Linehan era begins smoothly
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Scott Linehan is three months away from his first Rams training camp. There are 4 1/2 months to go until his first regular-season game as an NFL head coach.
But that didn't prevent him from spending a restless night Thursday on the eve of his first Rams minicamp.
"I didn't sleep real well last night," Linehan said Friday afternoon after the second of the day's two practices as Rams Park. "I was just thinking about things - making sure we covered them all.
"But the one thing you remember is - that's why you hire real good people around you. And that's why you build a team with really good, high-quality people. You've just got to trust that."
Things went smoothly enough on the practice field. The effort was sincere. The tempo was brisk, even with several walk-through periods. On the one hand, it's not as if the Rams clinched a playoff berth Friday or anything like that.
But it was a special day. The mere presence of team president John Shaw on the sidelines for the Friday morning practice signified that it was a moment of significance - the start of the Scott Linehan era.
Sixty-four players were on hand. Missing were tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, running back Marshall Faulk and three roster candidates currently in NFL Europe: wide receivers Jeremy Carter and Brandon Middleton and running back Fred Russell.
Manumaleuna was excused to attend his grandmother's funeral. The original plan was to have him practice Friday and then depart, but Linehan decided to send him home a day early. "It's family first," Linehan said.
Faulk had an unspecified conflict. Remember, it's unusual for minicamps to be held before the draft. And this is the extra minicamp the Rams get because they have a new head coach. Faulk isn't physically cleared to participate anyway because of offseason surgery on both knees. He probably won't be cleared to practice until the team's third and final minicamp in June.
Linehan added some of his own touches to the practice routine Friday. Injured players wore red jerseys. Linehan wants the players on the practice field taking mental reps and participating in the walk-through period, but the red jersey means "no contact."
In the past, Rams quarterbacks wore the red "no contact" jerseys. But under Linehan they will wear gold.
"I'm an old quarterback," Linehan said. "Red's like 'hands off.' Gold's just 'Hey, it's a quarterback, don't tackle him.' But I just like the color better than putting them in red jerseys."
Even though Linehan's predecessor, Mike Martz, missed the last two-thirds of the 2005 season because of illness, it was strange not seeing him strolling the practice field. It was almost as if you expected to look up and see Mad Mike doing his thing.
"It did happen one time walking in the hallway," cornerback Jerametrius Butler said. "I looked for Martz, and I was like, 'I forgot. He's not here anymore.'"
In the long run, wide receiver Torry Holt figures that will be best for everyone involved.
"The thing that I like the most is that we as an organization, we got what we wanted, which was a new coach, a new staff, a new direction, a new movement," Holt said.
"And on the other hand, Coach Martz got his health back. He got an opportunity to go to Detroit and coach again, to rebuild his resume to try to become a head coach again in the National Football League.
"So I think we won, and he also won. So that part of this deal is over with. That's behind us. It's 2006. It's a new era for the Rams. And we're going to try to get this thing moved in the right direction and try to give this city a lot to cheer about like we've done in the past."
But first things first. In his remarks to the team Friday, Linehan stressed the importance of doing the little things right. And doing them right all the time. He wants a quick tempo. He wants crisp execution. And it began Friday with things as basic as getting in and out of the huddle properly and learning the new terminology for calling plays on both sides of the ball.
In that sense, it was hardly doctorate-level football.
"We're at a point now where it's like being in preschool again," Holt said. "Where if you get up to go to the bathroom, you raise your hand: 'Can I go to the bathroom?'
"And then you come right back. I have to really get used to that again. I think for the most part we, as a football team, we're (buying) into that. We are accepting that."
And they'll see where it takes them in the coming weeks and months.
Re: Linehan era begins smoothly
That all sounds fantastic! Maybe a breath of fresh air was all alot of these guys needed to find their way back to sound, fundamental football, and paying attention to details. Unless, of course, this is all media spin, we should see a Rams team that, if nothing else, executes alot better and has left behind the sloppiness of last season. I am REALLY looking forward to see what the upcoming season brings....