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Free agents bring needed experience to Rams' roster ..
BY BILL COATS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
When free agency began in March, the Rams had just one player on their roster with 10 or more years of NFL experience — defensive end James Hall, who is preparing for his 11th season.
That number has jumped with the free-agent additions of linebacker Na'il Diggs, 31; quarterback A.J. Feeley, 33; center-guard Hank Fraley, 32; defensive tackle Chris Hovan, 32; and defensive tackle Fred Robbins, 33. Like Hall, all are 10-year veterans.
A little seasoning never hurts, particularly for a team as young as the Rams, general manager Billy Devaney pointed out.
"We had made a concerted effort to get younger," Devaney said. "We just thought to have some guys blend in wasn't a bad idea, to get a couple of veterans in, as long as it was the right guy. We weren't going to just bring in older guys."
Diggs is the favorite to start at strongside linebacker. Feeley for now is working with the No. 1 offense. Hovan and Robbins figure to mix into the rotation on the defensive line.
Fraley's versatility makes him a valuable backup, although he isn't conceding anything at this point.
"Everybody in this game wants to play, wants to start, but if the role is to step behind and help out where it's needed, I can definitely do that," Fraley said after the Rams' three-day minicamp wrapped up Saturday. "It's all about the team and what's best."
The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Fraley originally signed with Pittsburgh as an undrafted rookie out of Robert Morris in 2000. He never made the Steelers' roster, but he latched on with Philadelphia, where he started 71 of the 72 games he appeared in over six seasons.
Fraley spent the last four years in Cleveland. He was a full-time starter the first three, then moved into a reserve role last season. "I was like a half-backup," he said. "But I ended up playing a lot because of injuries."
The experience that he and the other veteran free agents provide is vital, Fraley said.
"You're not just talking about football; all the life experiences, too: how to handle yourself as a pro outside of the game," he said. "The guys they brought in, they're a class act, not just on the football field but off the football field.
"I think it's just that leadership and experience you bring. I know that's what you'll get out of me."
Veterans have an obligation, Fraley added, to help bring along the younger players.
"I definitely try to act like the veterans did when I came into the league," he said. "When I came in, Dermontti Dawson was the center in Pittsburgh. He treated me with respect. Dermontti said, 'Hey, if you need help, come to me. I'll teach you.'
"I try to pass that along. I think that's one of the reasons I'm still around playing."
The left-arm injury that offensive lineman Mark Setterstrom suffered Friday has been diagnosed as a torn triceps. No decision has been made on whether he will have surgery.
"Mark's not sure what he wants to do with it," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "We're kind of weighing our options right now. ... I feel bad for Mark, all the rehabbing he's gone through. He's just a tough guy and a quality guy."
Setterstrom has come back from major injuries to both knees. He tore the same triceps muscle near the end of last season and had surgery.
Defensive end Chris Long missed a second day of practice because of a death in his family. ... Organized team activities resume Tuesday. ... The first full-squad training camp practice will be July 31 at Rams Park.
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