Burley attempts to catch on at TE
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch07/30/2004
MACOMB, Ill. - Summoned to coach Mike Martz's office in May, Nick Burley feared the worst.
"I thought something bad was going to happen," said Burley, an undrafted rookie in 2003 who spent about half the season on the Rams' practice squad.
Instead, Burley got a new lease on his NFL life. A long shot to make the 53-man roster as a defensive end, Burley was informed that he was moving to tight end, where there are fewer personnel.
Burley, whose only previous tight-end experience was one high school game, was stunned but pleased.
"It was a shock, but I needed that to let me know that I still have a shot to make the team," he said. "Now, I just have to go out there and prove myself every day."
Veterans Brandon Manumaleuna and Cam Cleeland are the front-runners at tight end. With the Rams expected to keep three at that position, Burley would have to beat out rookie Erik Jensen, a seventh-round draft pick this year, to secure a roster spot.
"I think he's got a terrific chance, just because of watching him catch the ball and run, his attitude," Martz said. "He's a long way away. It's a big project for the first few weeks until he gets things sorted out. ... There are a lot of tight ends in the league that you can go out and bring in, and we thought we might have a terrific athlete here that once he has knowledge of the position, who knows what he can do? So, we'll see."
Burley, 24, said the greatest challenge is "learning how to block. On defense, you just attack, attack and attack. And now you can't really attack because the defense is moving. You have to learn the footwork, the proper body lean, a lot of technique."
Several veterans are getting limited repetitions. Included are Marshall Faulk (knee) and Aeneas Williams (toe), plus wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, just to limit the wear and tear on them.
Defensive tackle Bernard Holsey, who underwent thigh surgery in February, is sitting out contact drills while the muscle rebuilds. Offensive tackle Kyle Turley, who had back surgery in the offseason, was sore after Wednesday's dual workouts. He participated in Thursday morning's full-pads practice but skipped most of the afternoon drills.
Cornerback Robert Cromartie suffered a mild leg injury early in the afternoon practice and headed for the trainer's room. But offensive guard Peter Heyer, who left Wednesday's morning practice with breathing difficulties, was checked out in St. Louis and returned to the field Thursday.