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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
    MauiRam is offline Pro Bowl Ram
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    Finding Pisa Mind

    Finding Pisa Mind
    Sunday, May 11, 2008

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    As if walking the fine line between reckless and fearless wasn’t difficult unto itself, imagine sprinting across that line with no regard for your health all the while have a giant chip attached to your shoulder.

    Now picture running across that line at a high rate of speed only to be met in the middle by guys who outweigh you by 50, sometimes even 100 pounds.

    At 6’1 and a weight normally between 235 and 240 pounds, this is the internal struggle that manifests physically every season for linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.

    And for the past three seasons, without fail, Tinoisamoa has suffered a variety of injuries. Of those injuries, some were minor and Tinoisamoa was able to play through them (such as the shoulder he continually dislocated and played through in 2005). Others were season ending as Tinoisamoa found himself on injured reserve, bringing his seasons to an abrupt ending each of the past two seasons.

    “This is my self analyzation,” Tinoisamoa said. “Mentally, I had this huge chip on my shoulder saying you are not big enough to play this game so everything I did I tried to do it full speed. I was hitting guys two times bigger than me way harder than I needed to; it was just reckless at times. There was no need to do a lot of the things I did but I did it.”

    For his first three seasons in the NFL, Tinoisamoa did those things better than just about anyone else. Maybe he was undersized but his hustle, desire and fearless approach to the game helped him rack up 121, 145 and 134 tackles in his first three years.

    By the end of the 2005 season, Tinoisamoa had cemented a reputation as a relentless tackler unafraid to take on any blocker. Despite taking as many crushing blows as he dealt, Tinoisamoa played every game that trio of seasons.

    Tinoisamoa suffered a dislocated left elbow in the second game against San Francisco on Sept. 17. He re-injured it two weeks later. That injury cost him just two games and Tinoisamoa figured it was minor bump along the way.

    On Oct. 11, Tinoisamoa received a contract extension that solidified his role as one of the defensive leaders and made him one of the most well compensated players in the league.

    After returning and playing in five games, he suffered a sprained right shoulder on Dec. 3 against Arizona and a broken right hand on Dec. 11 against Chicago. He had broken his left hand in a practice on Oct. 25. Tinoisamoa was placed on injured reserve three days later and played in a total of 11 games.

    After recovering from the hand, shoulder and elbow injuries, Tinoisamoa figured he would add some weight in the offseason. He was sick of hearing the undersized comments and figured some added weight could help him hold up for a full season again.

    But Tinoisamoa says he got bad advice and believes he didn’t handle the addition of weight the right way.

    “Weight is not a bad thing as long as it’s the right weight, getting stronger in the weight room and whatnot and that’s not the weight I put on,” Tinoisamoa said. “It was more laziness and it actually carried over to the mental side where I got mentally lazy and kind of got content with where I was in my career.”

    When the 2007 season began, Tinoisamoa had put on some weight but it wasn’t the lean mass that he had hoped would help him hold up against larger blockers.

    Just one game into last season, Tinoisamoa found himself right back on the list of walking wounded, suffering a sprained right foot in the season opener against Carolina. That injury cost him the next two games before a return against Dallas on Sept. 30.

    Finally healthy for the most part, Tinoisamoa began to play some of his best football in the next eight weeks. He made every start during that span and was back among the team’s leading tacklers.

    Disaster struck again on Nov. 25 against Seattle when Tinoisamoa suffered a torn Medial Collateral Ligament. Once again, Tinoisamoa’s season ended too soon. He finished with 79 tackles but played in a career low nine games.

    After playing in every game his first three seasons, Tinoisamoa played in just 20 of a possible 32 in the past two seasons.

    Watching for the second straight year and this time with the Rams in the middle of their poorest season since moving to St. Louis made standing on the sidelines in street clothes almost unbearable for Tinoisamoa.

    “It was tough just watching,” Tinoisamoa said. “It was so hard watching the team suffering and not being a part of it or not being able to contribute in any sort of way was frustrating for me.”

    The player once renowned for his toughness after popping a dislocated shoulder back into place seven times during the 2005 season was now the guy whose toughness was being called into question.

    As Tinoisamoa attacked this offseason and preparation for the 2008 year, he couldn’t help but use the whispers as motivation for his training.

    “I think that fueled my fire this offseason,” Tinoisamoa said. “Just knowing that you are that guy now that everyone is like, ‘I don’t know about him.’ You hear it from coaches and all around, it kind of fuels me to get better. It fueled me to say, ‘I am not going to do that anymore.’ Not that it was my choice anyway, but I am going to do everything I can to make sure I am not. I had to look inside myself and say, ‘Am I doing the most I can to make sure that physically I am in the best shape I can be, that mentally I am playing smart?’ I have come to peace with myself and I feel like although there are things that fuel me because of injuries, that fuels me but it doesn’t drive me. What drives me is being the best, being a winner and being a great teammate.”

    In addition to the durability questions, Tinoisamoa is dead set on proving to the Rams, the fans and everyone around the league that he is worth the money the Rams gave him in 2006.

    “Once you get paid, it’s easy to say, ‘All right I got paid and there it goes. Thank you,’” Tinoisamoa said. “But I’m a guy who wants respect and I know I am better than that. I worked so hard to get to the NFL and now I am in the NFL and it’s like as a kid growing up you say ‘I want to go to the NFL and win a Super Bowl’ but once you get to the NFL, you realize dang, this is hard and you might lower your standards a bit. But I can’t play like that. I can’t live like that even if they paid me. I can’t do that.”

    The fortunate news for Tinoisamoa was that his injury required no surgery after he underwent a litany of them in the previous offseason.

    Tinoisamoa’s offseason consisted of resting the knee injury and trying to get into the type of playing shape that would allow him to reach his goals.

    “Pisa has worked very hard,” coach Scott Linehan said. “He is just like anyone else. He had a little tough luck the past couple years being banged up a little bit. His play speaks for itself when he’s out there. His only hold up has been staying healthy. I’m sure that weighs on his mind, but he is using it as a positive that he wants to take care of himself as well as he can and he has taken care of himself. He hasn’t been a guy that hasn’t really worked at it. He has just some really bad luck. Hopefully that is all behind us now.”

    For the most part, Tinoisamoa appears to be back to full health and running around with his usual vigor and enthusiasm.

    Still, he is the first to admit that he has come to a sort of career crossroads and knows that in the NFL a player is constantly proving and re-proving himself to his teammates, the fans, coaches and opponents.

    This season, he has set his sights on a simple goal of getting through the season unscathed with the knowledge that if he can do that, the numbers and production of his first three seasons will almost certainly return.

    “As long as I’m healthy but that would be my goal is to just stay healthy and once I do I feel like I can do some damage,” Tinoisamoa said. “Mentally, I had to say, ‘You know what, I am six years in, I don’t have to prove myself anymore. I just have to play smart and I need to make it through the year.’ Those kinds of things I think are going to help me. I am not going to say it will keep me off the injury block but I believe it will prevent a lot of the things that have occurred. Some of the freaky things that have happened may happen but mentally and physically I am prepared to take on anything that happens.”


  2. #2
    Mooselini's Avatar
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    Re: Finding Pisa Mind

    All I can say is please stay healthy. Thats all I really have to say.

  3. #3
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Finding Pisa Mind

    Size and weight, size and weight....who cares. There are many examples of guys smaller than Pisa that were/are great linebackers. In my mind it's about strength, heart, ability and over all football knowledge.

  4. #4
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    Re: Finding Pisa Mind

    He needs to play smart no need to drill a 330 LB DT. Save it for the 220 LB RB.

  5. #5
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    Re: Finding Pisa Mind

    Glad to see he's recovering nicely. No surgery needed is a plus.

  6. #6
    Chris58's Avatar
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    Re: Finding Pisa Mind

    Tino is on to something. I have always respected his all out approach but maybe he has overdone it because he tried to prove the naysayers wrong. I hope he can stay healthy because when he is, he is a good NFL linebacker. Go Tino!

  7. #7
    HUbison's Avatar
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    Re: Finding Pisa Mind

    I've always had a soft spot for Pisa T.

    I know I've told this story, but I love it, so I'll tell it again. My wife and I along with our new infant son make our way to Macomb in summer of 2004 to see the Rams. After the 2nd of two practices that we got to see, most of the players are lining up working the autograph line. Some were hospitable (Dane Looker, Marc Bulger, Jimmy Kennedy, Chris Chandler, Kevin Curtis, Aeneas Williams, Grant Williams, Kyle Turley....yes, I said Kyle Turley, every no-name that is now selling insurance or coaching high school, etc.), and others were not (nah, I won't go there). Overall, I was very impressed with the manner in which the Rams players interacted with the crowd. Genuinely impressed.

    And at the top of that list was Pisa T. This guy greeted every fan with a smile and a "thanks for coming out." He signed anything and everything, and treated his younger fans with special attention. Case in point: when he reached my family's spot in line, he took notice of my infant son by communicating with him through baby talk. Few things as surreal as watching a 240 pound man who gets paid millions of dollars to inflict pain on other fully grown men speaking in "coos" and "babbles" to an infant, but I digress. He asked me if he could hold my son. Now here's the conundrum I found myself in. I make it a practice to not hand over my children to the requesting arms of professional violence distributors with criminal records. Pretty much chapter 1 in the big book of parental standards. However, in this particular case, I practically threw my son at the man while reaching for my camera. Tinoisamoa and my son were then joined by Dane Looker who began discussing the art of fathering with me like we were at a PTA meeting or something. I still have the picture........both on photo paper and etched in my mind.

    Every Sunday during the fall, I remind my now 4 year old son that the Samoan fella with the extra long name and "50" jersey once played with him after practice. The boy still doesn't quite get the significance..............but he will.




    P.S. If anyone ever wants Marshall Faulk's autograph, you either need to BE or have access TO a hot woman. He passed up numerous dudes and children, but for the ladies he managed to find a little time. My wife (who is still smokin' hot, if I do say so myself) is the only reason I have a football with 28's sig on it.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  8. #8
    Chris58's Avatar
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    Re: Finding Pisa Mind

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison View Post
    I've always had a soft spot for Pisa T.

    I know I've told this story, but I love it, so I'll tell it again. My wife and I along with our new infant son make our way to Macomb in summer of 2004 to see the Rams. After the 2nd of two practices that we got to see, most of the players are lining up working the autograph line. Some were hospitable (Dane Looker, Marc Bulger, Jimmy Kennedy, Chris Chandler, Kevin Curtis, Aeneas Williams, Grant Williams, Kyle Turley....yes, I said Kyle Turley, every no-name that is now selling insurance or coaching high school, etc.), and others were not (nah, I won't go there). Overall, I was very impressed with the manner in which the Rams players interacted with the crowd. Genuinely impressed.

    And at the top of that list was Pisa T. This guy greeted every fan with a smile and a "thanks for coming out." He signed anything and everything, and treated his younger fans with special attention. Case in point: when he reached my family's spot in line, he took notice of my infant son by communicating with him through baby talk. Few things as surreal as watching a 240 pound man who gets paid millions of dollars to inflict pain on other fully grown men speaking in "coos" and "babbles" to an infant, but I digress. He asked me if he could hold my son. Now here's the conundrum I found myself in. I make it a practice to not hand over my children to the requesting arms of professional violence distributors with criminal records. Pretty much chapter 1 in the big book of parental standards. However, in this particular case, I practically threw my son at the man while reaching for my camera. Tinoisamoa and my son were then joined by Dane Looker who began discussing the art of fathering with me like we were at a PTA meeting or something. I still have the picture........both on photo paper and etched in my mind.

    Every Sunday during the fall, I remind my now 4 year old son that the Samoan fella with the extra long name and "50" jersey once played with him after practice. The boy still doesn't quite get the significance..............but he will.




    P.S. If anyone ever wants Marshall Faulk's autograph, you either need to BE or have access TO a hot woman. He passed up numerous dudes and children, but for the ladies he managed to find a little time. My wife (who is still smokin' hot, if I do say so myself) is the only reason I have a football with 28's sig on it.
    Great story Hub. Being a relative newcomer I hadn't heard this story before but now I like Tino even more than before.

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