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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010
    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    For a 10-year NFL veteran, the idea of putting on the pads and trudging through another long practice in the burgeoning summer heat might be less favorable than a visit to the dentist.

    For newly added offensive lineman Hank Fraley, there’s nowhere he’d rather be.

    “It’s a dream come true for me every year,” Fraley said. “So each year I treat it like it’s my first and it could be my last. I just love football and being around the guys and playing so I just try to bring that energy and if I am down, I hope there are guys I can lean on to get me up. But I try to be positive every day. It’s a job but it’s fun.”

    Fraley says he has been playing football since he was 6 and now, at 32, he still plays with the same childlike enthusiasm that has carried him through an accomplished NFL career.

    When the Rams went searching for some depth on the interior of their offensive line during the free agent signing period, they had hoped to find someone with the versatility to play all three interior spots.

    It was considered a bonus if they could find someone who combined that versatility with the experience and leadership skills to help out their many young linemen.

    Enter Fraley, who fit the bill and then some. On March 12, the Rams signed Fraley to a three-year contract after he spent the previous four seasons with Cleveland. The idea was to bring in someone capable of backing up Jason Brown at center and compete for a possible starting job at guard.

    In just a couple of months and four organized team activities, Fraley has already done much more than that, according to coach Steve Spagnuolo.

    “Here he is a veteran guy and he’s working with the second and third (team) once in a while and doesn’t complain one bit,” Spagnuolo said. “I will watch him rallying those young guys together like in the two minute drill, pumping guys up. We need that.”

    Not that Spagnuolo or offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is even remotely surprised by what Fraley brings to the table.

    In fact, it was the presence of Spagnuolo and Shurmur in St. Louis that helped sway Fraley from some other potential landing spots when he embarked on free agency.

    Fraley spent the first six years of his career in Philadelphia where Spagnuolo was coaching defensive backs and linebackers and Shurmur was tutoring quarterbacks.

    Although neither Spagnuolo nor Shurmur coached Fraley’s position, they both formed a relationship with the young lineman.

    “I had a good relationship with those guys even though they didn’t coach my position,” Fraley said. “I liked their attitude and I always felt they were great and would go somewhere and do bigger things and that’s what they are doing here. When I got here it was just like seeing those guys again was like they had been coaching me all my career.”

    Of course, the respect went both ways considering the way Fraley came to become a valuable contributor on many successful Eagles teams.

    Fraley entered the league as an undrafted free agent, signing with Pittsburgh in April of 2000 after spending his college career playing left tackle at Robert Morris.

    The Steelers asked Fraley to move inside to center where he immediately began learning under one of the game’s all time greats in Dermontti Dawson. Dawson openly embraced Fraley and all of the young linemen, something Fraley always remembers now that he’s in position to do some mentoring of his own.

    “When I got into this league, Dermontti Dawson was the Steelers center and he had his door wide open for anything I needed or questions,” Fraley said. “I kind of embraced that and that’s how I leave my door open for any of these guys, especially the young guys. I was young once and know how it feels.”

    While Fraley was unable to catch on with the Steelers, the Eagles claimed him off waivers in August of 2000. After landing on the pregame inactive list for every game that season, Fraley pushed his way into the lineup in just his second season, starting 15 games and playing nearly every offensive down.

    In 2005, Fraley suffered a shoulder injury eight games into the season that cost him the rest of the year. It was the only injury of note during Fraley’s remarkably durable career. After spending those six seasons in Philadelphia as the starting center, Fraley was traded to Cleveland before the 2006 season.

    For the Browns, Fraley started every game in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Suddenly, last season, he was asked to shift over to guard. It was a new experience but one that Fraley enjoyed.

    “I got thrown in there at guard and really enjoyed it,” Fraley said. “It was just something that was totally different. It was like being a rookie again. I don’t mind it at all.”

    All told, Fraley has started 123 of the 135 games he’s played in the NFL. He’s started 10 postseason games including Super Bowl XXXIX with Philadelphia.

    In coming to St. Louis, it hasn’t taken long for Fraley to fit in. In addition to his previous relationship with Spagnuolo and Shurmur, Fraley is extremely familiar with a system nearly identical to the one he played in while with the Eagles.
    Fraley says his fellow linemen, including locker room ringleader and resident example setter Adam Goldberg, have been quick to welcome him into the fold.

    As for Fraley’s role, he has made it clear that he is comfortable and capable doing whatever is asked of him. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s willing to stand back and just accept a backup role.

    Fraley has worked mostly as the backup to Brown at center but is continuing to work at guard as part of what figures to be a battle for one of the starting guard jobs with the likes of Goldberg, Mark Setterstrom, John Greco and Roger Allen III.

    Along the way, Fraley is making sure to provide as much guidance as he can, even for the players with whom he’s directly competing.

    “I just try to lead by example when I go out there. I can get vocal but I am not a vocal type of guy,” Fraley said. “I am more of a do it myself guy and hope the guys follow me. I try to keep guys up and say let’s get it going. If it’s a dropped ball, you have got another one coming your way. I try to stay positive out there and I guess I have been that way my whole career.”

    As for how long that love of grinding through difficult practice sessions and even more daunting NFL seasons will last, Fraley doesn’t see it coming to an end anytime soon.

    When the day comes that Fraley doesn’t enjoy something as simple as an OTA in May, that’s when he’ll know his time has come and he can go pursue the other things he enjoys in life.

    “If I get to that point and hopefully it’s not this year or next year or in three years but if I get to that point, that’s when I need to say it’s time to retire when I am just out here like what am I doing this for?” Fraley said. “Right now, I just enjoy the game. I don’t know what else I’d rather be doing. Maybe fishing and hunting all the time.”


  2. #2
    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    Excellent -- really like to hear this, a great attitude by a genuine, hard working OL veteran. Fraley can easily be a starter and his versatility as C / G is more than welcomed.

    This is one key addition to help our much maligned OL.

  3. #3
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    Re: Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    Definitely a good pick up by the Rams this off season, as long as Fraley doesn't turn out to be a clone of COGs. Anyone know what number he'll be wearing?
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  4. #4
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    Re: Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    dgr; looks like he'll be wearing #65 from the official site, and the photos

  5. #5
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    Re: Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    Hank Fraley is like the exact opposite of Richie Incognito.

  6. #6
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    Re: Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    Quote Originally Posted by RealRam View Post
    Excellent -- really like to hear this, a great attitude by a genuine, hard working OL veteran. Fraley can easily be a starter and his versatility as C / G is more than welcomed.

    This is one key addition to help our much maligned OL.
    I second this sentiment!

    A much welcomed attitude and discipline to our line. Very refreshing.

  7. #7
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    Re: Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    Quote Originally Posted by RockinRam View Post
    Hank Fraley is like the exact opposite of Richie Incognito.
    agreed

    10 chars.

  8. #8
    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    Quote Originally Posted by RockinRam View Post
    Hank Fraley is like the exact opposite of Richie Incognito.
    Oh, absolutely. Fraley, far more mature and responsible. Most OL are aggressive and very tough by the nature of the position but it takes a man with brains and character to stand out as a consistent, good, reliable worker.

    ...Caramba, to think I had supported Cog up to last year.

  9. #9
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    Re: Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    Quote Originally Posted by RealRam View Post
    Oh, absolutely. Fraley, far more mature and responsible. Most OL are aggressive and very tough by the nature of the position but it takes a man with brains and character to stand out as a consistent, good, reliable worker.

    ...Caramba, to think I had supported Cog up to last year.
    I supported the physicality of his play, not the idiotic side.

  10. #10
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    Re: Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    Cogs could be our best lineman or our worst... unfortunately, usually it was the worst. His head got him kicked out of St Louis, not his ability. I supported him too, just hoping he'd get smart, which he never did.

    As for Fraley, he's a great signing. I love him as the swing guy on the interior or as a possible starter at RG. He should be great alongside Brown as a leader of the line.
    I believe!

  11. #11
    Bralidore(RAMMODE)'s Avatar
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    Re: Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    Cogs was a great run blocker only IMHO. He missed a lot of blocks in the passing game, especially at the beginning of the season.

  12. #12
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    Re: Fraley Finding Niche Fast ..

    I wish we could put Fraley's brain and attitude into Cog's body.

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