Monday, August 4, 2008

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

MEQUON, Wis. – As defensive line coach Brian Baker stalks the field, observing his players in hopes that his yelling has somehow made a dent, he can’t help but think how much easier it’d be if he could hold their attention the way La’Roi Glover does.

“You hear so much about guys yelling but when guys want to listen, I can yell until I am blue in the face and tell them something a thousand times before it gets through,” Baker said. “Glove can say it once and it’s understood. The guy because he has done it and done it the way I am talking about doing it, it shows on film. All of a sudden a picture speaks a thousand words and especially when a guy like him is doing it. It’s invaluable.”

Glover is the unofficial elder statesman of the defensive line and a kind of ambassador for the defense. Although he’s a soft spoken, lead by example type, his role entering his 13th season in the league goes beyond that of starting “three” technique defensive tackle.

Flanked by fellow veterans Leonard Little and James Hall, Glover represents the ideal mentor for the younger defensive linemen such as Adam Carriker and Clifton Ryan.

And while Baker commands plenty of respect and trust from his troops, he doesn’t have six Pro Bowl appearances nor does he rank seventh among active players with 83 sacks.

It’s Glover’s resume that helps every word spoken carry so much weight.

“We’ll get down in our stance and he’ll be calling out run or pass,” Carriker said. “He’ll almost tell you the play before it even happens so I just pick his brain and learn from him. He’s a great mentor.”

Just how much longer Glover chooses to be a mentor, at least as a player, remains to be seen. Glover is entering the final year of his contract with the Rams and though 34 doesn’t make him a dinosaur, he already walks with a pronounced limp.

“I don’t want to talk about retirement yet but hopefully when it’s done, it’s done,” Glover said. “And hopefully I’ve had a good solid career and can limp away from it.”

In this training camp, Glover has been working at his usual starting spot on the line, taking every repetition with the first time in practice. In an effort to keep him fresh, coach Scott Linehan and Baker have given Glover a day off here and there.

In 2007, the Rams scaled back the amount of playing time he gets in an effort to have him at full speed particularly on third downs when he can put his inside pass rushing skills to use.

Glover started slow but the reduced work kept him fresh enough to finish the season with a flourish. He ended the year with 59 tackles and six sacks, including five in the final seven games.

The Rams hope to continue to dial down Glover’s snaps in 2008 and have worked hard to keep him fit during this camp by sprinkling in days off. But Glover will continue to start as the “three” technique tackle in a rotation with youngsters Adam Carriker and Clifton Ryan.

“Glove takes every snap, after that, we gave him the day off, just because he was sore and a little tired,” Linehan said. “But, he’s really turned it on, where he can be a heck of a threat if we can rest him a little more this year, even like we did last year, but even more. Have him in there on those critical third downs, where he’s real fresh, boy, he could do some damage I think.”

Glover has looked every bit the dominant force he once was in this training camp. In Friday’s practice, Glover was virtually unblockable according to Linehan.

The fact that Glover works as hard as he does during camp is impressive I itself considering his general dislike for training camp.

Glover said he generally judges a camp based on the available food and so far this camp ranks among the best of his 13 seasons. Glover’s tendency to lose a lot of weight during camp has regressed because of the cooler conditions at Concordia.

At 290 pounds, a nice breeze goes a long way.

“I think the weather is important for a guy like me,” Glover said. When the weather is the way it is in St. Louis or New Orleans, I have the tendency to cramp up a lot.”

Beyond weather and dining options, Glover is embracing this training camp for far more sentimental reasons. Although it remains to be seen, he knows there’s a chance this training camp could be his last or at least one of his last.

Glover had that very discussion with his wife Spring before he left for this camp.

“I have always been one of those guys who really hated training camp,” Glover said. “I didn’t like anything about it. But for whatever reason I talked to my wife about it and some other guys about it and their advice to me was to enjoy every moment. Just enjoy it, whatever it is. It’s going to be a grind, it’s going to be tough, you’re going to be tired but try to enjoy each and every day of it.”

With the whole season ahead of him, Glover is hoping his tutelage will help a Rams defensive line that struggled to get pressure on the quarterback in 2007. Glover’s six sacks were second on the team and represented more than the unit got from its defensive ends combined.

Glover has already begun preparing for life after football even if he doesn’t want to think about it. He earned his public administration degree from San Diego State in the offseason and could easily transition to coaching should he choose.

And though he isn’t willing to talk retirement yet, he does acknowledge that when the time does come for him to walk away, he not only does it on his terms but he does it knowing he gave the game everything he had.

“That’s the goal, to get it completely out of your system so when it is time to say those words, you don’t have any regrets and you are not worried about maybe I should come back,” Glover said.

There he goes again, more wisdom from the elder statesman.