For the second consecutive summer, there will be a battle for the Rams' center job in training camp.
Last year, the competition was between Brett Romberg and Andy McCollum. The previous season, McCollum injured his knee in the first game of the season and missed the rest of the year. Richie Incognito was McCollum's first replacement, but Incognito moved to right guard at the season when Adam Timmerman suffered injured ribs. Romberg then started the final three games.
McCollum came back from his knee injury and lost a close contest to Romberg. After starting the first seven games of the season, he suffered a high ankle sprain that kept him out three games. After returning, Romberg injured his other ankle. For the season, he started nine games, while McCollum started seven, along with three at left guard.
With McCollum not re-signed, Romberg's competition this year comes from Mark Setterstrom, who missed the final 13 games last season with a knee injury. Setterstrom began the season at left guard, but was switched to center in the off-season after the Rams signed unrestricted free agent Jacob Bell.
Said Romberg of the competition, "There's always something. There's always somebody ready to come in and test your will."
Added Setterstrom, "I've never played (center) before, so I'm going to have to work really hard at it. But at the same time, it's something new, it's something exciting."
Setterstrom experienced some struggles in minicamp, some with snaps, but started feeling more comfortable.
Said coach Scott Linehan, "He's taken that role and the challenge of that position to heart, and he wants to be great at it. I think our competition at that position's going to be pretty good."
Romberg added, "You've always got to create some kind of competition or it would be kind of lackadaisical, and a lot of things would be taken for granted. Competition is always encouraged."
"I just want to get on the field," Setterstrom says, "so I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Meanwhile, whatever happens in that battle, Romberg sometimes gets some glares for his idea to have a sand pit built at the practice facility. The Rams had an inordinate number of high ankle sprains last year, and Romberg recalled the sand pit used while he was in college.
"It was just something that we used a lot at Miami, and I never saw high ankle sprains," he said. "I just thought it might help. We're in it just about every day, pulling sleds, doing agility drills. It's nothing that people look forward to going into, but the work will pay off.
"So, yeah, I keep getting blamed for the sand pit thing."
—Coach Scott Linehan is intrigued by the competition that will occur in training camp for backup jobs between some young linebackers.
The Rams selected Chris Chamberlain and David Vobora in the seventh round, then added Vince Hall and Marc Magro as undrafted free agents. All were playmakers in college, and are expected to compete on special teams.
The team had only five linebackers on their roster at the time of the draft.
Said Linehan, "I think both Vobora and Chamberlain as well as Hall and Magro were all very productive linebackers. That was the No. 1 thing that stood out and we wanted it to be a priority with the linebackers that we brought to this team. They are guys that have a nose for the football."
—The release of Isaac Bruce has created opportunity for a number of receivers. Torry Holt and Drew Bennett are currently considered starters, but there are a lot of contenders for other spots. Dane Looker, Marques Hagans and Derek Stanley return from last season; Donnie Avery (second round) and Keenan Burton (fourth) were draft picks in April; and Reche Caldwell was signed as an unrestricted free agent.
Caldwell was in Washington last season, where current offensive coordinator Al Saunders coached. Caldwell didn't have a lot of opportunities in 2007, but he did have 61 receptions for the Patriots in 2006. He is also familiar with both the flanker and split end roles in Saunders' offense.
Said coach Scott Linehan after the team's recent minicamp, "You can see that he has background with the system that we are running now, playing for Al last year. He has done a nice job.
"There are going to be times when we spell a receiver, or we put a guy in for a play here and there, or you go in with three wide (receivers) and sometimes you are going to move the other receivers around and you have to know basically two or three positions. His background in the offense is really going to help him."
—First-round pick Chris Long was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at a Cardinals' baseball game, so after a workout at Rams Park, Long was looking for a ball and glove so he could practice.
"I sure don't want to bounce the ball up there," he said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm excited because the NFC West, we're not supposed to win it. And I think a lot of people that aren't true fans don't realize how close we are from putting this thing back together." — RB Steven Jackson, on the Rams' prospects for 2008.
Re: Inside Slant
Excellent quote from Jackson. Couldn't agree more.