By Bill Coats
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


James Butler, the Rams’ newly signed strong safety, is co-owner of a Golden Corral restaurant in Centerville, Ga. His business partner? Tye Hill, who also could be partnering with Butler in the first-team secondary this year.

“Injuries are very tough, but I don’t think Tye has lost his swagger,” Butler said Wednesday during a media get-together at Rams Park. “He’s definitely motivated to be one of the best corners in the league this year, and he’s been working hard this offseason. Tye Hill will be a great player this year.”

Hill, the Rams’ first-round draft pick in 2006, had a solid, if not spectacular, rookie season, starting 10 games. A wrist injury limited him to eight games in 2007, and knee problems kept him out of all but four games this past season.

Hill struggled in his brief action in ‘08, and he’ll have to prove himself to new head coach Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator Ken Flajole and cornerbacks coach Clayton Lopez before regaining his spot in the lineup. Fakhir Brown had been the starter most of the last two years, but he isn’t in the team’s plans for 2009.

On other subjects, Butler had this to say:

*I think (new head coach Steve Spagnuolo) was the biggest part of my decision. Coach Spags gave me my first opportunity to start in the league, and he helped my career grow. I felt I wanted to stay with him and go along with him with the Rams.”

*Spagnuolo is “a player’s coach. He’s not one of those guys that’s going to holler at you. When you’re not playing well, he’s going to come to you and say, ‘Look, we want you to get this done, we want you to get that done.’ He’s not going to embarrass you. And I think that’s the biggest thing: be a player’s coach, but also be tight on the guys when he needs to be. I think that’s his biggest asset.

*”I got a thousand texts from Tye, O.J. (Atogwe) and Ron (Bartell): ‘Are you coming? Are you signed yet?’ I worked out a lot with them in Atlanta, so we have a little camaraderie. It should be good, it should be fun.”

*”We’ve got a lot of young players (in the secondary), and they’re fast -– I might be the slowest one out of the bunch. I might have to start working on my 40s.”

*The Giants’ upset of the Patriots in the Super Bowl last year is “one of the best experiences of my life, to play at the highest level in professional football and just to win . . . to win as a team. It really wasn’t about the personal things (he had a team-high 10 tackles). Just to win as a team, and the way we won, that was the biggest thing, and that’s what I remember.”

All for now . . .