Training camp will open July 26
BY STEVE KORTE
News-Democrat

ST. LOUIS - First-year coach Scott Linehan came away from the St. Louis Rams' mandatory minicamp this past weekend feeling like his team was well-prepared for the start of training camp in late July.

"I was surprised with what we were able to accomplish," Linehan said. "We stayed simple to a certain level, but we've added so many new things that you can't move on until you are comfortable with it."

The Rams will hold three days of light practices -- known as organized team activities -- this week before breaking until training camp.

Players will have about six weeks of free time until they're required to report July 26.

The Rams' coaching staff will be off from June 18 until the middle of July.

"Some of the coaches still haven't moved, and I've got to get back to Washington at some point to see my mom," Linehan said. "We've got to have that time off. If you don't take it, it starts to wear you down."

Linehan said he liked the idea of holding training camp at the team's practice facility in Earth City, Mo., instead of another site like a college campus.

"It just makes so much sense because you get a chance to use our facility, a chance to use our technology," Linehan said. "Everything is here."

Linehan said training camp practices will be open to the public.

"I think that's a tradition that is important," Linehan said. "They're not going to have access during the season, so this is a great time for parents to bring their sons and daughters out here to watch their favorite players."

Linehan has a few loose ends to tie up before training camp starts. He'd like to add a veteran blocking tight end and he'll be looking for another backup running back if Marshall Faulk decides to retire.

Faulk is considering retirement after being physically unable to take part in the mandatory minicamp. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees early this year.

"He's dealing with this decision, and it's a tough one," Linehan said.

Linehan said there was no deadline on Faulk's decision.

"There really is no time table on it," Linehan said. "The sooner the better. We'll address it here as soon as we can. I don't know when that will be, but when we know something, I'll let you know."

The Rams have several young, unproven players at tight end, including rookies Joe Klopfenstein, a second-round draft pick, and Dominique Byrd, a third-round selection.

"I'm happy with these guys, but it's unfair at this point to really be able to evaluate their blocking on the line because we haven't put the pads on," Linehan said. "History says it takes a while for young guys to figure that out."

Linehan estimated that he has installed 40 percent of his offensive playbook.

"Most of the rest of it is stuff like red zone against teams that play quarters, and red zone against teams that play Cover-2," Linehan said. "It's those specific kind of situational things that you really can't get to at this time of the year. We'll start addressing those as we go. The basis of our offense, how we call the plays and how we run the motion, is in."

Linehan said he thought defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was a little further along with installing his defense.

"The defense generally has less than the offense as far as the number of plays," Linehan said.

Linehan said he stressed staying in shape and not forgetting what they've already learned during a meeting with players Sunday.

"It is really critical that we don't lose what we have gained up to this point, especially on the conditioning side," Linehan said.