Jim Thomas Live
By Jim Thomas
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ruben: Jim,
Thanks for taking my question. Well, it looks like Linehan is back. I know he is the offensive coordinator and if Shaw wants him to hire another OC, it would make very little sense. If Shaw expects fans to "Believe" in 2008, what coaches will be gone to make us believe a positive change will happen? I just don't get it. Can you explain keeping Linehan and not hiring an OC?

Jim Thomas: Ruben--Maybe that will be part of Shaw's message to Linehan: Hire an OC who will call the plays. You need to be the overseer of the team, a head coach, not a play-caller. We'll see.

Folks, I've got to go. I will try to answer some more questions tonight, but I may not be able to because of some other stuff I'm working on. Thanks as always, and happy holidays.
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bash-on: Jim, you've mentioned before that the coaches are coahing for their jobs right now and as such, won't be taking any chances... they'll put together their best game plan and play their best/healthiest players. However, isn't this about the time of year, given the situation, that they should be looking at their younger players and evaluating them for next year? If John Shaw really supports them, wouldn't including him in such a decision mitigate any adverse reaction from management if they did so?

Bash-On Regardless

Jim Thomas: The time for evaluation young players is training camp and the preseason. Besides, lots of the young guys are playing because of injuries. . .Wade and Hagans for example.
Your LB corps is one of the strongest parts of the team right now. So do you really want McGarigle and Culberson in there instead of Witherspoon and Draft?

However, I wouldn't mind seeing Fry given a chance at center or guard, but given all the chaos going on on the offensive line, and given the fact that the Rams are about to play the No. 9 and No. 1 defenses in the land, this might not be the best time to do that.

Lastly, Linehan has urged the players not to give up on the season after an 0-8 start. The players have responded to that. The team is 3-2 since the midway point, and I really feel that had Bulger been healthy, the Rams beat Cincy. So if you're telling the players not to give up on the season, doesn't playing a bunch more youngsters tell the team that you are indeed giving up on the season?
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LongIslandRam: Jim,

Why doesn't Clifton Ryan get more playing time? It seems like he is on the field for ten to fifteen snaps a game as a NT. A lot of people are assuming he is going to blossom into a starter next year. I'm wondering if he has the discipline and conditioning to play an entire game.

A related question. What do you think will be Carriker's best position?

Jim Thomas: I like Carriker at the "3-technique" (the non-nose tackle DT) or as a 3-4 defensive end. Ryan doesn't play on passing downs. And the Rams have played a lot of passing teams lately. Perhaps because of the reduced reps, I do think his play as leveled off some lately.
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JK: Hello Jim,
Can you tell me how much cap space remains for this year that can be used to sign a pending free agent (such as Chillar) to a long-term deal?
I recently read that the Rams have about $9.5 in cap space for 2008. Could you go over a couple of renegotiated contract scenarios that might free up some bucks for a player such as Faneca or Starks from the Steelers or Lilja from the Colts?

Thanks!
JK

Jim Thomas: I don't have those numbers with me on remaining '07 cap space _ I think they're in the back seat of my car belive it or not. But the Rams do have enough money left to re-sign Chillar this year.
The Rams indeed have about $10 million cap space currently for '08 _ and keep in mind, about half of that could be needed for draft picks. But they can free up money by releasing Bruce and/or Glover. Little is due a $7 million roster bonus, that if re-worked could save the Rams several million. There's plenty of ways to free up money, so I don't think that will be an issue if the Rams want to make something happen.
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bash-on: Okay, Linihan will be back. But Jim Haslett could be gone, yes? I'm sure other clubs around theleague have noticed the work he's accomplished with the defense this year and with so many openings coming up, (as there always are with each new season), what are the chances that some club signs him away from the Rams?

Jim Thomas: Haslett has made no secret of the fact that he wants another crack at head coaching. Although they've had some disappointing moments, I think the defense has played better than its numbers would indicate because of their own injuries and the ineptitude of the offense for much of the season. So I think Haslett does have a chance to get more play as a head coaching candidate than he did last year. And if Haslett goes, Venturi and DB coach Willy Robinson probably go, too.
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Ron Romer Sr: OK, so we get Mr.Linehan back for next season... so is our glass half empty or half full for next season, can we rebound to winning or more of same of this year ? Just wish to know your perspective...

Jim Thomas: Linehan is a very classy individual. A good human being. I think he's a good coach? But I just don't know at this point if he has what it takes to get his team back on the right footing? Why has the offense gotten out of the gates so slowly each season? Why has the team struggled so much in the second half? Why haven't the Rams won some of the closer games this season? Why are there so many injuries? Those are all questions that I have, and that many fans have, and that I hope John Shaw has.
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JerseyRamFan: Hey Jim,

Well, I have to tell you that I am kind of surprised about John Shaw's comment about keeping Linehan for another year. I kind of have mixed feelings about it. While I don't want the whole thing blown up, Linehan really hasn't shown to be HC material. I am really surprised that he didn't lose the team. That was probably the contributing factor of Shaw's comment. Now I know everyone is saying that Linehan should get a free pass due to the injuries, but you have to take a look at teams like Buffalo. Look how many injuries they have and they have a winning record.

Okay, I know your looking for a question here, so here it is. What changes can we Ram fans expect for next year? New strength and conditioning coaches? A more aggressive attack in play calling? A new offensive coordinator? More 3-4 defensive schemes? It seems to the untrained eye that Linehan is learning on the job. That doesn't bother me as much as the pace that he is learning. Maybe Linehan should do a complete opposite of what DV did in his 3rd year. Make them do 3 a days and put the pads on in day 1 of practice. This way, that toughness can transfer to the field so they can actually finish the games they start.

Jim Thomas: 3-4? New assistants? New personnel? I don't know the answers to those questions. Neither do Shaw or Linehan at this point.
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Bill Watkins: If Linehan is still coach next year, my season tickets are cancelled PERIOD END OF STORY

Jim Thomas: He will still be the coach. And I get the feeling, you won't be the only one cancelling your PSLs.
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erie rams fan: thanks for your time jim
living in erie i see alot more coverage of the bills and browns then i do off the rams and that is why i am so perplexed by Shaw's statements about giving Vanillihan another year saying that you cant judge him after all the injuries and worse teams in the league are keeping thier coaches. Well rather them taking ques from the awful teams try taking them from a team that does not have the same record as us.

The bills are a perfect example, its fairly obvious to say that going into this season the expectations for the rams were much higher than for the bills, both team have suffered numerous injuries i believe the rams have put 11 players on IR and the last i checked the bills just put their 13th player on IR, the bills record stand at 7-6 and still very much in the playoff hunt and the rams stand at a miserable 3-9 and counting the days to get this debacle over with. All you hear out of this organization is what a great job the coaches are doing, and how the players are not giving up on their coaches well the last time i checked the whole goal the last two offseasons was to bring in players with very high charecter that wouldn't give up on a season, i don't care who the coach is holt, bruce, bulger, glover, witherspoon, and others would never let this team give up on a season.

Plus on top of that we seem to be the only team in the entire league who is completely incapable of making second half adjustments, i don't care if every starter is injured, if you can start a game getting 21 points in the first half and then struggle then entire second half to just get a first down, that is entirely on the coaching staff for not being able to adjust to what the defense is doing. Does Shaw not realize these things or is it that Linehan's so easy to get along with that he doesnt care how bad of a coach that he is?

Jim Thomas: You make very good points. But I don't know how much more I can state this point: Shaw doesn't think 2 years is enough to pass judgment, particularly a year in which there have been so many injuries.
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Mark: Jim, has Shaw given you any indication as to if and when a new GM would be hired? If he is serious about getting a GM, will it be in name only or will he have final say over all personel decisions?

I hope Reese is still a candidate.

Thanks for your time.

Jim Thomas: I know you all want the answers to such questions right now _ if not sooner _ I simply don't have the answers to them at this time.
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Jeremy (Denver): Jim,
The most exciting defense I have seen the Rams play in the past 10 years is when they line up in a 3-4 and create havoc for the QB. Any chance they make a full time move to the 3-4 next year?

Jim Thomas: If they draft Chris Long, add another inside LB, and are convinced Little can be a rush end, I'd like to see it happen.
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Jeremy (Denver): Jim,
Do you see the Rams drafting a QB in the first round of the draft?

Jim Thomas: No way.
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Jeremy (Denver): Jim,
Assuming the Rams get a top 3 pick in the draft...I know it's early, but who do you like?

Jim Thomas: Based on who's currently up there _ and it could change with underclassmen coming out _ I would say DE Chris Long. But again, I've done next to know draft preparation. It's hard to do much "in-season" while actually covering the day-to-day workings of a season. But that will change in about a month.
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Glenn Turner: Linehan is not proven however this year is messed up due to all the injuries. I say keep him unless you are bringing in a big name guy to replce him. Agree?

Rams can essentially reverse their record (9-11 win team) with a good off season of 3-5 good players added to the current mix. NFL always requires a little luck with the injury situation. Agree?

Jim Thomas: I agree with Shaw's assessment that it's hard to pass judgment on Linehan because of all the injuries. But don't you think we need to see more from Linehan in '08? Like a quicker start offensively out of the gate? A greater ability to win close games? More creativity on offense? More of an ability to adjust to the unexpected in-season adversity?

And sure, with a good offseason, the Rams could be right in the playoff mix again in '08.
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Steve M: Hi Jim! I have been a long time Rams fan - think of Coach Allen - and will stick with my Rams through thick & thin. So this season is pretty well gone but we still love our Rams out here in Nevada! My question is about pass interference calls. In college games it's a five yard penalty and automatic first down. Do you ever see the NFL going to that rule? The current "spot of the foul" system seems to give a big advantage to the offense and an incentive to receivers to try to fake out the officials. And by the way ... thanks for these Tuesday chat sessions - it can't be to easy with the the unhappy Rams fans out there! ---- Steve

Jim Thomas: I like the NFL rule. Otherwise, what's to keep a DB from simply pulling down a WR who has him beaten deep for a TD, knowing it's only going to be a 5-yard penalty?
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Glenn Turner: Draft Questions:
Rams have needs in the following areas: OL, DE, LB, Safety and WR. With first round pick just take best available or would you prioritize one spot of need? Rams may also be able to trade down for extra picks. Do you agree?

Jim Thomas: I say OL, DE, WR are top priorities. Take the best available among those three positions. Yes, trading down is an option. But usually, there are only X-amount of "blue-chip" types in a draft. (You've heard the expression _ it's a "six-player draft" an "eight-player draft" etc.) If the Rams are in that kind of territory to get one of those top players, they probably shouldn't trade down.
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Francisco Prado: Jim, longtime Rams fan, who is somewhat split on the decision of bringing back Lenihan. What changes do you see with the front office, player personnel and coaches this offseason? Do you expect them to retain Olson as OC?Will they re-sign Chillar soon? Thank You.

Jim Thomas: All good questions. Not sure on front office or player personnel. Again, I've heard many rumors and speculation. Some of it what you might call "informed" speculation, but at this point I don't want to comment on them in this forum. I think Olson's on the bubble.

I think they should get going on Chillar, although Linehan indicated Monday the Rams would wait until the end of the season to get going on re-signing any free agents.
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Kevin Fowler: Jim,

I have great respect for your professionalism and objectivity covering the Rams.

I have been giving Linehan the benefit of the doubt since he appears to be a decent person. However, my patience has run out. It is unacceptable for this team to not score one TD against the Bengals. Injuries or not, this performance is unacceptable. While Isaac and Tory may be grumbling behind the scenes, I give them credit for not complaining publicly. Even with Brock Berlin as the QB, you can not excuse one FG as the offensive production.

Merry Christmas and I hope you enjoy your Holidays with your family.

Kevin

Jim Thomas: Again, many feel the same way. To me, Linehan needs to start winning games like Cincy. Injuries or not, it was a winnable game.
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Can't take it anymore: Jim, enough excuse’s for Scotty. Enough about the injuries, lack of motivation, players not wanting to play, no heart. He has made very poor decisions with play calling, taking chances, and playing so conservative. What does he have to loose? Why were other teams able to pick up great free agents and the Rams let them slip away. Everyone has to deal with adversity at one time or other, your leadership determines how you and your team will adapt and overcome this adversity. He has showed nothing to us Ram Fans to gain or trust and backing. Do you think the upper management see’s the emails there fans send and know how completely disappointed we are? A good leader leads his subordinates and influence his superiors, and he had done none of these.

Jim Thomas: Many, many, many fans feel the same way. I wonder what Shaw would think, if he read some of these posts.
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Crazy_Legs: Why didn't the Rams take the penalty on 3rd down late in the 4th quarter and back up Cincinnati? If Cincinnati failed to gain any yardage it would have been a 51 yards FG attempt instead of 46 yards. If Cincinnati would of ran another play it would of given us the opportunity to create a TO, for Cincinnati to commit another penalty backing them up further or we might of stopped for them no gain forcing a 51 yard FG attempt. Yes Cincinnati may have made a first down or gained more than 5 yards. But I couldn't help thinking at that time that moving them back would have given the Rams a better chance to get the ball back with the game still in reach.

Jim Thomas: Graham crushed the kick, so the extra five yards wouldn't have mattered. Plus, time was off the essence at that point. The Rams I believe were out of timeouts, so the Bengals might have been able to run an extra 45 seconds off the clock with a run or a complete plass.
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james: Jim,

How can the Rams Mgmt team seriously want to keep Linehan? I could understand if only we had not been out coached every game this year, the play calling wasn't atrocious, or if the offense had stopped listening to their head coach and play caller. It makes no sense to me. It is during the tough times that you determine whether a coach is worth keeping and for the Rams the choice is clear, it's time for a change. We lost several games this year not because of injuries, but because of coaching at every level.

Linehan is a good coordinator and a lousy head coach just like Martz was. Why must the fans continue to suffer for the mistakes of a management team that has no idea what it is doing.

I would be happier if we at least hired a good personnel GM that could make better talent decisions for this team but we don't even do that.

I don't care that I might seem to be head hunting, this is the NFL. Linehan has taken a decent team and made them into one of the worst in football. Injuries are just an excuse, every team has them.

Let's stop making excuses for Linehan and the upper management team, they both are doing a lousy job.

Jim Thomas: I feel your pain, and if you're checking out any of the many other posts on today's chat, so do a lot of other Rams fans.
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gabriel: if the rams Top the 1998 4-12 record by Dick Vermeil do you think the rams will
1 hire a gm
2 strip Linehan of some of his power
3 assistant coaches like Greg Olson will get fired
4 trade away some older players in order rebuild
what do you think jim and thank you for this one-on-one every Tuesday

Jim Thomas: I would like to see a true GM with the power to make personnel decisions.
If that's the case, Linehan loses some of his power.
As for Olson, I never like to see assistants fired. While I realize he may be a "sacrificial lamb," I'm not sure he's the problem.
I'm not sure what trade value an Isaac Bruce or La'Roi Glover, for example, would bring at this point.
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jh: I am wondering how you see it. I think Bulger put coach in a bad position on purpose. Bulger practiced tues/wens said he felt fine then on thurs. says he doesn't fell right.all of a sudden coach needs to get a quartback ready and coach looks bad. do you think Bulger meant to make the coach look bad?

Jim Thomas: No. I think it was just a peculiar, strange set of circumstances. Maybe Linehan assumed too much when Bulger passed the neuropsych test and was cleared to practice. Maybe Bulger should have verbalized to the coach that he still didn't feel right.
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Mitch from San Diego: Hi Jim,

Thanks for the forum and thank you for your time in answering my questions. I have a couple of comments. First, as critical I have been of Coach Linehan, I am glad he gets a chance to turn this mess around. In my own life I have been in a sitution (or two) where the results were not what I was looking for and I prayed for an opportunity to continue. Thankfully, I was not thrown under the bus. I eventually got excellent results. I hope the same for Coach Linehan.

I do believe there must be additions to the offensive staff. I thought that maintaining the offensive statis quo was one reason for Coach Linehan's hire. That has NOT ocurred. My suggestion is for Mr.Shaw to require of Coach Linehan the same he required of Dick Vermeil. Vermeil was and offensive coach and his chosen OC was his friend, Jerry Rhome. Linehan's offense looks about as effective as Jerry Rhome's, which is to say not so much. Shaw insisted on an upgrade. Vermeil hired Mike Martz and the rest is history.

Coach Linehan needs an OC that can effectively blend the past with the present. Anyone from the Don Coryell tree will do such, as you suggested, Ken Zampese and possibly bringing back John Ramsdell (love that name) as well. Steve Fairchild is doing great in Buffalo. Make him a deal and bring him back. The talent is here. All Coach Linehan needs (besides a healthy offensive line) is a feisty OC to call plays or at a minimum, encourage the Head Coach to keep the throttle firmly pressed to the floor. You thoughts?

Jim Thomas: Mitch--Those are all good thoughts and good names. Although Fairchild hardly turned the world on fire when he called plays in '05 when Martz was sick. What needs to happen though is that this offensive coordinator needs to call the plays, with Linehan being more of the CEO, overseer, head coach.
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junebug johnson: Hello, Jim. As always, appreciate your work.
I think the key to the rams revival next year is simple. Strengthen that oline as much as possible. Get orlando back, draft some young nasty blockers to compete with a healthy Cogs and Setterstrom and to light a fire under Barron. Maybe add a free agent stud like Faneca. Find a real center and a good blocking tight end.

You know as well as I that this opens holes for a stud like JAX, protects Bulger, opens up passing lanes, keeps our defense rested, keeps their offense off the field and so on.

I'd also like to see a big name oline coach come in.
Agree?

Jim Thomas: Couldn't agree with you more about the O-line.
But I think Boudreau does a pretty good job as 0-line coach.
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DJ: Hoody Bill is a genius. Linehan is an idiot. Why is it so hard to understand that this is what your offensive line does for you as a coach. Of course there are ways to adjust things, but if your QB has time or you can run the ball successfully you win. If your defense can get to the QB with their front 4 and stop the run with 7 you win. Absent that a defense needs shutdown corners so that more bodies can be applied to pressure and the running game. The defense has played well this year, but the 2nd half 3 and outs caused by sacks and penalties and antsy feet in the pocket due to repeated pounding are too much for just a decent defense to overcome. I guess my question would be is what are OLine prospects in the draft and is there a shutdown corner to be had?

Jim Thomas: OT Jake Long looks like the only surefire top 10 pick in the draft at this point. But the board could change once the underclassmen declare. Whether it's in the draft or free agency, I think the Rams need help at center and guard as well.
You can always use corners but I think the Rams are in pretty good shape there with Brown, Hill, Bartell, and a developing Wade. I'd rather see help with the pass rush. Corners look even better when a QB is under duress.
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Mike: What do you think of Fahkir Brown's performance this season? After last season I thought he was average but this season has changed my mind. He's physical and a solid tackler. He always seems to be on his guy. His main weakness is his inability to turn and make a play on the ball. If he could correct that he would be one of the top corners in the league in my opinion.

Jim Thomas: Brown has improved this year, because he actually is turning to make plays on the ball better than he has in the past. To me, that was the one glaring weakness in his game. It's a shame he missed 4 games because of the substance abuse suspension. Maybe the Rams win one or two of those first four games if he's in the lineup. Keep in mind, another suspension and he's out for a year.
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Mike: All righty then.

There are numerous reasons to not retain Linehan for next year and some (injuries) to continue this program. Understanding this and if Shaw is a man of his word (and he seems to be) what on earth do the Rams do to get the TTB (surely you read Marvel comics) into the seats?

Jim Thomas: Boy, that's the question. It will take some offseason to spur ticket sales. Otherwise, they just better win and win early next year.
P.S. _ Haven't read Marvel comics in years. What's the TTB?
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Brian: Jim,
Is Brian Leonard looking more and more like a "luxury" 2nd round pick to you? I know he plays hard and does alot of different things, but with a team with such gaping holes, was it really wise to pick a fullback/backup tailback instead of a safety, offensive or defensive lineman, linebacker or wide receiver? Samson Satele, Tim Crowder or Gerald Alexander would sure look good in a Rams uniform right now and they were all available at the times the Rams picked.

Jim Thomas: I think Leonard was a good pick. I think if the offense in general, and the running game in particularly were going better, he would have an even larger role.
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Buzz: Jim,
Some positives out of yet another loss that might have been a win:
1) Jonathon Wade held up pretty well in coverage. Haslett confirmed it. Guess he covers better than he plays Special Teams.
2) Darius Vinnett played much better the second time around on Special Teams. Seems to have been a good call to promote him.
3) Klop the Flop finally caught a pass ... for one yard. Think the Packers should double him? Thanks.

Jim Thomas: 1.) There is hope for Wade at CB. His play on special teams, however, mystifies me.
2.) Vinnett is probably too small to be of any use at corner, but he can sure run down kicks.
3.) Klop actually is blocking better these days, but I agree, he still rates as a major disappointment this year.
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Ron: Jim - I still see some rare appearances of the old Martz/Coryell/ offensive plays, particularly a few pass patterns. If you had to guess, what percent of the current offense/plays are still in place from the Martz era? I heard that Mike used to develop up to 50 new plays per week and that Linehan wanted to simplify the offense. From what you heard, does Linehan consider himself part of the Gillman/Coryell/Zampese coaching tree?

Thank you.

Jim Thomas: Good question. I don't have the answer for you as to the percent of Martz/Coryell plays in the offense.
Linehan is not part of the Gilman/Coryell/Zampese tree.
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Yarko: Hi Thaks for answering my question. As this point of the season isn't better to sit Bulgar for the season ans see what Brock can give us? ALso is it better for the Rams to lose games and have a better pick or win some games.

Jim Thomas: As I answered earlier. Bulger is the QB, the Rams are paying him $65 million, if he's healthy enough to play, and wants to play, he'll play.
As for your second question, please. It's the NFL. You're always playing to win.
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Murat from PA: Dear Jim;

With nothing to lose and a street agent quarterback starting, wouldn't the Cincy game be a great opportunity to be creative, take some risks on the offense? Except for the New Orleans game, we haven't seen any trick plays from the Rams. What will it take to bring the excitement back to the games? How come the Rams are this dull and boring? Where did all the long downfield passes go this year?

Here are a few other questions I have on my mind?

- Do the Rams keep Chillar?
- Are the days of Chavous numbered?
- Which tight end(s), other than McMichael, does the team keep next year?
- Who will the the 2nd and 3rd QB next year?
- Why did all the long downfield passes disappear this year? Aging WRs?

Thanks,

Murat

Jim Thomas: The Rams came out with three pass plays at the outset against Cincy. Berlin got bopped on one, resulting in a pop fly pass to Holt; Berlin fell down on another, tripping over the center; I believe the third was thrown badly behind Bruce.

As for trick plays on a rainy day, Dane Looker had room to run on an end around, but bobbled the exchange.

By the way, you're not one of those fans who wanted Martz run out of town because the offense took too many chances, are you?
As to all your personnel questions, I'm not sure except that you can count on Frerotte being back as the No. 2 QB.

As to the downfield passes: 1.) That's not really the Linehan offense; 2.) Offensive line injuries: 3.) Aging WR corps.
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Tom Brady: I am glad to see that Coach Linehan is coming back next year, do you think he has a chance in turning this team around next year. If not, do you think Marty ball will ever come to St. Louis. I think he would be the perfect fit for St. Louis. He coached the Chiefs at one time and if I recall doesn't his son work for the Rams. Thanks for responding to my question. I think my team is going to go undefeated this year and all the way to the Superbowl. You go Patriots.

Jim Thomas: Tom--I do think your team is going to go undefeated in the regular season, but watch out for Indy in the playoffs.
Schottenheimer's brother no longer works for the Rams.
Sure, I think Linehan can turn the Rams into a playoff contender. But a lot has to change in terms of personnel and approach.
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Sean: Why in God's name would Shaw say that Linehan will be back next year? If he doesn't bring him back he would look like a liar, if he does it looks as though he doesn't care about the fans or the organization improving and that he refuses to admit that he made a judgement error in hiring Linehan in the first place.

If Linehan returns we can expect more conservative playcalling with or without injuries, struggles through preseason into the regular season with inconsistant spurts of offense, more WR screens netting no yardage, lack of attacks to the wide open middle of the field, lack of half time adjustments and being out coached in the second half to give away leads by playing not to lose, and oh yeh, a stagnant crowd at the Dome due to poor ticket sells because of the again raise in price combined with the lack of football execution. I am officially labeling 2008 the "Year of the Blackout" if he returns. Expect lots of flowing opponent colors at the ED!

Jim Thomas: I get your drift. You're not the Lone Ranger here.
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RT: Mr. Shaw's committment to more losing in '08 is very
disturbing. The problem with this organization stems
not with Linehan (that's just a symptom), but with who hired him.

Until a football man is brought in to run this organization I can't see the Rams being successful. of course they had 3 successful years, but other than that? From player evaluations both at the pro and college levels, a whole lot is left to be desired.

All that said, Linehan's performance has been abyssmal. This team WAS NOt ready to play this year even with all the players healthy. Does no one at the top see this?

Very disturbing

Jim Thomas: I get your drift. You're not the Lone Ranger here.
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Steve: Jim

The Rams aren't really considering putting Bulger in again this season are they? He is the kind of quarterback who will be in the hospital unless he gets proctected by a good o-line.

Steve

Jim Thomas: The Rams are paying Bulger $65 million. He is their quarterback. If he says he's healthy enough to play, and team medical officials concur, he's playing. Plain and simple.
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Todd W.: Hi Jim,
Call me a homer, but I think with a few key Off. Line Free Agents(Faneca Please!) and a little Def. Help we can atleast make the playoffs next year. A few less turnovers here and there.

Car. (Jackson's fumble critical, while we were ahead)

S.F. (Holt and Hall fumbles...critical times)
Ari(dumb penalties at the 1 allowing them to score when time woulda ran out and Gus's int returned for td)

Sea(1 yard line fumble...extremely critical)

and ofcourse the LONGEST line of injuries ever I bet to an NFL team, mostly to key players(Bulger, Jackson, 18 starting linemen, a few receivers, Little) and our record would MINIMUM put us in the hunt. Ofcourse all this is part of the NFL, but in conclusion, I guess,Yes I'm a homer and am hoping atleast in '08 let there be no injuries to Bulger, Jackson and Off. Line, and I think we will be competitive.

Jim Thomas: Well, let's hope for a relatively injury-free '08, and then Linehan can sink or swim on his own merit.
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NY Ram Fan: Jim, I am very unhappy that Shaw came out with a vote of confidence for Linehan. He is the one that said a decision will not be made until after the season. What happens if next year is similar to this year? Will Shaw step down? It's bad enough that we have to follow this pathetic excuse for a football team, but now Shaw kills our hope for next year too?

Also, Gordo has mentioned several times that injuries have made it impossible to evaluate Linehan. While it's true that the Rams have had multipe injuries, many of the players have already played several games, and some have come back from injuries. This team stinks almost every Sunday no matter who plays!

Thanks!

Mark

Jim Thomas: Again, I didn't expect an outpouring of glee over the news that Linehan will be back.
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jjg: I just read your article on the teams news conference....I got a few between the line messages from it:1)The fact that Linehan's job was all but assured by Shaw seemed to allow Linehan to change his midset on Bulger's time table for return. Last week, it seemed strange(like Linehan and Bulger said conflicking things about his (Bulger's) status for the Bengal game) that now been changed to "its no more test and let's see how mark feels..."The pressure is off to win" :ie(Don't risk the franchise QB) And Shaw had Linehan say to the fan base he (Shaw)wants to get across a message to the fans that he is already planning for next year:ie(he will be involved and has been watching the team....abeit from afar...thoughts and other insights after reviewing the transcripts....JJG

Jim Thomas: I think you're reading too much into Linehan's comments regarding Bulger. Last week, Bulger was cleared to practice on Tuesday. In all my years covering the Rams and the NFL, I have never seen a player cleared for practice not actually participate in the game the following Sunday. I can't think of one instance. So Linehan assumed Bulger was ready. Bulger looked good in practice Wednesday and Thursday, and then told Linehan after practice Thursday that he didn't feel right.

After what happened at the end of the week, I simply feel that Linehan isn't taking any chances this time around.
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jjg: I must say I was impressed with Berlin for just the fact that this was his fist live NFL snap and just getting reps on the Friday before..what was Linehan thinking you could tell from Bulger' comments that he was Not playiing..(no Tom Brady but it could have been really ugly)...Jim again thanks for the time and you guys are my eyes and ears since on live in LA and watch the Rams on Sunday Ticket....Since Linehan is going to be back.....its time to start Maco-planning for next season and use the time to evaluate ALL the players and coaches on the roster....First I hope Bulger does NOT take another snap the rest of the season...we need him fully healthy to have any chance of turning this team around for next season..besides its time for Gus to earn a N#2 Spot for 08 (he makes 3mill/yr)....or Berlin to earn a spot...

Now the Strategic view>>>last week I asked you about concentrating on really making are Defense special by prioritizing it when it comes to the draft and free agrents(but not ignoring the offense)? We have the stud RB and good QB even really good when he stays vertical for prolonged periods of time...Linehan's Vanilla ball-control offense no throws over 30YRDS UNLESS THE SAFTEY FALLS DOWN(not being sarcastic although the coach might not Agree)...and under Haslett we add the players he feels would put this defense on the road to being something special..even feared(dreaming)....stop spending on luxury items like D.Bennett..etc...

DO you think this would hasten the Rams Recovery by taking advantage of guys (ex:holt has turned into possession WR and it may take a while to rebulid the o-line...etc)on the roster and be dedicated to our current strength Defense .....your gut thoughts and views would be appreciated on these topics.... Regards JJG

Jim Thomas: Don't you think the Rams need a major overhaul on the offensive line. Do you feel good about anybody at guard or center for next season? How about OT? Will Pace hold up for 16 games? If not, who replaces him?

At WR, wouldn't you say the Rams need an upgrade there?
On defense, I would like to see another DE _ particularly one who can get to the passer. The Rams need to think about another LB, particularly if Chillar signs elsewhere. And they need to start thinking about grooming a replacement for Chavous. They need another playmaker or two on that side of the ball.
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tater: Jim,

I must say I'm very dissappointed in Shaw's excuses for Coach Linehan. He does make a good point about injuries but there are 3 other teams in the NFL that have more players on the IRL than we do.

I've given up on Linehan for the following three reasons and I'd appreciate your objective assesment of my thoughts.
1. The key wins of each of the first two seasons have come against Denver (2006) and New Orleans (2007) and neither of these teams will make the playoffs. Is that what we've come down to that we accept mediocraty.
2. We've never experienced TV black outs prior to his arrival and we now have had 4 over the past two years. The fan base has NO confidence in this coach. He does nothing to excite us about the future.
3. He was hired to keep the "greatest show" alive. That has not happened! And, what is his offensive philosophy? None of us knows?

Thanks for your candid comments.

Jim Thomas: 1.) There's no doubt that Linehan has yet to pull off that "landmark" upset. I too, wonder at times if the expectations are set too low here at Rams Park. Even with the injuries, I feel the Rams should have two or three more victories.
2.) I wonder if management realizes what kind of backlash there might be if the Rams follow up the retaining of Linehan with a lackluster offseason.
3.) I believe Linehan's offensive philosophy is a balanced offense, with an emphasis on few turnovers, controlled passing with the occasional deep shot. I'm not sure if any of that has unfolded, at least it hasn't this year.
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jjg: This may be topic your sick of talking about...what can the team do about Alex Barron for next season...is there anything we can do ...get a 3rd rounder...move him to guard in 08(look how L. Davis(ex-card)is doing after moving to guard...he(barron) is a total liability that has lost us games and Qbs..something has to change..right?....??
PS-Seddrick Ellis is every bit as good as Dorsey and thats not because I went to USC...I actually met him...watched him play live at least 16 times...I have seen him control and dominate the middle of the line with three guys on him..he would look great in in a Rams Uniform... ... imagine him playing next to Adam at DT!!Now thats something to be to get the fans thinking! Thoughts on these two topics.THXS....JJG

Jim Thomas: Alex Barron has been an enigma at times, but I wouldn't call him a "total liability." He's a decent player who in my mind has underachieved and hasn't progressed to the next level. But given the overall state of the O-line, I'd say he's the least of your problems for next year.
Don't know enough about Seddrick Ellis. But given Glover's age, and the fact that Wroten looks like a certified bust, I wouldn't rule out trying to improve _ once again _ the interior of the d-line.
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Billy C: Jim I read an article that said Shaw said 3 wins will save Lenihans job for 08 . Is Shaw that crazy ... This coach cant motivate Pro Players / ya we have injuries (and lousie conditioning program) but we could have played in a lot of those losses (we wernt playing NFL football this year) .New HC in 2008 / New GM in 2008 / If not get used to BLACK OUTS because we will stop comming . Too many LOUSIE seasons of the same old rams(management stupidity ).... Wake Up Mrs Rosenbloom the Fans are sick of this CIRCUS . We were the Greatest Show for a few years but all we are now is a lousie sideshow . We are sick of this freak show . Sell the team or act like C R would have ...... Billy C Old School Ram Fan .

Jim Thomas: It's "lousy" by the way.
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Rogurs: Jim,
What a familiar theme, Linehan coaches not to lose instead of coaching to win. How many more games do we need to see before management realizes this not how you win games in the NFL. Very frustrating....

Jim Thomas: I guess we'll find out in 2008.
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Art Pineda: Hello Mr. Thomas,
I can't believe Shaw I doesn't haves a clue the play calling is awful! the rams have had chances to win more games but the half time adjustments were trouble.

We get Bennet,Mc Micheal and we don't use them them why?
The Coach has the resposibilty to turn the team in the right direction. We are getting worse I know that we have had a lot of injuries so have other teams that's why you sign good backups I think all the Rams sign are affordable players that aren't very good. Depth shows when your starters go down look at our depth it is sorry our evaluation of talent needs to improve! Doe's this organization want to win or make a profit! as long as we have the worst owner in football who hires people that don't care about winning we will become a laughing stock she has ruined a once proud team in the name of making money how sad it is to see the Rams sink so low!

Jim Thomas: Rams management cares about winning. I'm not saying they necessarily know how to win. But they care about winning.
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Dave: Maybe you can enlighten some of your colleagues about the game the other day. I keep reading about the defense who got gashed the entire day by the run. Since I have never been one for stats lets look at the bottom line.

Offensive production:
- Rams OFFENSE......3 points
- Rams DEFENSE......7 points

Umm maybe I am missing something but only giving up 19 points AND scoring a defensive touchdown should win games. If our OFFENSE, with a pro bowl running back (who didnt touch the ball, good call Scott), can score just 13 points, we would have won.

Jim Thomas: Good points, but with the game on the line and a chance to still win, and the Cincy offense struggling, the Bengals rammed the ball down the throats of the St. Louis defense. This was a Cincy offense that ranked 26th in the league in rushing offense. And a Rudi Johnson who said his injured hamstring is only 75 percent healthy. If the defense gets a 3-and-out there, the Rams at least have a chance to win.
Here's a thought: Instead of playing well enough to keep the game close, why couldn't this have been the day that the St. Louis defense actually WON the game. It's been known to happen before. I noticed, for example, that Kurt Warner was intercepted five times Sunday.
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md ram: Jim,

It makes perfect sense to bring lineham back next year if they are planning to bring in a general manager. That would give Lineham another chance and give a general manager a year to evaluate the situation.

Thats if they bring in a general manager. I am assuming shaw has to make some changes or else he will loose fan support. You talked to him, is that what you think will happen?

Jim Thomas: I think he still is formulating what changes will take place in his mind, but I don't think he has come to any firm conclusions just yet. I've heard some rumors and speculation that I really don't want to get into at this time. But so far they're just that.
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gabriel: Linehan likely to return what the hell is Shaw thinking just this week we lose a game with no offensive tds against one of the nfls worst defenses and don’t tell me bout hurt qbs the guy who should have been at qb was on the other sideline well jim about the only thing left to look forward to is the off season who are the top free agents and who can we get in the draft
Haslett in 08!!!

Jim Thomas: Obviously, when Shaw told me about the vote of confidence, I didn't think fans would be lining up for a parade. The Rams need one heck of an offseason, that's for sure.
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Damon: Hey Jim! I wanted to talk to you about the upcoming draft. Many of the early mock drafts I have seen have us taking the offensive tackle Jake Long with our early first round pick. I don't agree with this pick because we will have Pace and Barron back and I don't want a first round pick sitting on the bench for a year. If we drafted him would we move one of our tackles to the inside to play guard? In my opinion, we should address the offensive tackle position in fa. We need to sign veteran depth and then draft a few offensive lineman in the second round and beyond. I believe the first pick has to be the DE Chris Long if he is available. Also, since it looks like we won't be changing the head coach, what moves do you see us making? Please tell me we will be getting a new offensive coordinator and a new man to run the draft. Thanks.

Jim Thomas: Yeah, OT is a tough call. There's no doubt the Rams need a decent No. 3 OT, and a No. 4 OT as well. But if Pace comes back and stays injury free _ and that's a pretty big "if" right now _ the Rams probably are better off to go in a different direction with their No. 1 pick. Although he's not a natural pass rusher from what I hear, Chris Long would make a lot of sense. But I think you could make a bigger case for a speed-rushing DE, and a big, speedy WR as well.
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snowkid: Every week, I see posters talk about keeping Bruce around for another year. Granted, he was a great player but we certainly need to improve at that position. Honor him w/a retired number but don't bring him back at his current salary and roster bonus. What are the odds that he returns in '08? Tks.

Jim Thomas: No one's saying anything for sure. But the sense I get is that it's 50-50 that Bruce will be back in '08. It's still a tough call for management because of everything that Bruce has meant to this organization.
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Chris: Jim,
I know they have said that Linehan will be back BUT...if he weren't to come back, is there any chance they could get someone like Bill Cowher?

Jim Thomas: Linehan will be back.
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Jim Davis: Okay, I understand that the Rams have had injury problems, but I always thought that the second string football players were just that...FOOTBALL PLAYERS.I believe they get a paycheck for being FOOTBALL PLAYERS!I always thought that second stringers wanted a chance to PLAY! Maybe even impress owners and become STARTERS! I guess I was wrong. I am getting tired of this brilliant, offensive guru the Rams have for coach.

The Cincy game was another disgusting example of having one of the best running backs in the league, so lets not use him in the second half! I've heard the excuse that we had to use Pop Warner quarterback Brock Berlin because we only had Marc and Gus. Let me remind everyone it was Linnehan's decision to go with only 2 quarterbacks PLEASE MR. SHAW FIRE LINNEHAN!!!!!

Jim Thomas: Problem is, the injuries have come in clusters. On the offensive line, for example, the Rams have had to go way beyond second-teamers. Guys like Gorin, Milford Brown, Nick Lecky, and Rob Petitti all were street free agents _ out of jobs _ yet they've had to start games for the Rams.

At WR, there was a time in mid October when Bruce, Bennett and D. Hall all were out, forcing the Rams to use guys like Travis Taylor (street free agent), Brandon Williams (marginal player), and Marques Hagans (a disappointment so far) in games.

But I do agree with you on the QB issue. I'm not among those who think Fitzpatrick is a budding superstar, but it made no sense not to keep him around, especially with his mobility.
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Bill: Hello Jim, I just realized after I pointed out the Favre and Warner fumbles from last year that if those QB's had taken care of business and finished us off, that the Rams would of started out 2-8 last year too ! Okay, so what am I missing here? And the Rams were very healthy last year with big statistical years from Bulger and Jackson..............anyway I just thought that was worth mentioning..........thanks so much !

Jim Thomas: Well, you can make the numbers do just about anything you want them too. You can also say that if Incognito doesn't get a foolish personal foul penalty last year in Seattle following a Jackson touchdown, that the Rams beat the Seahawks, win the NFC West and Linehan is a coach of the year candidate for leading a team that was 6-10 to division title.
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Bill: Hey Jim, I read your article on Sunday morning in reference to Shaw's take on Linehan probably being retained for next year. Just one word - UNBELIEVABLE - and if John Shaw doesn't get tough or have higher expectations for this franchise, then forget it. To me Linehan doesn't have it when it comes to making crunch time decisions, or even recognizing the necessary in game adjustments. Let's look at Linehan's record in games decided by 7 points or less. Last year he was 5-3, but 2 of the losses were to Seattle and if you factor in that Warner and Favre both fumbled away sure wins at the end of the game, the record would be 3-5 instead.

This year his record is 1-4, but throw in the Carolina game and the Bengals game, his record is 1-6. And then wait, that one win was against the Niners and Linehan did everything he could to lose that game too. Okay so that's a potential 0-7 record in close games this year. A 2 year potential record of 3-12. When Linehan came here he use to make fun of the Rams situation and say if we weren't stuck in medicority he wouldn't be here to fix it. Well he doesn't say that anymore does he? I tell you, for a mediocre team, this Rams team still had some key components to work with. It wasn't an ordinary mediocre team. Not just going into this year, but last year as well. I remember Little saying last year that he thought this Rams team had the most talent and speed since it's super bowl days, Linehan inherited a team with a mediocre record yes, but he had a good foundation of talent to work with............

I know the Rams have had a bunch of injuries this year, but they should still have 5 or 6 wins right now. Did you see the Colts game last night? The Colts are loaded with injuries but they keep winning games. We need a coach that can win us some games, and I can't think of one game that Linehan as one for us. It could be the Lions game last year but I'd have to look at that closeley before saying it.........But coaching does make a difference, just look at the Chargers this year. You think the Patriots would continue to roll like this if Belichek had left 2 years ago?...............

Anyway I'll have to keep it short but Linehan has underperformed as a coach in many areas, and Shaw has to realize that he made a mistake and that Linehan is what he is. If he wants another year of Linehan then fine, but the results will be the same and he will suffer at the gate. Thank God for Missouri Football, I'm already looking forward to the Tigers making another run next year. Happy Holidays Jim !

Jim Thomas: Let me just answer the last part of your long item. If I were Shaw, I think that's what I would want to see. A little magic. A little spark. Beat a team or two on the schedule that you weren't supposed to beat. Win a game that didn't look winnable (say Cincinnati). So far the only game resembling anything like that took place in New Orleans this year.

But at the end of the day, Shaw has decided that it would be unfair to judge Linehan based on all the injuries. You may agree with that thought or not. But that's the way it is.
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CPA RamFan: Compare to the offseason before 1999. Shaw sits down with Vermeil; results in Trent Green coming, Tony Banks going, Mike Martz coming, etc.
If/when Shaw has the same meeting with Linehan this offseason, what do you recommend he address this time? Philosophy? Coaching staff?

Jim Thomas: I think Shaw will question Linehan about the offense (too conservative), about the talent level of the roster (where is help needed most), about the coaching staff (who stays, who goes), about the injuries (what can be done to change that), about the amount of say Linehan has over personnel, about some of the personnel decisions big and small (Klop., Wroten and Byrd draft picks for example; getting rid of Hedgecock for Owens, etc.). . . .there's a lot of ground to cover.
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Don: Jim--I don't blame you for being the bearer of bad news regading Shaw's decision to keep Linehan for a thrid year. In your interview, did he discuss his prior comments about overhauling the football organization or hiring a true GM? He talked about this with Bernie a few weeks ago and it gave me some hope for the future.

Jim Thomas: Shaw did not. He broadly hinted at changes, saying the entire football operation will be reviewed for possible overhaul. But I have no idea what that will entail. I think Shaw is still mulling over what will happen as well.
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Charlie Connors: Jim,

I know this is a mute point right now BUT, there is absolutely no evidence that would suggest that Linehan will be a successful coach. It's not like he had a stellar resume as a coordinator. He was a coordinator on very average teams...and his record here is terrible. Furthermore, his only wins have come against very bad teams! You may say the entire league beats bad teams, true, but the good teams routinely beat them. Has Linehan beaten any team with a winning record yet?

So its supposed to magically get better next year? Not going to happen. If anything, it will get worse. He will be a lameduck head coach.

Also, it appears to me that there is a storm brewing between Linehand and his Pro Bowl QB? By the way, What does Linehan know about being a QB anyway? Aside, from a year or two of heaving it up to Moss..he only knows Frerotte.

It certainly didn't come from his playing days. Maybe we can rely on Olson and his tutelage of Joey Harrington.

Guarantee we are in the same situation this time next year! Here's to trading for Faulk, adding Martz as OC, and finding another Timmerman. Yeah, that's going to happen again.

CC

Jim Thomas: I think Linehan's record as a coordinator is better than you're giving him credit. But you do state the case against Linehan. He hasn't beaten a team yet that finished with a winning record. His record inside the division is terrible (2-9). Even with the injuries, there were several winnable games that didn't get won. But Shaw has come to the conclusion that it's unfair to pass judgment on Linehan because of all the injuries this season, and therefore Linehan deserves another year.
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george_allen: Jim

It was posted by a fan that attended last Sunday's game that Steven Jackson and Scott Linehan got into a long one-on-one sideline "conversation" that had Linehan's back to the game for "several minutes". Can you shed any light as to what was going on there?

Also, do you have any read as to how committed the players are to Linehan at this point - is there any level of dissention that would be of concern, particular among the leaders and veterans of the team?

Jim Thomas: I usually watch the actual games more than the sideline. So I'm not aware of any conversation between Jackson and Linehan.
Players are only going to spout the party line publicly. As I've stated before on this forum, I think there has been some low level grumbling at times from offensive players _ some of the same offensive players that complained about the Martz offense.

I think Bulger's relationship could be better with Linehan. They need better communication. Then again, it was Bulger who presented a game ball to Linehan after the team got its first victory over New Orleans.
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Joe Stafford: Jim, Is John Shaw so blind that he doesn't notice the half empty seats, the tv blackouts, the poor jersey sales ect? Forget the play on the field, Isn't part of his job to insure that the Rams make money? Does he have a clue at all?

Jim Thomas: I don't want to speak for him. But rightly, wrongly, or stubbornly, he believes Linehan deserves another year. And if that means a setback in ticket sales, so be it. He believes, and he may prove to be dead wrong, that over the long term, he's doing the right thing.
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Gabriel to Snow: Well Jim, I am now seriously concerned that it will be a few years before we see playoff football. Setting aside the bludgeoned to death subjects of coaching & the front office for the moment, I'm worried we can not fill our needs talent wise. Prior to Bulgers concussion, I was cautiously optimistic. Not anymore, & here's why. Chris Miller, Troy Aikman, Trent Green, Steve Young etc. I can't think of a QB that completed a full season, or even stayed long in the league, after missing time due to being concussed. Bulger has been a trooper when it comes to facing the rush & playing with pain. However, he has made it clear no bravado will be employed when it comes to risking the old grey matter, & who can blame him. I have yet to hear anyone voice the obvious.

The chances that Mark is our QB for the next few years just took a serious blow. (pun intended) The middle round POSSIBLE QB of the future may have to be adjusted to an early round LIKELY QB of the future. Even if he has no ill effects the rest of the way. This may be a deep draft for QBs, & the 2nd or 3rd round may be sufficient. Jim, do you agree with this assessment? Also, if the WORST happens, & Mark is unable to play again after another hit or two, what kind of cap hit do we take if injury forces retirement of a big $ dollar player?

Lastly, I don't place much stock in a halfhearted Shaw vote of confidence. I like Linehan as a person, but if we flounder completely these last three games, the front office risks having the rest of the Rams fan base join the mass exodus already under way. It may be that a coaching change would be the only way to stop that exodus. How do you see it?

Jim Thomas: The Rams need to make sure that Bulger is protected, via pass protection, quicker throws, and better blocker. Offensive line needs to be a top priority in the offseason _ almost across the board.
P.S. _ You may have interpreted it as a halfhearted vote by Shaw. But it was not. Linehan will be back.
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JerzeyMo: Jim,

Shaw says Linehan may be back, but what if John Fox is fired or Cowher wants back in as a head coach?

Jim Thomas: Unless Linehan shows up naked on the sideline some time soon or pulls a Bill Callahan and loses 73-0 in the next three games, he's back.
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Billy C: Jim : How many concussions has Marc had ? Ive watched Chris / Tony / Kurt and now Marc get gang banged forever . I was on the field when we carried Chris off the field in NY after his last wack . I think John Robinson had our last quality OL . We have some good guys now .....But... less than half of them are "Studient Body Left" material.
If the Cap wont let us trade Marc (hopefully he can play again next season) how about grooming a young guy like say Joe Flacco Delaware in the second round ?? If we trade down our #1 (please dont draft an OT #1 - I know it sounds like a contradiction / I dont feel like there is an OT worth that high a pick this year) .

If we drop just a few spaces we could still get quality like say Malcom Kelly WR Oka or Vernon Gholston DE O S and have2-#2s. We could get Joe Flacco or Jeff Otah OT Pitt or K Rivers OLB USC and have the other #2 for Quinton Groves DE Auburn or Fred Davis TE USC .
We should be able to pick up some proven OL guys in FA / I think the Ram management overlooks FA too much .Our drafts have not been hot but people dont realize our FA department is worse . Who do you like at OL in Fa ? Thanks ...Billy C Old School Ram Fan

Jim Thomas: Bulger says he's had only one concussion prior to this one.