Little is in new role ... St. Louis Rams' elder statesman
BY BILL COATS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
05/04/2009

As reporters approached, Leonard Little requested that no one ask about his status as the oldest Rams player. He was kidding, and, of course, the subject came up.

"It goes by fast I never thought it was going to happen," said Little, 34. "But it is here, and I've got to lead the young guys as much as I can and try to bring them along."

Little also has been with the team the longest he's put in 11 seasons since the Rams selected him in the third round of the 1998 draft. He was a linebacker then and didn't crack the lineup until he was switched to defensive end in 2001.

"What people don't realize, this is like my eighth year in the league because I didn't really play my first three years," he said. "So, I've still got the energy I've always had."

The wear and tear is beginning to show, however.

Little played in just seven games in 2007 before undergoing toe surgery. Last year, a hamstring injury suffered in the opener kept him out of two games and relegated him to a reserve role in a number of others, especially over the final six weeks.

"The doctor told me not to do anything on it for eight weeks" after the season ended, Little said. "I started back running in March a little bit, and I gradually got back into it. It's getting a whole lot better. I haven't really turned it all the way up, but I'm doing what I need to do."

Little participated in all the drills during the three-day minicamp that wrapped up Sunday at Rams Park.

Organized team activities (OTAs) begin May 19, when the team resumes its adjustment to new coach Steve Spagnuolo who had been defensive coordinator of the New York Giants.

"It's exciting for me because this is my first defensive head coach," Little said. "This defense is going to rely on the guys up front to put pressure on the quarterback. So, it really puts pressure on the front four to be great pass-rushers and get to the quarterback."

That's a challenge that Little, the franchise leader in sacks (81), is eager to embrace.

"It's built for the personnel," he said. "That allows us to play more aggressively than we have in the past."

BOLLER'S SHOULDER IS OK

This was Spagnuolo's second minicampwith the team, but just the first with the Rams for quarterback Kyle Boller after signing as a free agent April 4.

It also was his first chance to really test his right (throwing) shoulder, which was operated on in September.

"The shoulder's great, a hundred percent," Boller reported. "It feels probably more strong than it did before, just having to do all the rehab stuff with it."

Boller, a first-round draft pick (No. 19 overall) by Baltimore in 2003, was tossed into the starter's job as a rookie, a position he manned with so-so results until the Ravens traded for Steve McNair before the '06 season.

"I really don't think I was ready to play the game when I was younger," Boller said. "But now that I've been in the NFL for a little bit now and I've learned a lot about defenses and that kind of stuff, I'm just excited about a fresh start."

A NEW OFFENSE

Boller and starting QB Marc Bulger are getting their first taste of the West Coast offense that coordinator Pat Shurmur is installing.

"We're kind of learning together," Bulger said. "(Boller) was in the same offense as me last year, so we're kind of switching over our knowledge from last year to this year. It's helping the learning process, I think."

RAM-BLINGS

Guard Richie Incognito, who was a restricted free agent, has signed his one-year tender with the Rams.

The last of the Rams' three minicamps is scheduled for June 5-7.