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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Little is prepared to make big impact

    By Jim Thomas
    Thursday, Jul. 31 2008

    MEQUON, WIS. — As injuries have mounted all around him during the first week of
    training camp, Leonard Little's surgically repaired toe hasn't flinched.

    Through nine practices over six days — with most of the work done on
    unforgiving artificial turf — Little says he has yet to need treatment on the
    toe. He feels a little soreness now and then, but that hasn't prevented him
    from going about his business from practice to practice at Concordia University
    Wisconsin as he prepares for his 11th NFL season.

    "I think Leonard looks just like he did two years ago," defensive coordinator
    Jim Haslett said. "I'm excited about it, because Leonard two years ago had 12½
    sacks, and we really never had a presence on the other side.

    "So now you add Chris (Long) to it and James (Hall) and get Victor (Adeyanju)
    back, and I think Leonard's going to have a great year."

    Little, who actually had 13 sacks two years ago, is planning on nothing less.
    Over a six-year period from 2001 to 2006, Little was one of the game's most
    feared pass-rushers, averaging 11 1/2 sacks per season. Then came the toe
    injury last season, robbing him of his quick get-off, and limiting him to only
    one sack before landing on the injured reserve list at midseason.

    At age 33, it looked like the injury might be career-threatening, but Little
    never viewed it that way.

    "I didn't ever think it was going to be an issue," Little said. "But everyone
    else did. I just had to rehab it, and do the things I needed to do to get back
    to 100 percent. I think it's real close to that right now."

    Little says his body always has responded well to surgery. In college at
    Tennessee, he recovered impressively from ACL and MCL surgery in his knee. As
    painful as the toe injury was last season, Little said he was confident surgery
    would make it right.

    "It's just a toe," he said. "It stopped me from being the explosive player that
    I normally was. But I know how my body reacts to stuff like this. I knew if I
    got it fixed, my body would react in a positive way."

    As early as the spring organized team activities in May and early June, Little
    said he felt he had his old quickness back. And that was even when the Rams'
    training staff was bringing him along slowly.

    So far in training camp, his practice reps have been limited to some extent,
    but he's still getting a lot of work.

    "I know what it takes to be successful," Little said. "Hopefully, I can stay
    injury-free and play like I did (before) or better."

    As he has progressed in the league, Little has built up a solid foundation of
    fundamentals. He's a smarter player than he was six or seven years ago.

    "You learn a lot more," he said. "You look at offenses differently. You can
    read formations. You can tell what they're trying to do as far as run-blocking.
    ... That's what you do as an older player."

    In short, you add savvy to compensate for diminishing skill. This was on
    display earlier in the week, when Little sniffed out a short pass by
    quarterback Marc Bulger and popped across the line of scrimmage for an

    "The way they blocked it, I knew something was going on," Little said. "I don't
    think a younger player would've done it like that. But like I said, as you get
    older in the league, you recognize a whole lot of things."

    Little's play that day energized the defense, which to a large degree has
    gotten the best of the offense in the early going of camp. A play or two later,
    safety Corey Chavous leveled running back Antonio Pittman with perhaps the
    hardest hit of camp to date.

    Little's interception would've been a touchdown in a real game. If the Rams can
    get a few plays like that from a healthy Little in the regular season, good
    things could be in store for the St. Louis defense.

    The defensive line has been one of the bright spots of camp. Long has had his
    ups and downs, but Hall has been impressive as was Adeyanju before suffering a
    fractured finger that could sideline him for a month.

    As for Little, he has gone from being a potential cap casualty in late February
    to now entertaining thoughts about playing beyond the final two years of his
    Rams contract. All because of a toe — and its apparent return to good health.

  2. #2
    laram0's Avatar
    laram0 is offline Superbowl MVP
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    Re: Little is prepared to make big impact

    This is great news on Leonard Little. His success effects everyone else on the defense in a positive way. Nice to have the big boy back.

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