the NFL changed the down-by-contact rule to allow a recovery when replay would overturn a down-by-contact ruling and make it a fumble. The thinking was that most players keep playing in those situations when there is a loose ball, despite the whistle, and the recovery happens quickly, sometimes even before the whistle has blown.

In this case, the recovery was quick, but it wouldn't always be that way. The ball just as easily could have bounced around, and with the whistle having blown and incomplete being signaled, virtually all players would stop.

Ironically, Pereira mentioned the DeSean Jackson play in the Philadelphia-Dallas game the night after the Chargers-Broncos game as an example of what happens when players stop.

Jackson flipped the ball backward before crossing the goal line. The officials blew the whistle and signaled a touchdown, but replay negated the touchdown because the ball never crossed the plane of the goal line.

Said Pereira, "Both plays create the ball being dead at the spot in which they touched the ground. So even if the Cowboys would have recovered the ball, we could not have given them possession. All we could do with replay is come back and put the ball at the 1-yard line, as we did.

"But it brought up something interesting that plays right into the situation with the Chargers. If you watch what happens, the Cowboys stop pursuing the ball. (Dallas cornerback) Adam Jones stopped because he heard the whistle and saw the (touchdown) signal. Therein lies the problem – how far can you extend (the play beyond the whistle)? It seems easy within the San Diego game because the recovery is immediate. Not so easy in this situation because he stops pursuing the ball. That, to me is the real issue when you look at these plays. How long can we let players play through the ruling on the field?"

So, when it comes to a potential change in the replay rules, Pereira said, "I think we have to take a step backwards first and look at what we did in 2007 when we brought ‘down by contact’ into a reviewable situation. We allowed players to play through the whistle at that point to a recovery of a fumble. We need to look and see if that has been successful, which I believe it has been.

"Now what we really need to do is see if we can take it beyond that, considering this play that happened on Sunday. Can we take it beyond that to the ruling of an incomplete pass and stretch it to the ball actually being recovered by the defender, as the Chargers did here, if in fact it was a fumble? You’re going to have a longer period of time, that one thing is for sure, but the question is can you extend it here to at least make the right ruling on the field. Obviously, we’re going to look at it because it was such a big play and we have had some success before with the ‘down by contact’ rule. We’ll take a long look at it, I’m sure.