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Hill Working Hard to Return
Hill Working Hard to Return
Saturday, April 4, 2009
By Nick Wagoner
The majority of the Rams’ biggest offseason moves centered on their secondary.
In the cases of cornerback Ron Bartell and free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe that meant doing whatever it took to retain the talented young duo. The Rams did just that in signing Bartell to a long term contract and placing the franchise tag on Atogwe.
In the case of strong safety, the Rams pursued and signed talented young veteran James Butler to team up with Atogwe on the back end.
With three of those four positions solidified, the only remaining spot up for grabs is at the corner opposite Bartell. And though nothing has been settled or determined as to who will man that spot, there’s one option on the roster who began the process of staking his claim during this weekend’s minicamp: Tye Hill.
“I do believe I am the key component for us to be really good,” Hill said. “OJ and Bartell have proven themselves over these past few years and Butler did in New York. I feel like I am behind them. I have to catch up to their level; I have to be able to put this secondary over the top. I believe I can be that guy. All I have to do is just get healthy, continue to work hard and learn the scheme.”
As he prepares for his fourth season in the league, Hill is hoping to finally meet the expectations that came when the Rams made him the 15th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Soon after that, Hill declared his intentions to make the Pro Bowl and become one of the leaders of the Rams’ defense. Not for a lack of talent, none of those desires have been fulfilled.
In fact, Hill’s biggest enemy has come down to nothing more than an inability to stay healthy.
“I never say it was a confidence thing because I never lost my confidence,” Hill said. “It was just one thing after another. It was just boom, boom, boom, get injured, get injured, get injured. I have got to stay away from these injuries.”
To that end, Hill has spent as much or more time than any Ram in the weight room in the offseason. While he’s not fully recovered from the knee injury that put him on the sidelines for almost all of last season, Hill is edging closer to 100 percent health.
“I don’t have any impressions from Tye from before,” defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. “I know he has had some injury situations. We are just excited from the fact that he’s healthy and he’s out here working and he’s learning our defense. Just to have him out on the field is a great thing.”
Hill believes that by adding some weight to his 5’10 frame, he can avoid some of the injuries that have plagued him in the past three years.
When he entered the league, Hill said he weighed about 185 pounds. But in the time since, he says he had dipped as low as 170 pounds and was regularly playing around 178.
Hill says he has had his weight as high as 190 pounds and would prefer to play closer to that number than some of the others he’s played at in recent years. That doesn’t mean Hill is just sitting around, eating a bunch of calories.
Hill is working close with strength coach Rock Gullickson to ensure that any weight he puts on is done the right way.
“That just means me working harder when the lights are not on, when I’m in the weight room, when I am in the classroom, when I am back home,” Hill said. “Those are all the things I have to do while I am gaining this weight and being able to play with it.
“You have to have that extra muscle mass to carry you over this because it’s like two college seasons. You have got to have that to play and honestly I feel like that’s the main thing I have to focus on and also just learning the scheme and continue to stay out there and get as much work as possible.”
It hasn’t hurt Hill at all that he already has a strong bond with Bartell and Atogwe from their time together in St. Louis. Hill is even closer to Butler from their days in the ACC together (Hill at Clemson and Butler at Georgia Tech).
Butler and Hill own a Golden Corral restaurant together in Georgia. Butler’s knowledge of coach Steve Spagnuolo’s defense should only be beneficial for Hill moving forward.
“I don’t think Tye has lost his swagger yet,” Butler said. “He is definitely very motivated to be one of the best corners in the league this year and he has been working very hard this offseason, he’s been around the Rams, around the facilities to get better. Tye Hill will be a great player this year.”
During this weekend’s minicamp, it was already evident to Spagnuolo that Hill has the potential to fit in with the Rams’ burgeoning secondary.
“What I liked is all four of them did work well together,” Spagnuolo said. “The communication was good. That’s not easy when you put some different parts together. It helped that James was here and knew the system a little bit and I think he shared that with him. But I thought all four of them worked well together and I thought Tye fit right in there. He did a nice job.”
Certainly, Hill had some rust to knock off this weekend, something that’s only natural when you haven’t had any football activity since Sept. 28.
Hill did not need additional surgery in the offseason. Instead, he worked with the training staff in St. Louis and back at Clemson to rehabilitate. More than anything, he simply needed time to rest and allow the swelling to go down.
Despite the injuries, Spagnuolo said Hill was able to continue to compete and work with his teammates, allowing him to take the majority of the repetitions with the first team opposite Bartell.
“It’s coming along pretty good,” Hill said. “I am able to get out here practicing. I am able to do two a days. I have had my ups and downs but that’s one thing that’s real encouraging to me is that I can still go unlike last year when I couldn’t. It’s doing real good. I am able to run, I am able to do all of the things that I can do and now I am just working through it and continuing to work and just getting better.”
While Hill is not yet 100 percent, he’s edging ever closer. And considering Spagnuolo’s track record of getting the most out of his defensive talent (see: Webster, Corey in New York), Hill believes he’s closer to reaching his potential than ever.
That doesn’t mean that Hill is taking anything for granted.
“It’s always your job to lose,” Hill said. “If I don’t play, if I don’t produce, I am going to lose my job. The coaches have got a job to keep. One way for them to keep their job is for me to do my job right. If I am not doing my job right then they are going to put somebody else in. That’s not something I am really focused on. I am just focused on myself because when I take care of myself everything will be fine.”
Re: Hill Working Hard to Return
C'mon Tye Hill. This defense needs you to play up to your Clemson headlines. C'mon man, shut me up. Make me eat everything negative I've said about you because I'll gladly do it if you are successful. However, you are a first round pick.....play like one.
Re: Hill Working Hard to Return
Spags coached Corey Webster to a dramatic turnaround after it looked like he was a huge bust. Lets just hope he can do the same with hil
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