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It's all about attitude with the Rams
It's all about attitude with the Rams
By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Piece by piece, the Rams roster is coming together for the 2008 season.
The addition of former Tampa Bay starting quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was just the latest step. The Rams drafted significant rookie help at defensive end, wide receiver and offensive line. Free agent guard Jacob Bell was a terrific get.
The team is still exploring options at fullback, the offensive line and the defensive backfield. Fans want the team to add a veteran linebacker before the season starts as well.
But this isn’t fantasy football. It isn’t just about collecting players. What this team must really find this summer is less tangible.
What it needs is a more ferocious attitude -– and linebacker Chris Draft felt that coming during the last of the organized team activities.
“Everybody just has a nice little edge to them,” Draft said after the last round of organized team activities wrapped up. “They have a little chip on their shoulder, a little bit (ticked) off . . . a little bit like, ‘Man we’ve got to get that bad taste out of our mouth.’”
The 3-13 season tasted very, very bad. Injuries devastated the team. The replacements got overmatched and ritual beatings ensued.
The Rams became one of the NFL’s laughingstocks, to the chagrin of many proud veterans who had seen glory days in St. Louis.
Soft-spoken coach Scott Linehan appeared to be in over his head as one veteran after another lost their patience on the sideline.
Now the team is trying to recover from the physical and emotional wounds. Leonard Little, Orlando Pace, Richie Incognito, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Marc Bulger, Mark Setterstrom, James Hall and others are coming back from assorted injuries.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is an aggressive tactician. Adding top pick Chris Long at defensive end will give him another big weapon to utilize.
Offensive coordinator Al Saunders is trying to retool the Rams attack around bulldozing running back Steven Jackson. Now THERE is a player with a little edge to him.
“I had an opportunity to play against him, so I have a little bit different perspective,” Draft said. “When you’re playing with him on your team, the last thing you want to do is start getting after him a little bit too much. That’s a bad man and we do not want to take shots on our own bad man.
“Steve asked when we played Carolina last year in the first game, ‘When you were on Carolina, what did you think?’ We were thinking, we were not going to let that nasty guy with the dreadlocks who runs real hard and real strong and looks real big, we were not going to let him run all over us.
“He is definitely one of the top players in the league. Hopefully a lot of people will see that this year.”
Linehan is exuding confidence in his upgraded roster and overhauled coaching staff. The vibe around the team is much better than it was back in December.
Given the spirited competition he saw during the OTAs, Draft believes a spirited Rams rebound is quite possible.
“If you look at the history of the NFL, there are a lot of examples,” Draft said. “I know personally for me, I think we went 4-12 (actually 5-11) with the Atlanta Falcons in 2003 and everybody was talking about how terrible we were.
“The next thing we know, the next year we come back and we’re in the (NFC) championship game and playing against Philadelphia. Things can turn around that quick.
“Also, in 2001, the first year the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, the first of three that they won, that whole year (the media) was doubting them, saying ‘They aren’t that good, no they aren’t going to make it . . . the next thing you know, they win the championship.”
Yeah, well, tell us about it. Rams fans still can’t believe that happened. Their team was supposed to win by about 100 points.
The NFL produces great turnaround stories almost every year. The Rams staged one of them in 1999. That team attacked opponents from both sides of the ball. That team gathered momentum and developed swagger.
Can this team do the same? It’s a long shot, for sure -- but the more we talk about how bad this team is, the more it will want to prove the experts wrong.
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