Monday, May 15, 2006
By Nick Wagoner
Coming into the rookie minicamp, few players carry more expectations than the first-round draft pick. For some that pressure might be a bit much to handle, but for Tye Hill, the only thing on his mind was growing accustomed to the speed of the NFL.
“I haven’t even thought about any of that stuff,” Hill said. “All I have thought about is just coming in and just playing. I am here to play ball. I’ll think about that pressure stuff later. Right now, I am just learning. I have to learn. When you are learning there are going to be bumps and bruises in the road so I just have to keep going.”
After a first practice Saturday morning that Hill said had his “lungs about to explode,” Hill settled in nicely and made a strong first impression on the coaching staff.
“What he showed was obviously the skill level we are looking for, but what you don’t get to see when you don’t see him play year around is the competitive side,” coach Scott Linehan said. “He’s a great competitor. He’s got a great spirit about him. He’s a humble kid. I said that from the beginning. He has got a confidence level but he knows he has a ways to go. He keeps his mouth shut and goes about his business and improves every day. That’s what we are looking for.”
Hill made the adjustment to the speed and tempo of an NFL practice soon after the wake up call that was his first workout and spent the rest of the weekend getting used to being back in normal coverage situations.
“I felt I did pretty good for just getting back into football shape and playing against receivers,” Hill said. “I haven’t done that since the Senior Bowl. I have ample room for improvement and once I learn this defense I feel like I will do even better.”
That opportunity to get better should come right away. The Rams begin organized team activities Tuesday morning and that will represent Hill’s first opportunity to go up against star receivers Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and the rest of the team’s experienced receivers.
Nothing against the likes of Clinton Solomon and Taylor Stubblefied, but Hill is looking forward to that chance.
“As far as OTAs, I am looking forward to some more (chances),” Hill said. “I am actually looking forward to some of the veterans coming in like Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce and the receivers. Hopefully I will get a chance to go against those guys.”
INCOGNITO IMPRESSES: Offensive lineman Richie Incognito was unable to participate in any minicamps a year ago as he recovered from a knee injury. But after extensive rehabilitation and conditioning, Incognito appears poised for a breakout season.
Incognito arrived at the team’s voluntary workout program at 295 pounds and worked at guard in the team’s first minicamp. This weekend, he worked at center, giving the coaching staff a look at his versatility.
“He did a great job,” Linehan said. “We worked him at center; I think that was good for him. The first minicamp he was trying too hard to make sure his knees were good and playing guard and had some pressure on him. This one, he had to put a lot of thought into making the calls at center. He did an excellent job and showed he can play that position. He gives us another thing to look at.”
While Incognito will probably continue to get opportunities to take repetitions at center, his immediate future is likely at guard, according to Linehan.
“He’s obviously competing at the guard spot and could possibly be a center down the line,” Linehan said. “I have been really happy with his whole offseason approach and the way he has come about his business. He has done an excellent job.”
MAN OF MANY USES: One rookie who made a strong first impression over the weekend was receiver/quarterback/returner Marques Hagans, the team’s fifth-round choice out of Virginia.
Hagans worked exclusively at receiver Saturday and Sunday, finishing those practices by taking repetitions as a punt returner. His role changed slightly Monday, though. Because the team was forced indoors by the rain, the Monday practice included only the rookies, leaving Hagans as the only player in the workout with quarterback experience.
Linehan said the idea of getting Hagans some snaps under center was in place for some time.
“That was the plan a little bit,” Linehan said. “We wanted to give him the chance to do that. That’s going to be his MO to be versatile. He’ll be at receiver, there will be times you might see him in the backfield as a running back, every once in a while take a snap. It proves to us he is the ultimate versatile type of athlete and we got him a chance to work in at another position.”
Plans are already in motion to find unique ways to keep Hagans involved on the field. He showed good hands and strong route running abilities during most of the receiver drills over the weekend. Once he gets all of the details hammered out, he will likely get more opportunities to move around.
“I think it’s just when the time is right,” Linehan said. “We want him to get comfortable at the receiver position. You can go crazy with that type of stuff so you don’t want to overload him. He’s pretty comfortable at quarterback so it’s pretty natural for him to take a few reps there.”
Hagans says he was considered too small to play quarterback in the NFL, but it appears that his role will be much larger than his stature.
“The more you can do, I always say,” Linehan said.
ROSTER MOVES: The Rams made a pair of roster moves at the conclusion of their minicamp, paring two players from the roster after Monday’s morning workout.
St. Louis released tight end Ed Nelson and defensive end Kory Lothe, both undrafted rookie free agents. Nelson was attempting to make the transition from basketball to football after playing two years of hoops at the University of Connecticut. Lothe was signed out of Eastern Illinois.