By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Aug. 23 2007
Scott Linehan isn't a classic yeller and screamer, but there are times when the
Rams' coach will ride a player to drive home a point. One of his frequent
targets, particularly early in training camp, has been tight end Dominique Byrd.
"I just see so much talent there, and so much potential," Linehan said. "Some
days I see that we're realizing that (potential). And some days I don't see it.
I hate to see such a talented young man one day be consistent, and the next day
not, because he could really do a lot for this football team if we was
consistent every day."
The Rams invested a third-round pick on Byrd in the 2006 draft. As Byrd enters
his second NFL season, the Rams want to see that potential turn into production.
"He's not unlike a lot of players that are young and haven't figured it out
yet," Linehan said. "Dominique will be the first person to tell you that he's
really working on that. He is getting better, though."
First-day draft status or not, it remains to be seen whether Byrd has
progressed enough to nail down a final roster spot. The addition of veteran
Randy McMichael from the Miami Dolphins has significantly upgraded the Rams'
tight end position. McMichael will be the starter, with second-year man Joe
Klopfenstein — last year's starter — as the No. 2.
If the Rams keep only three tight ends, that leaves Byrd battling Aaron Walker
for the final spot. Byrd sounds as if he's taking nothing for granted.
"You have to know as far as the league is concerned that every year is a
another year for you to compete at your position," Byrd said. "I'm obviously
just looking to fit in, get my niche on the team."
Complicating Byrd's status is the fact that he faces two trial dates in the
coming months for alcohol-related arrests:
— One in October for allegedly driving under the influence and driving without
a license in California.
— The other in December for his alleged role in a nightclub scuffle in downtown
Under the no-nonsense approach to player misconduct displayed by NFL
commissioner Roger Goodell, Byrd might be facing a suspension as those legal
"I can't worry about anything that's out of my hands," Byrd said. "I just focus
on the football right now, and all those issues, they'll be handled in their
In terms of football, Byrd has worked on becoming more consistent, while
striving to think less and react more on the field.
"I want to make sure that I can play fast," Byrd said. "Because in a game, if
you have a hesitation on one call, it can make you look like you don't know
what you're doing."
Byrd says he has felt more comfortable with the offense and the playbook over
the last week or two. But there still have been some glitches.
"In our first preseason game, I missed a 'hot' read, and that was something I
definitely know — it's second nature to me," Byrd said. "But when you get in a
game, sometimes you try to think fast."
And that's when mistakes can happen. In this case, when Byrd failed to adjust
his route in response to a blitz by the Minnesota defense, it led to seven
points. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick compounded the problem by throwing the
ball anyway. The pass was intercepted and returned 82 yards for a touchdown by
Vikings linebacker Dontarrious Thomas.
Plays like that draw the ire of coaches, even someone with an even-keeled
temperament such as Linehan. It's not as if Byrd enjoys getting yelled at, but
he realizes that's better than the alternative — being ignored by the coaches.
"If you don't hear anything, you're kind of worried, like, 'I hope my phone
doesn't ring,'" Byrd said.
With someone on the other end of the phone line telling you to turn in your
"That's just one of those things with this job," Byrd said. "You have to take
every single day as its own entity, and work hard to get better, and pay
attention to the coaching. That's what you try to do because this is not a game
of longevity. You've got to make your mark as soon as you can."
In Byrd's case, the sooner the better.
Countdown to cutdown: Tight ends
Tights end in camp: 5.
Likely to make final roster: 3 or 4.
Safe & sound: Joe Klopfenstein, Randy McMichael.
On the bubble: Dominique Byrd, Aaron Walker.
Probably not: Mark Anelli.
Note: Rosters must be trimmed to 75 by Aug. 28 and 53 by Sept. 1.