Thursday, August 17, 2006

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

The dog days of Camp Linehan – Year One are almost complete. As Thursday’s practice came to an end, the Rams had essentially finished off the first training camp of the Scott Linehan era.

After some initial doubt about the modified schedule and the physical nature of Camp Linehan, the Rams came to terms with the changes and embraced it. Now, many of the Rams believe that the hard work in camp will pay dividends sooner than later.

Take defensive tackle La’Roi Glover for example. Glover has been in his share of training camps (this is his 13th) and he says this camp might have been his toughest.

“It's up there,” Glover said. “It's tough. The others were all proven head coaches and he's come in here and he's wanted to put his stamp on it. He wants a physical ballclub. You can tell by the way we practice. We're up tempo. We're physical. We're flying to the ball.

“This has been a grind, man. “We've been, for the most part, in full pads every single day. The weather's been hot. It's been dog days and all that stuff. We're finally starting to see a little light. It feels good.”

That’s coming from a six-time Pro Bowler, who has played for notorious drill sergeant coaches such as Bill Parcells and Glover’s current defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.

Linehan’s adjustments to camp that were different from the past included a two-practice every other day format with one practice sandwiched between. On days when there were two practices, one was in the morning and the other was at night, leaving the one day practices for the hottest part of the afternoon.

The idea was to give the players more time to recover and rest to keep some of the tissue injuries such as hamstrings and the like to a minimum. For the most part, that strategy worked as the Rams have had no real major injuries. Compare that to last year, when the team was already without one of its starting cornerbacks (Jerametrius Butler) by this time and you can see why more teams are moving in that direction.

Sure, some of the lack of injuries has been luck, but Linehan believes there is more to it.

“There’s the old ‘knock on wood’ theory, I just think it’s the way we condition and train. I think that has more to do with it than just luck,” Linehan said. “Some of it is luck, but I think our guys came into camp in great condition. That’s why we’ve maintained a pretty healthy group.”

The extra time to rest has also come in handy because the Rams have also spent more time in pads than in the past. On a regular basis, the Rams were in pads two out of every three workouts, sometimes twice in a row.

Linehan made it clear he and his staff wanted to instill a physical presence on both sides of the ball and being in pads has helped establish that attitude. Defensive end Leonard Little doesn’t remember ever spending so much time in pads in camp, but he does believe it will help establish what Linehan wants.

“In training camp, probably so,” Little said. “It’s only going to help us out because we were probably very last in the league last year against the run as a defense and it really forces us to get down and be in the proper position when we are in pads so hopefully it will help us out in the end and we’ll be able to stop the run on defense and run the ball on offense.”

Perhaps the biggest obstacle of Camp Linehan had nothing to do with anything he did different. The St. Louis heat and humidity were far worse than last year and at times, stifling. At one point in camp, there were four consecutive days with temperatures over 100 degrees.

That’s where the extra rest came back into play. The Rams had only one player, Glover, miss any time because of heat-related issues and he only missed a single practice.

“I missed one practice because of losing water weight,” Glover said. “I lost like 13 pounds in one day. After that, I came back and never missed a snap or missed a practice. I've been rolling. That shows the young guys something, too. If an older mature guy can do this, then they should be able to with no problem. There shouldn't be any excuses.”

FAULK ON JACKSON: In his first year in the NFL, it was the job of Steven Jackson to work as the caddy and backup to future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk.

Last season, Jackson ascended to the starting position with Faulk as his backup being used in a more limited role. This year, the job belongs to Jackson. And Faulk thinks that could mean big things for the Rams offense.

“I think it should be great,” Faulk said. “Steven is a very very hard worker, he has the desires of being not just a good back, but the best back in the league. I think when you have that as a player it means you are going to get a lot out of yourself. He expects a lot from himself.”

Faulk also believes that the change in offensive philosophy being installed by Linehan should help Jackson reach his goals of becoming the best in the league.

“I think Scott came in and kind of changed the philosophies of the team that OK we are going to throw the ball, we have some dynamic receivers but we are going to run the ball,” Faulk said. “He is going to carry the ball anywhere from 20-30 times a game. We are going to pound the ball. This offensive line is going to have the opportunity to get off the ball on people and keep the defense on the field and when our defense is on the field they are going to have to compete. With all of that being said, I think it will all help Steven. The team success will grow his success. This will be a great year not just for the Rams, but a breakout year for Steven.”

TELEVISED RAMS: After the gesture of Edward Jones and the Rams, in which the company and the Rams bought up the remaining 2,000 tickets for Saturday night’s game against the Texans, the Rams will be on television in the St. Louis area for the first time in the Linehan era.

The team’s contest against Indianapolis was blacked out last week. Linehan says it’s important for the fans to see a better team so that the sellouts will continue in the regular season and to avoid further blackouts.

“I think it’s great for everybody who wants to watch us and can’t make it to the ball game,” Linehan said. “I think it’s part of the deal. If we put a good product out there, we’re going to have more and more TV games as we keep going with this thing.”

PRESEASON PREPARATION: On the original schedule of preseason practices, the Rams were supposed to host their final open to the public practice Thursday. But, Linehan and Co. altered the scheduled Wednesday when they announced Wednesday’s morning workout would be the final open practice of this training camp.

The reason, Linehan said, is to start getting the team into regular season practice mode.

“It’s a prep practice for Houston,” Linehan said. “We’re going to do it like the regular season like it’s a Friday, so we’re doing all of our game plan type plays that we’re going to be running in the game.

Linehan even joked that it would be sealed off so that the Texans’ couldn’t steal any trade secrets.

“We’re actually going to be going through our opening Script,” Linehan said, laughing. “So I don’t want Gary (Kubiak)’s best friend, who lives in St. Charles, to come over and watch practice. He would never do that, though.”