Coakley Back to Business
Saturday, June 10, 2006
By Nick Wagoner
If there’s anything Dexter Coakley has learned in his nine-year NFL career, it’s that the one way to guarantee dismissal from your team is to spend more time in the training room than on the football field.
“One of the things we always say is you don’t make the club in the tub,” Coakley said. “You don’t want to be in the training room.”
And, for the better part of his time in the league, Coakley and the training room were such strangers that Coakley wouldn’t have accepted candy from there. On Dec. 4 of last season, that all changed.
What seemed like just another game for a guy who had missed just one contest in his career (because of what he calls precautionary reasons), resulted in a season-ending injury as Coakley suffered a broken fibula and dislocated ankle that landed him on injured reserve.
“You go through a season like I went through last year with a rehab, that was a new situation for me,” Coakley said. “I haven’t been there before. It was tough and challenging. I kept the faith and kept plugging along and just got better.”
With no set date for a return, Coakley began working toward rehabilitation immediately. He worked with the training staff and coaching staff to try to get to a point where he could be back in time for the final minicamp, which is going on this weekend.
And, after all of his work, there he was Friday morning running around like a rookie for the first time in months.
“This was an injury you can’t put a timeframe on,” Coakley said. “We were shooting for this last minicamp. I had the green light a couple of weeks ago, but my coaches were being cautious about putting me in some of the OTAs (organized team activities). They are letting me go full bore now and it feels pretty good.”
Coakley might be going at full speed this weekend, but that doesn’t mean he is completely healed. He had a plate attached to his fibula and screws put in his ankle during the post-injury surgery. For a while, Coakley’s most difficult part of rehab was simply learning to walk again.
“By the time training camp starts, I will be 100 percent,” Coakley said. “I’m very close. I know in my mind what I am capable of doing and I don’t want to every think about my ankle. I want to go out and react and be a football player. I’m not to that point just yet.”
Coakley’s role on this year’s team remains unknown after the Rams signed Will Witherspoon and Raonall Smith. He has spent most of the weekend working on the weak side, but can also play strong side. Either way, Coakley is just happy to be back on the field.
“I never considered it,” Coakley said. “Anytime you have two young kids at home, you give it some thought, but I didn’t want to go out like this. They brought me here to help this ball club win games and we didn’t do much of that last year. It never really crossed my mind to just lay it down and leave the game. I wanted to come out here and show I am still capable of playing the game and help the team win ballgames, try to get to the ultimate goal which is the Super Bowl.”
DOUBLING UP: Second-year defensive back Ron Bartell has been rumored for a move to free safety since the team drafted him in the second round a year ago.
After spending all of last season at cornerback, Bartell approached the new coaching staff early in the offseason about perhaps making the move to free safety.
“I personally asked about it early on,” Bartell said. “They said we would see how things go; see where we need help. coach (Willy Robinson) came to me and asked if I’d try the new position. I definitely didn’t have a problem with it.”
As the Rams plowed through OTA's and this weekend’s third and final minicamp, Bartell has found himself pulling double duty for the better part of the past few weeks.
Bartell has worked at cornerback and free safety at various points. During the offseason, the Rams made numerous moves to improve the depth and quality of the talent in the secondary.
In that vein, they added cornerback Fakhir Brown and strong safety Corey Chavous in free agency and used their first-round selection on Clemson cornerback Tye Hill. The only position that wasn’t addressed was free safety.
But with Bartell’s willingness to move, it’s possible that position has been bolstered by someone already on the roster.
“They are going to work me at both positions and I’ll end up wherever I can help,” Bartell said. “I have no problem with it. I think it makes me a lot more valuable to play two positions. I think it’s good.”
NIGHT AND DAY: Coach Scott Linehan gave a glimpse into the Rams’ training camp plans Saturday afternoon. The Rams plan to bring in some temporary lights and go on a two practice, one practice, two practice schedule.
Training camp will last through the second exhibition game against Houston on Aug. 19. One day of camp will consist of a morning practice followed by a night practice under the lights. The next day will be an afternoon practice before going back to the night practice the day after.
Final training camp plans will be finalized soon in regards to practices open to the fans and other details.
RAMMARKS: Running back Steven Jackson missed Saturday morning’s workout because he was busy serving as the honorary chair for the Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the cure. He returned for the afternoon practice.
Tony Fisher took the running back repetitions with the first unit in Saturday’s morning workout.
Defensive end Clifford Dukes was released just prior to camp after spending the majority of last year on the practice squad.
Cornerback Fakhir Brown continues to impress, making another interception Saturday morning after grabbing a pair in Friday’s afternoon workout.
Travis Fisher also made an acrobatic interception in Saturday’s morning workout, diving in front of Kevin Curtis to grab the ball in the end zone.
Undrafted free agent running back Antoine Bagwell is getting plenty of work this weekend as a backup and has showed some flashes of elusiveness and speed.
Offensive linemen Orlando Pace and Todd Steussie sat out Saturday’s workout because of slight calf injuries.
Running back Fred Russell also missed Saturday because of a stomach virus.