Martz isn't worried about all the vets on this year's team
By Bill Coats

Of the Post-Dispatch

MACOMB, Ill. - The Rams' corps of graybeards - players with 10 or more years of NFL experience - has reached double figures with the additions this season of defensive end Tyoka Jackson, offensive guard Adam Timmerman and center Dave Wohlabaugh.

Ten is a fairly higher number. For example, the Chicago Bears, who will be in Macomb next Thursday-Saturday to scrimmage with the Rams, have only one 10-year vet on their roster.

But rather than fret about an aging roster, Rams coach Mike Martz prefers to consider the experience of the group, which has 125 years of playing time in the league. Topping the list are punter Sean Landeta (20 years), quarterback Chris Chandler (17) and safety Aeneas Williams (14).

"They know how to respond in so many different situations, particularly as the season gets going," Martz said.

Their presence in training camp helps, too, Martz noted, especially as the number of practices pile up and the aches and pains set in. "When everyone's tired, they know how to respond because they've been here before," he said.

The roster includes 23 rookies who are being exposed for the first time to the rigors of an NFL camp. And Martz doesn't skimp on the physical demands: On Friday morning, the team went through a hard-hitting two-hour workout in full pads that featured several jarring collisions.

"It's our place to encourage (the younger players) a little bit, because you can get kind of dogged out," Timmerman said. "For us, there isn't a lot of anxiety about going to practice. But for them, they're kind of worried about it."

Added Jackson: "Leading by example is what's important. Just having a number (of years) by your name is not where you earn your respect; you earn your respect by showing that that experience has taught you how to prepare properly, how to practice properly, how to get yourself ready to play mentally. And that's what you hope that the young guys can see."

Turley practices Offensive tackle Kyle Turley, who had back surgery in the offseason and skipped some of the drills Thursday afternoon because of soreness, was fully involved in Friday's single workout.

Cornerback Robert Cromartie, nursing a minor leg injury Thursday, stayed on the sideline Friday.

Offensive guard Ryan Shau left early when his back tightened.

Harris may return punts Arlen Harris, who averaged 23 yards on 51 kickoff returns last season as a rookie, may get more work bringing back punts this year, Martz hinted. "I think after what he went through last year, he could go in and do a good job for us in the punt return," he said.

Harris returned seven punts for an average of 5.1 yards. DeJuan Groce, Mike Furrey, Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald also are getting looks as return men.

"We'll have probably three or four punt returners and kickoff returners, and we'll try to use all of them throughout the preseason," Martz said. "That may change from week to week, depending on the drills out here and how well they handle the ball. And really, how anxious they are about doing it, how much they want to do it."