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Thread: Inside Slant
He started showing up early in training camp, being around the ball consistently, taking advantage of a situation where several linebackers missed practice time because of injuries.
Quinton Culberson is young and inexperienced, but he is making coaches stand up and take notice. An undrafted free agent from Mississippi State, Culberson began his college career as a cornerback, was switched to safety and only played linebacker his final two years.
Now, he stands a decent chance of making the Rams' roster.
"He has great instincts and a lot of natural talent to play the position," coach Scott Linehan said.
Asked about the good things being said about him, Culberson responded, "I'm not going to get hyped up about it. It feels good that people do see that I'm playing real hard and working to try to make this team.
"Once you get on the field, no matter if you're first round or second round, fifth round or seventh round, everybody gets an opportunity. It's just how you do when you get your turn."
He has done well when that turn has come, working often with the second team. After his performance in the preseason opener against the Vikings, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said, "He's got a natural nose for the football. Even when he doesn't know the hell he's doing, he makes a tackle. Those guys are hard to find, a linebacker like that. I really like the kid."
Added Linehan, "He is one of the many bright spots with our young players. I think what we have seen through camp and now in his first preseason game, the guy just shows up. He always seems to be around the ball. He had a great open-field play, a pass break-up. A legitimate NFL play when he broke up that pass and then showed up on some plays on defense, starts getting tackles. He really had a really good game in special teams. He is continuing to impress."
CAMP CALENDAR: Camp opened July 27 with the first practice the next day. There was an intrasquad scrimmage Aug. 4. Camp closes Aug. 19.
—Searing temperatures caused the Rams to move most of their daytime practices inside during the last week. That was expected to be the plan this week, with highs still around 100 on a daily basis.
"It's the hottest spot in the country right now," coach Scott Linehan said. "One of the precautions you take with extreme heat is to have an alternative plan. When it's 100 degrees out, and you're pushing towards 105-110 in the heat index, it's (something) to really pay attention to."
Because the Rams hold training camp at their own facility, they have the ability to practice inside. For space reasons, the offensive and defensive linemen do individual drills outside, then come inside for the "team" parts of practice. Still, it wasn't exactly cool inside.
"We want to be able to work the guys and get in shape," Linehan said. "We want them to feel it. It's designed that way, we don't want it too cool."
After one inside practice, rookie defensive tackle Keith Jackson said of starting work outside, "We come in here and it's like, 'Oh man, they've been living lovely.' We've been outside for about 45 minutes and it's feeling real good."
—In a mild surprise, Brett Romberg started at center in the team's opening preseason game against Minnesota instead of Andy McCollum. McCollum played in just one game last season because of a knee injury and Romberg started the final three games of the season there.
Coach Scott Linehan said this was the plan all along and nothing to do with the fact that McCollum missed practice two days before the game because of the stomach flu. Linehan said McCollum would start this week against San Diego.
"Based on Brett finishing the year as the starting center and Andy coming back off injury and not knowing where he was going to be, we decided that going into training camp," Linehan said. "I think as we get into the preseason, especially after this game, I think there will be a clearer picture as to who is leading."
—Coach Scott Linehan successfully challenged a second-half incomplete ruling of a pass to wide receiver Derek Stanley, in which the ball bounced up in the air. The officials ruled the ball had hit the ground, but on review it was determined the ball bounced off a Minnesota defender's hand without touching the ground. However, Linehan almost failed to get the red flag out in time
"My feeling initially was that the ball came up awful funny," Linehan said. "It seemed like it might have bounced off of somebody or somebody's hand. We were looking at the review. The officials were adamant that it hit the ground. There was a little doubt in my mind. I didn't see it. I only saw how the ball came up. We got a pretty good look at the review, right before we were going to snap the ball. I had to get through five or six things in my pocket to find my red flag. That will never happen again. I think I threw everything. I'm surprised I didn't rip my pants off. I don't know if they have me on film on that one. I'd like to burn that copy. It was pretty embarrassing."
Asked what is in his pocket, Linehan said, "You know, I had my wallet, my cell phone ... actually had my pocket buttoned, because before the half, they said don't throw the flag, so I buttoned it to make sure I didn't throw the challenge flag. Usually, (equipment manager) Todd (Hewitt) takes it out, so I had it buttoned and didn't unbutton it. The flag is usually out so you can grab it, but the flag had been tucked in and I didn't check it. I need to make it part of my checklist to make sure my flag isn't tucked in too deep. It was a great situation and a really unique challenge. I'm not sure how many times you will see that. That is as close as they come on a big play."
Stanley ran for a touchdown after the catch, but because the play was blown dead, the Rams were given the ball at the spot of the reception.
—With DT La'Roi Glover sidelined by a hip injury, second-year DT Claude Wroten played a lot of snaps against Minnesota.
Asked about Wroten's play, coach Scott Linehan said, "I think he showed he is a much improved player from a year ago. His minuses came in the run game. We graded pretty tough on those young players all across the board. Last year, I don't think Claude would have graded as high as he graded this game. He always shows up in the pass. He has a great get-off. He is a penetrating defensive tackle. Where he needs to continue to improve and has improved is playing the run. I think it was a good start for him."
The Rams hope Wroten can be productive so Glover can be limited to 25-30 plays a game. Asked about that being a reality, Linehan said of Wroten, "I think it is a great role for him. I have no reason to believe that it is going to not work."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He finished the season last year playing on a bum leg. He's had to take it easy during training camp. We've been real diligent in our efforts to try to get him back and able to play 100 percent. I don't think he's there yet, but he's showing signs that he's close." — Offensive coordinator Greg Olson on WR Torry Holt, who had two receptions for 26 yards in the preseason opener.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LT Orlando Pace, coming back from a torn triceps injury suffered last season, started and played with the rest of the first team on their two early possessions. Said offensive coordinator Greg Olson, "He's slowly but surely getting back to form. At the start of training camp, he was somewhat reluctant to use that left arm. But as camp's progressed, he's become more and more comfortable with it. We saw him using his left arm (against the Vikings), and there were no limitations there. So, we're excited about that."
WR Fred Gibson was added to the roster to replace Lamart Barrett, who was placed on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury. Barrett was waived injured and reverted to injured reserve when he cleared waivers. The Rams are trying to work out an injury settlement with him. Gibson was a fourth-round pick of the Steelers in 2005, whom coach Scott Linehan got to know when he was on Miami's practice squad that season. Gibson had been released by the Falcons on July 30.
—WR Dominique Thompson suffered two displaced ribs against Minnesota Aug. 12 and is expected to miss two weeks of practice. Thompson was making a bid for a job as the team's sixth receiver.
—C Brett Romberg started against the Vikings after starting the last three games of the season there. Romberg will not start this week against San Diego as Andy McCollum gets the nod.
—C Andy McCollum, coming back from a knee injury, did not start in the preseason opener against Minnesota, but will start this week against San Diego.
—DT Claude Wroten played a lot of snaps against Minnesota with La'Roi Glover bothered by a hip injury. Wroten is being counted on to play a lot this season.
—DT La'Roi Glover aggravated a hip injury in pregame warm-ups before the Minnesota game, and did not play.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Brett Romberg vs. Andy McCollum for starting center — This competition might be closer than anticipated. While Romberg played well at the end of the 2006 season, it was thought McCollum's experience would give him an edge. Romberg did well in two possessions against Minnesota as the starter. McCollum will start this week against San Diego. Whoever starts in Week 3 against Oakland will probably get the opening-day nod.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: QB Brock Berlin played against deep reserves, but still drove the team down the field for the winning field goal against Minnesota. Berlin completed five of six passes for 60 yards on the drive, including a 21-yard strike to rookie Derek Stanley for a key first down on third-and-14. Ryan Fitzpatrick still has the edge, but Berlin could be gaining on him. ... RB Kay-Jay Harris had a nice 17-yard run and stood out in the competition for the No. 3 running back spot with Travis Minor and Rich Alexis. ... Recently signed OG Milford Brown played with the second team at right guard, and is fighting Claude Terrell for a backup job.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Derek Stanley — The seventh-round pick from Wisconsin-Whitewater had four receptions for 61 yards and also looked good on kickoff and punt returns. He would have had more yards had a reception not been first ruled incomplete before being overturned on a replay challenge. Asked if Stanley's play was surprising, coach Scott Linehan said, "I don't know if it was surprise. I think we have always felt that he has that ability. I think that the game not seeming too big for him was encouraging and he did a nice job of coming in and doing some returning and making some plays as a receiver. It was a heck of a heads up play on that one play. A lot of rookies would have just stopped right there and not kept playing. He just kept playing and it ended up being a completed pass. I wish they wouldn't have blown it dead. That would have been a great touchdown to put in the books. He showed me something."
ROOKIE REPORT: NT Clifton Ryan (fifth round) is steadily improving and will likely be the backup nose tackle. ... NT Keith Jackson has an uphill climb to make the roster unless the team keeps five tackles and three ends. If released, the team hopes he clears waivers and can be added to the practice squad. ... C Dustin Fry is in a battle for a job on a deep line and could also end up on the practice squad. ... PK Kevin Lovell has little chance of unseating Jeff Wilkins, but he had to open some eyes around the league by hitting two fourth-quarter field goals (39 and 40 yards) to first tie and then win the game against Minnesota. Lovell not only made the field goals, but he drilled them down the middle.
INJURY REPORT: WR Dominique Thompson was in competition for a sixth receiver spot, but suffered two displaced ribs against Minnesota and will likely be out two weeks. After being injured on a hit by Vikings S Mike Doss, Thompson came back in the game. "That was a tribute to his ability to handle that," coach Scott Linehan said. "It had to be extremely painful." As for the injury affecting Thompson's chances of making the team, Linehan said, "It's going to give other guys opportunities, but it doesn't dispel our feelings about him. He's done enough at this point where if he were to be in that spot that he's competing for, he'd do a nice job."
DT La'Roi Glover was limited in practice during the week because of an injured hip and then aggravated it in pregame warmups. Glover did not play against the Vikings. Others that didn't play against Minnesota were WR/KR Dante Hall (hamstring), LB Tim McGarigle (hamstring), LB Raonall Smith (shoulder) and OT Ken Shackleford (knee). All of those players returned to practice Sunday (Aug. 12). Not practicing was WR Dane Looker, who was kneed in the back against the Vikings.
RB Brian Leonard bruised his ribs against Vikings but practiced Sunday, as did CB Jonathan Wade, who was hit in the head against the Vikings, but got clearance to work after having a neurological exam in the morning.
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