By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
08/15/2007

It was 100 degrees in the Earth City industrial park when the Rams took the practice field Tuesday afternoon.

The searing summer sun beat down on the players. The thick August air made if difficult to catch their breath.

Working conditions were extremely unpleasant for these large, sweaty men.

After a little more than an hour of drills outside, where the temperature peaked at 103, the Rams moved inside their practice facility . . . and discovered even more suffocating heat. Their giant shed was sweltering.

Nobody was surprised that frustrations finally boiled over. New Rams guard Milford Brown rumbled with defensive lineman Victor Adeyanju, throwing punches before players and coaches separated the furious players.

“It’s competitive,” coach Scott Linehan said. “This is probably the toughest week of two-a-days because we got through the first scrimmage, then we had the week before our first game, that kind of alleviated some of the monotony. Now we’re in the last week of two-a-days and it’s hot in here. Tempers flare.”


The Rams officially reached their point of physical and mental exhaustion. But Linehan doesn’t mind -– because this is an opportunity to make some real progress as a team.

Where players see adversity, coaches see opportunity. The Rams must be tougher in 2007. They need to be more disciplined. They need to get in excellent shape to play at high speed and maintain their tempo throughout games.

The Rams can’t get sloppy when they do get fatigued. They can’t earn the dreaded “pre-snap penalties” that Linehan preaches against.

They can’t suffer the mental breakdowns that often decide NFL games. Their margin for error in the hyper-competitive NFC West is very small.

Linehan doesn’t want to turn this training camp into “Junction Boys II” -– coaches can’t push players to extremes in the new NFL -– but he believes his guys have something to gain from their misery.

“It helps them a whole bunch,” he said. “It’s not just the physical conditioning, it’s the mental conditioning when you’re really tired and hot. It’s really hard to concentrate.”

Linehan saw the Dolphins benefit from working in soupy Florida conditions during his stint in Miami.

“My experience, one year in Miami, was I saw it happen to other teams we played early in the year,” he said. “We played two really good teams early. We won both games and my impression after the game was that conditioning was probably the biggest factor other than what happened on the field.

“It seemed to me like our team was much more prepared to play in the heat. Teams that played against us really didn’t respond very well. Part of what we’re doing is we’re training ourselves not for the first two games of the season (home games for the Rams) but the next two, having ourselves trained for playing in these kind of elements.”

When Tuesday’s practice ended, Linehan assured his troops that something was gained. Adeyanju had to let go of any hard feelings toward Brown, just as any player has to let go of a mishap during a game.

Each player on the team had to realize that working well while whipped was critical to building a good season.

“I was just being real matter of fact about how much of a test it is when you’re tired and you’re hurting and you really have to challenge yourself,” Linehan said.

“This is a real urgent thing we got to do as a team. We’ve got to really focus on being our most disicplined when we’re at our most tired state. It’s training.”