Tuesday, August 16, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
When you play wide receiver for the Rams it can be easy not to get much attention unless you are an established star such as Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt. Even emerging young stars such as Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald draw their fare share of attention.
But when you play behind that type of talent, the only attention you get is from people looking for the next Holt or the next Bruce. Nobody seems to appreciate the guy that fought from NFL Europe to a job in the NFL. Nobody gets excited about the player who is entering his fourth season with the Rams and has made a spot for himself in one of the most exciting receiving corps in the league.
That’s why the rumors started in the offseason. Some whispered that Dane Looker was on his way out of town because the team didn’t want to pay him. Those whispers became all out chatter when St. Louis drafted Ball State’s Dante Ridgeway in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.
The chatter got loud enough for Looker and his family to hear.
“I heard some rumors, but to me that’s part of the game,” Looker said. “It seems like I have never been handed anything so I am going to have to work for it. I think the organization and Coach (Mike) Martz have a lot of confidence in me and I feel pretty good about my situation.”
Those feelings were buoyed by the comments Martz made Aug. 9 on his “From the Coach’s Desk” feature on this website.
“Dane Looker is on this team; I don't know what the talk is about Looker not making the team,” Martz said. “He is not fighting for a position on the team, he has that. He's an integral part of this team.”
That kind of vote of confidence from the head coach would do any player good and it certainly didn’t hurt Looker’s attitude. Coming from the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe, Looker has always had a chip on his shoulder. He came to Rams’ training camp in 2001 for a short time before being brought back after that season.
From there Looker spent time on the Rams’ practice squad before being promoted to the active roster on Dec. 12, 2002. Looker has been active ever since and had a breakout year in 2003 when he had 47 catches for 495 yards and three touchdowns.
Martz’s vote of confidence certainly helped Looker’s psyche even though he insists he was always confident in his ability.
“I was glad Coach Martz came out and said that,” Looker said. “I think my family was even more happy that he came out and said that. I think they were getting a little worried about the rumors. They didn’t tell me about it, but I called them after it happened and they said it was nice to hear coach Martz gave you a vote of confidence. I know where I stand on this team. I know what my value is to this team and I feel confident in my situation. I plan on being here for a long time.”
Looker’s situation might have been blurred by a lackluster 2004 season. Though he remained in his duties as a placeholder, he struggled to match or better his 2003 performance. A big part of that can be attributed to the emergence of McDonald and Curtis, but when given the chance, Looker struggled at times. He finished with 13 catches for 179 yards.
But Looker has looked like the 2003 version again at this year’s camp, making plenty of plays and catching just about everything thrown his way. Looker has even received some promises that he will be more heavily involved in the offense this year, a task he is more than willing to take on.
“I can’t let a little adversity affect me,” Looker said. “I am going to bide my time and make plays when I can. It is a blessing just to be here. If I feel like things aren’t going my way I can’t turn around. I have to come back out here and prove why they kept me around here in the first place.”
Apparently, Looker doesn’t have anything more to prove to anyone except himself.
INJURY CHECK: There were some pleasant changes to the injury report Tuesday as left tackle Orlando Pace participated in almost everything. He worked with the first team and looked like any discomfort in his thigh had vanished.
Right guard Adam Timmerman continues to make his way back from the slew of surgeries he had in the offseason and he also participated in most of the drills.
The Rams also got some good news on linebacker Brandon Chillar, who is dealing with a shoulder injury.
“We were concerned that he might have re-injured that,” Martz said. “He has some inflammation in the rotator cuff. We are going to hold him out past what he would like. I want to make sure the strength in that shoulder is back up to what it needs to be before he’s going to play. We are relieved. We were really frightened that he might have damaged it somehow.”
Chillar probably will be held out for another few weeks while he gets that strength in the shoulder, but it doesn’t appear serious enough that he won’t play in the season opener.
Martz had nothing new to report on the status of cornerback Jerametrius Butler, who was in Alabama on Tuesday meeting with Dr. James Andrews. That stop should be the last on Butler’s tour of doctors examining his torn posterior cruciate ligament. When he returns to St. Louis, Butler will make a decision on what he will do this season.
“I think when you are talking about something with your knee you always want them to be comfortable and have a consensus opinion on what he needs to do,” Martz said. “Hopefully he will come away from it feeling good about whatever the decision is.”
Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (groin), offensive tackle Grant Williams (back), linebacker Louis Ayeni (calf) and cornerback Duvol Thompson (broken hand) missed Tuesday’s workout.
JUST VISITING: Kaycey Gonzales and here family visited Tuesday morning’s practice. Kaycey is a personal friend of Robert Thomas and Thomas and the other linebackers visited with her after practice. Thomas also stopped to have lunch with Kaycey before getting back to work.
Also at Rams Park on Tuesday morning were 11 people from the St. Louis Society for the Physically Disabled.