New head coach's first minicamp is learning experience
BY STEVE KORTE
News-Democrat

ST. LOUIS - The first day of the St. Louis Rams' minicamp Friday was like the first day of school for many players.

"It's like being in preschool again, where you get up to go to the bathroom you actually raise your hand and ask, 'Can I go to the bathroom?"' Rams wide receiver Torry Holt. "I have to get used to that again."

Players and coaches got acquainted with each other, and at the same time began the process of getting a new offense and defense installed, during the team's two briskly paced practices Friday.

"I think we made strides today," Holt said. "I like the coaches' energy. I like players' energy. We have some new faces, some fast guys, some guys who can play and will help us right now. I think it's an exciting time for Rams football.

"I think we're ready to get this thing back to dominance, to being a playoff-caliber team, to being a team that is talked about all the time around the National Football League. We kind of miss that. I know I have missed that because that really keeps you trying to stay on top of your game."

There were 20 players who weren't with the Rams last season among the 63 who took part in the first day of the minicamp.

"It's very different," Holt said. "For the last seven years here now it's been the same people, same offense, same coaches, same everything."

Add to those new faces another 14 coaches, including head coach Scott Linehan. Wide receivers coach Henry Ellard, special teams coach Bob Ligashesky and strength and conditioning coach Dana DeLuc are the only holdovers from Mike Martz's coaching staff.

"I call them, 'Coach,' when I see them in the hallway," Rams cornerback Jerametrius Butler said. "I don't know half of their names. It's going to take me a while. I've seen the same guys for the last five years, especially on offense."

The only two players absent from the minicamp were running back Marshall Faulk, who had a previous commitment, and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, who was excused to attend the funeral of his grandmother.

Linehan previously indicated that Manumaleuna would be available for practice Friday before leaving for the funeral.

"He was fighting with getting in a practice before going home," Linehan said. "His grandmother's wake was tonight and then the funeral was tomorrow. The best thing for him to do was go home and take care of what is important.

"Everything is OK with me as far as that is concerned."

Linehan was pleased with his first two practices as a head coach.

"It was great," Linehan said. "The best thing about our team is the character of the team and their willingness to work. That was evident today. We had to start with a lot of new things, and there were so willing to try anything.

"There is always a reluctance to do something new and different, and there was none of that today."

Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce has gone through the transition from one coach to another five times in his 13-year NFL career. However, he's learning a new offense for the first time since 1999.

"One of the biggest differences is having to really, really pay attention to the meetings during the offseason," Bruce said. "Everything is new. Once I get to the point where I know everything, maybe next year, I'll be sleeping through the meetings."

Holt said at times he could tell that Linehan was a rookie head coach.

"He's still finding his way and he's still cautious at times," Holt said. "He's still trying to learn guys' personalities. You can see his newness a little bit, but I'm liking him. He's all ears. As a head coach, I think that's one of the things you have to have."

Rams backup quarterback Gus Frerotte, who worked with Linehan in Minnesota and Miami, said he noticed no change in Linehan's personality since becoming a head coach.

"He's the same guy," Frerotte said. "I think he is even more relaxed now. He looks great. He looks a lot younger for some reason. I guess it's just getting our of Miami."