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Coach admits that first practice made him nervous
BY STEVE KORTE
ST. LOUIS - New coach Scott Linehan didn't sleep as soundly as usual Wednesday night before the St. Louis Rams' first practice of training camp.
"I've got to admit, it wasn't my normal head hits the pillow and go to sleep," Linehan said. "I had a lot more things on my mind, but that's part of the deal. It wasn't a bad lack of sleep, let's put it that way."
Linehan didn't have any nightmares about forgetting his offense or showing up late for practice, though he's had that recurring bad dream since college.
"I still have that college dream where you showed up for class and had a test and you didn't study," Linehan said. "You guys ever have that one? I still have the one from college."
The Linehan era officially kicked off Thursday with two practices at Rams Park.
Linehan was reminded before the first practice about it being a special day in his life by former Rams offensive line coach Jim Hanifan, who was the head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1980-85.
"I talked to Coach Hanifan, and he said you'll always remember your first day, and I'm sure I will," Linehan said. "You always want things to go well, but the biggest difference going from a position coach or coordinator to head coach is you kind of worry about everything.
"Even though you want the (offense) to stick it down the middle of the field with a big play, you certainly don't want the (defense) to be giving up that play, and vice versa. You're wearing a few more hats, and you're concerned about the big picture. That's exciting for me."
Linehan spent most of his time with the Rams' offense. He left the coaching of the defense to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and his staff.
"I didn't see much of him with the D-line group, but you can hear him," Rams defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said of Linehan. "He is barking out orders. He is giving guys tips and pointers and things of that nature. He is extremely active on the football field."
Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said Linehan made sure that everything ran smoothly during practice.
"He's just busy, checking on everyone's drills," Bulger said. "He keeps the tempo going. I wouldn't necessarily say he's too meticulous about every little thing on the field, but if he feels there's a lull in practice or the intensity is not where it needs to be, he gets it back up there."
Bulger said Linehan, unlike former Rams coach Mike Martz, didn't spend much time tutoring the quarterbacks.
"I wouldn't say he's as hands-on as Mike was," Bulger said. "I don't know if there's anyone in the league that's as hands-on as Mike was with the quarterbacks.
"I think he knows he has a guy like (backup quarterback) Gus (Frerotte) who has been with him for five years now, forever, and can help me out rather than him having to keep beating me down with things. Gus is pretty much a coach out there, too."
Glover said the first practice went about as well as expected.
"The first practice was typical of a first practice for anything," Glover said. "We were a little rusty. There's a lot of nervous energy out there. Guys are like chickens with their heads cut off at times.
"That's to be expected the first day of practice. There's no way to go from here but up."
The Rams were in shoulder pads and shorts for both of their practices Thursday, but there was no shortage of contact as players banged bodies, especially during running drills.
"That's football, that's training camp" Rams running back Steven Jackson said. "It may be something new here, but that's football. Nobody got mad out there. Coach wants this team to have a new attitude, and to me, it started today."
Linehan said he stayed way from full pads Thursday because there were so many new things being installed on both offense and defense. He said the Rams would be working in full pads during their afternoon practice today and maybe during their morning practice Saturday.
"With a team like this, we have a lot of young guys and a new staff, it's going to take having the dog days, the grind, the aches and bruises and all that stuff to get the big picture of what the makeup of this team is going to be all about," Glover said.