Extra pounds are helping McDonald stay strong
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch

MACOMB, Ill. - Last winter, wide receiver Shaun McDonald was asked to report to Rams Park on March 1 - a full month before the start of the team's offseason conditioning program.

It shortened his offseason, but helped his career.

"It definitely helped me," McDonald said. "I'm glad I did it."

McDonald used the extra time to do a lot of weightlifting and running. By design, he put on 10 pounds - "ballooning" all the way up to ... 182 pounds. What a horse.

By midseason in 2003, his rookie season, McDonald had dipped into the 160s.

"I want to try to be over 175 the whole year," McDonald said.

The better to take the pounding from defensive backs after receptions, or throw the occasional downfield block. Last training camp, with wide receivers going down with injuries all around him, McDonald kept going and got worn down.

This year, he's still getting a lot of work in camp, but he seems to be handling it better. He has had a few drops on the practice field. But McDonald appears to have his quickness and lateral movement back - qualities that got the Rams excited about drafting him in the fourth round last year despite his small stature.

"I've got all that back," McDonald said. "I think I'm just in better shape. I'm trying to stay healthy this year and make it through the season."

McDonald also is mentally fresher this year.

"Mentally, I'm not as tired because I'm not thinking as much," he said. "I'm a lot more confident, just knowing what I'm doing out there. I'm not thinking as much as last year - I'm just going out there and trying to perform."

McDonald began the '03 season as the Rams' No. 3 wide receiver. He caught six passes for 46 yards in the season opener against the New York Giants but suffered a thumb injury in that game that sidelined him for the next four weeks. After the layoff, McDonald was unable to work his way back up the depth chart. He caught only four more passes the rest of the season, playing in only seven of the final 11 games of the regular season.

This season, McDonald faces a tough chore trying to break into the rotation at wide receiver. However, early indications are that he will get a chance to earn the punt returner's job, which could get him on the field on game day.

"If I get back there, it's going to be fun to get the ball in my hands and try to make things happen," McDonald said.

Randall jumps right in

Newly signed offensive tackle Greg Randall reported to camp in decent shape and has made a good impression on coach Mike Martz in his first practices with the team.

"The thing that's been impressive is he has made a very small amount of mental errors for all the things that we've thrown at him," Martz said. "He's in better shape than I would have anticipated."

Randall has been working with the second-team offense at right tackle.

Back to work

After a day off Sunday, the Rams return to work today with meetings and an afternoon practice at Western Illinois University.