By Kathleen Nelson
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, May. 01 2005

Rams coach Mike Martz proclaimed rookie minicamp a success, a good first step
in the Rams' progression to training camp.

"I think this is probably as fine a crew as we've had in," Martz said of the
rookies and first-year players assembled over the weekend at Rams Park. "It's
really exciting to see these guys. In shorts, everything out here looks good.
Who knows? We'll see if they can play under the pressure and deal with
everything that happens in the NFL. But it's a good start. I'm really pleased
with them."

Martz gave a brief outline of the team's training regimen leading up to camp in
late July at Rams Park. For the next two weeks, veterans will meet on Tuesdays
and Thursdays for individual workouts. Most of the rookies will join them for a
light round of organized team activities, OTAs for short, beginning May 17 on
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until mandatory minicamp June 3-5. The team
will then hold a second round of OTAs for eight days before breaking and
reconvening at camp in late July.

"The OTAs that we do before minicamp are kind of a watered-down version of what
we do after minicamp," Martz said. "So, it's really kind of a ground-gaining or
just kind of a gradual process to get these guys reinvolved. We really felt
like not doing any field work until May was beneficial to get these guys some
rest, to get them away from the football aspect. Let them lift and run and get
physically back."

Martz said he expected all but two rookies, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick of
Harvard and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe of Stanford, to be available for the first
round of OTAs. League rules state that players can't participate in such
activities until after graduation of their senior class. Fitzpatrick said he
expected to join the team at OTAs in late May. Stanford's graduation is
scheduled for June 11.

Who needs
a playbook?

Martz said the rookies would be dismissed from minicamp without a playbook, not
that they needed one.

"Their notes should suffice," Martz said. "We'll give them some information.
Playbook is kind of a misnomer. It's our standard where we begin."

Cornerback Ron Bartell said coaches reported giving them about 60 percent of
the basic defense. "I think they gave us just enough. I think it will give us a
head start for when we get to camp," he said.

Players spent roughly 18 to 20 hours in class over the weekend, starting with
meetings at 8 a.m.

"I've been here just three days, and I don't know what day it is," Bartell
said.

None of the five practice sessions lasted as long as scheduled, though Bartell
said, "I really didn't notice it. When you're out there working hard, every
minute seems like an hour. They've been pretty lenient. I'm sure when we get
started, it won't happen."

Surgery updates

Martz said rookie guard Richie Incognito would need four to six months of rest
and rehab before returning to workouts on the field. Incognito, a third-round
pick out of Nebraska, underwent surgery on his kneecap Thursday in Birmingham,
Ala.

"We feel eventually, we're going to get a really good player there," Martz
said. "If you rush one of those things, then you just compound it. So when he's
back, he's back."

Martz offered a brighter prognosis on himself, after undergoing surgery two
months ago to have a replacement disc implanted in his lower back.

"I feel great," he said. "I was going to run some routes out here today."

Tattooed

Bartell bears one of the more elaborate tattoos emblazoned on the arm of an
athlete, the verse of John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his
only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life."

Bartell said the verse was a favorite of his grandmother, who died when Bartell
was 12. "This way, I can always carry it around with me," he said, noting that
the tattooing process "took about an hour - an hour of pain."