Coakley set to battle again
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Last year at this time, linebacker Dexter Coakley was one of the Rams' prize recruits in free agency - brought in to shore up a sagging defense.
One year later, Coakley is rehabbing an ankle and leg injury that ended his season, and facing the prospect that he will begin the season, his 10th in the NFL, as a backup.
"That's been my story pretty much my whole career," Coakley said. "Every time I've had to battle to get a starting job."
Maybe so, but it's unfamiliar territory nonetheless for Coakley, a three-time Pro Bowler.
Before signing a five-year, $14.15 million contract with the Rams last March, Coakley had started all 130 regular-season and postseason games in which he had appeared in eight seasons with Dallas.
He started nine of 12 games with the Rams last season before suffering the injury December 4, while playing against Washington. Late in the first quarter, Coakley suffered a dislocated ankle and a fractured fibula in his left leg defending a sweep by Clinton Portis.
He finished with 42 tackles - easily a career low - plus two sacks and in interception.
Coakley had a plate attached to his fibula and two screws inserted in the ankle. After such a serious injury so late in his career, Coakley, 33, said retirement crossed his mind. But not for long.
"Obviously, when you've got two young kids at home, you think about, 'Well, do I want to go push myself to come back through (the surgery)?'" Coakley said. "But going out on the note I went out on last year, I wasn't happy. I wasn't excited. Because I didn't play as often and as much as I wanted to.
"So I still felt like I had something to prove. I wanted to come in and be a productive player and help this team win ballgames. I feel like I really didn't get a chance to do that."
Chris Claiborne, who also was brought in last year to shore up the linebacker corps, won't get another opportunity. He was released before the start of the free agency period. But Coakley gets a second chance, even if it's not in a starting role.
It looks as if the Rams plan to open the season with Pisa Tinoisamoa at weakside linebacker, Will Witherspoon in the middle and a player to be determined on the strongside.
"It's not so much worrying about being a starter," Coakley said. "My thing is just contributing and helping this team win football games."
Even if his role is reduced in 2006, Coakley is excited about the hiring of Jim Haslett as defensive coordinating and the signing of free agents such as defensive tackle La'Roi Glover, Witherspoon and strong safety Corey Chavous.
"We're putting a lot into the defense," Coakley said. "We're investing a lot into it, with players. And good players - not just players that are going to come in and wear a jersey."
As for the addition of Haslett, Coakley said, "He's going to bring an attitude that I don't think we had last year. He's going to bring a toughness that I don't think we had last year. All those missed tackles you saw on the field last year - they're not going to tolerate that.
"They're going to have guys swarming to the ball. ... I'm excited about that because it reminds me a lot of the defenses I played back in Dallas."
Coakley had the screws removed from his ankle about six weeks ago. He hasn't ruled out participating in the Rams' pre-draft minicamp, set for April 21-23, but that might be an optimistic goal.
"There's still a long road ahead for me," he said. "I have to work hard. There's nothing going to be handed to me.
"I have to go out there and try to prove each and every day that I'm still capable of playing the game. And I'm looking forward to that challenge."
I don't know if he can really come back from such a serious injury at his age but, man, you have to like the guy's attitude.
Yea but I don't want to see him starting. Good backup though!
I don't like having 2 cowboys on our team, albeit former.
....and why is it we don't go after all the Seahawks players like they do to us?
Easy my friend. They don't have players that are worth the money:)
nah, I like this guy's attitude and if anything, he himself will bring some life into the Defense, on the field, or on the sidelines, I think (hopefully) he could be a leader, he does know how to play, he could teach the younger guys a thing or two...