Furrey performs well after switch to safety
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
Friday, Jun. 03 2005

As the forgotten man in the Rams' wide-receiver rotation last year, Mike Furrey
found it difficult to mask his disappointment. "It's frustrating," he said.
"You want to be out there contributing."

After catching 20 passes for 189 yards in 2003, his first NFL season following
three years in the Arena League, Furrey had just one reception for 8 yards last
year. He was on the active roster for only eight of 16 regular-season games.

But by collecting 13 special-teams tackles, the second-highest total on the
team, Furrey not only proved his worth, he helped engineer a position move that
could rekindle his career.

In early April, coach Mike Martz approached Furrey with an idea. "He said he
was trying to find a way to get me out on the field on Sundays because of my
special-teams play and asked me if I'd ever thought about playing free safety,"
Furrey recalled. "He said, 'Why don't you think about it?' And I just told him
right there, 'Let's do it.'"

So, Furrey switched numbers - to 25 from 82 - and moved across the locker room
to join the other defensive backs. "It's a little loud down there at the other
end anyway," he said, smiling. "You have the defensive linemen down there."

Then he began reshaping his body. The 6-foot Furrey played at about 180 pounds
last year. Thanks in part to some stout work in the kitchen by wife Koren, he's
already up to 202.

"My wife cooked a lot, and I ate a lot," said Furrey, 28. "Potatoes and steaks
... boy, I just loaded it up three times a day. And I made sure I'd get in the
weight room a good three or four hours a day so I could transition the food
over to muscle mass and be able to carry it."

The landscape at safety is far different from a year ago, when Adam Archuleta
and Aeneas Williams were entrenched as the starters. Archuleta is recovering
from a back injury and is doing limited work this weekend at minicamp. Williams
is no longer with the team.

The Rams acquired two veteran safeties (Michael Hawthorne and Michael Stone)
through free agency and then drafted two safeties (Stanford's O.J. Atogwe in
the third round and Florida State's Jerome Carter in the fourth).

But that doesn't mean Furrey won't have a chance to nail down a roster spot.
"He's done a real good job," Martz said. "He's doing a lot of things that for a
guy who hasn't played there before, you wouldn't expect him to do. He looks
like he's been doing this his whole career."

Furrey, who played wideout and cornerback his last season in the Arena League,
said: "... It's not as hard as offense - they give you a couple of sheets of
paper rather than a big Bible, like on offense."

Martz gives practice lukewarm review

Friday morning's practice, the first of a pair of two-hour workouts on the
first of three days of minicamp at Rams Park, marked the unofficial kickoff for
Martz's sixth season as head coach. It was a mediocre beginning, he said.

"Overall, I thought it was OK," he said. "We're not as sharp in any of the
phases that we need to be, but it's the first practice of the '05 season. At
least we've got a starting point."

In attendance but not participating as they recover from surgery were offensive
linemen Adam Timmerman, Grant Williams and rookie Richie Incognito. Offensive
lineman Scott Tercero became dehydrated in the morning session and sat out the
second practice.

Newson is out, Ayeni is in

On the eve of minicamp, the Rams dropped one linebacker and added another. Gone
is Tony Newson, a second-year pro who spent most of last season on the practice
squad. He was replaced by Louis Ayeni, 24, a 5-11, 213-pound Northwestern
product who played tailback and defensive back in college.