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    A Matter of Trust-Balzer

    By Howard Balzer
    Thursday, September 25, 2008


    The mistake we all often make when assessing the performance of football teams is trying to analyze individual players and whether they are performing well or not.


    So it is that the Rams are off to a horrific start and we break out the draft lists and discuss the picks that are no longer with the Rams, while coming to the conclusion that the current players on the field just aren't very good.


    But, is that really the case? Are the players that bad individually, or are they just not playing together as a team? Does anyone believe that a large number of these players wouldn't be playing with another team if they weren't with the Rams?


    On every play in an NFL game, each of the 11 players has a certain responsibility. Ten of them can do what they're supposed to, but one misses his assignment and the play gets screwed up. And, of course, there are 11 guys on the other side of the line of scrimmage trying to do the same thing.


    That's especially the nature of the NFL, where incredible amounts of time are spent preparing for games, yet no matter how intense the preparation, it still comes down to players making plays at critical times on Sunday.


    So, there was Rams quarterback Trent Green at the Russell Training Center podium Wednesday talking about trust.


    When it was pointed out to Green the universal feeling that Marc Bulger lost faith in his offensive line, Green calmly said a quarterback can't be thinking about whether he will be protected or not, and talked about the trust there has to be from everyone on offense.


    Green said, "I tend not to focus on that. I trust those guys to do their jobs just like they trust me to pick the right guy and put it in the right spot. The receivers trust me to have it in that area and I trust them to be at the right depth and their zones and where they need to be in their passing routes. That is the one thing that I lean on and I have leaned on for a long time. From an offensive standpoint there has to be a trust factor there. They have to trust that I am going to get rid of the ball. I canít sit there and hold on to the ball and take too much time.


    "Once again I lean on the word trust and hopefully that develops over the week and they really understand what I am about because I really havenít had a lot of work with the guys that are in front of me.Ē


    Green, of course, has missed significant time the last two seasons in Kansas City and Miami after suffering concussions. You'd think with what's currently happening on this team there might be some trepidation stepping on the field Sunday. If you thought that, you would be wrong. Once again, Green made his way to the trust issue when he was asked whether he feels comfortable playing.


    "I would not even be on the team if I didnít have confidence completely in where I stand physically," he said. "Iíve played a long time, Iíve been very fortunate; Iíve been blessed to have a long career. And if there was any medical advice that Iíd gotten that was wavering in the least bit; you know, I have three kids and a great family, great wife and I wouldnít risk all that. I feel comfortable with that and feel that Iím going to play like I always play and see what happens. Thereís a risk every single snap in the NFL, but just like when I came back in 1999 off a knee (injury). People couldnít believe that I wasnít thinking about guys falling at my legs and everything, itís just when you play the position thatís just part of it.


    "Things are going to happen around you, itís the game. Norv Turner told me in 1995; he said playing quarterback in the NFL youíre going to get hit so either accept it or go find something else to do because thatís just part of the position. And if youíre afraid or worried or youíre seeing ghosts, you have to find something else to do. That was a wake-up call for me because I knew I liked the job and I knew I wanted to play and I was like OK, I have to stop worrying about that stuff and once again it falls back on trust. Trust everybody to know theyíre responsibilities, the backs knowing who their pick-ups are in blitz, the line knowing what their adjustments are when the defense shifts from one side to another. Thatís the trust thing that Iíve referenced quite a bit.Ē


    As so many of us have focused on Bulger losing confidence in his protectors, rarely was it talked about that just possibly his protectors had lost confidence in him.


    Or, that this team lost confidence in itself. After the first game of the season, offensive coordinator Al Saunders acknowledged that he got away from the running game because the team was behind and the defense couldn't stop the Eagles. He figured there would have to be a lot of points scored for there to be any chance.


    It's just as likely that the defense figured the offense wasn't going to score many points, so the discipline of the defense was lost as players got out of position trying to make something happen. That, of course, resulted in numerous big plays for the opposition. Meanwhile, the defense has made few plays, with no takeaways and three sacks in three games.


    Into this mess steps Green, knowing he really has little to lose. No one expects much, so if the offensive woes continue, it won't be a surprise. But, if Green can inject some life into the offense, especially in the first half, some of that trust can begin to be rebuilt.


    As Green said, "Hopefully I can bring some kind of spark and make us more productive on offense.Ē


    On a team searching for some leadership, the always-confident Green enters. As coach Scott Linehan said, "He has a great presence about him and I think that is another thing that will be something he can bring along with his experience with Alís offense. This isnít his first rodeo so to speak. I think he just brings a lot of other things as well as his ability.Ē


    He better hope so.


    A BROWNOUT

    The strange way Linehan answered questions regarding the release of cornerback Fakhir Brown only intensifies the speculation that there is more to his departure than meets the eye.


    Brown missed all of training camp with a shoulder injury suffered in the first practice. He has been slowly rounding into shape and didn't start until Sunday's game against Seattle. Three days later, he was gone.


    Brown was also suspended for four games at the start of the 2007 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy and won an appeal in the offseason that averted a one-year suspension.


    Wednesday, Linehan was circumspect when asked the reason for releasing Brown.


    He first said, ďWe signed Jason Craft and we had to release somebody. So we decided that was the player we were going to release.Ē


    When asked again, Linehan said, ďWe were making some changes with our team and one of the things Jason brings is a true nickel player and starting corner if need be and also a very good special teams player. Really we carry a lot of corners that play some on special teams but not enough. Corners are a big part of that and Jason has a background both as a starter, a nickel player and as a special teams player. His full background is something that we were looking for."


    Finally, Linehan was asked what he saw from Brown's play that resulted in his release, and the coach said, ďI think I answered it before. (Well, no coach, you didn't.) We need to get a combination of corners who can all at times start or start any given game and they all have to be a very big part helping in our special teams. Thatís not the deciding factor. Weíre just looking for somebody that brings a different thing to the table. Jason is truly a nickel player in our defense now and allows Ron (Bartell) to play full-time outside at corner along with Tye (Hill) and I believe in our young players.Ē


    Oh, did I mention that Craft is 32, and Brown just turned 31 Sunday. Happy birthday, Fakhir.


    SIMPLY NOTING

    *Running back Steven Jackson, who had 28 touches against Seattle Sunday, was limited in practice Wednesday because of a sore left groin, but it is not expected to affect his availability for Sunday's game.


    Jackson rushed 23 times for 66 yards against Seattle, but missed some reads on plays. He missed 27 days of training camp in a contract holdout.


    Offensive coordinator Al Saunders said, "Steven's getting his running game legs back a little bit. I think when he looked at the film, there were about four or five runs that he kind of salivated at ó he just didn't press the hole quite enough."


    *Linebacker Chris Draft is back as a starter on the strong side. He replaces second-year player Quinton Culberson.


    Asked the positives Draft brings, coach Scott Linehan said, "He's a leader on the field and a guy who has been through it and knows what it is going to take to prepare for the game. Itís going to allow Quinton to get out and be more effective for us on special teams and still have a role on defense. I just think that when Chris is on the field, he settles things down a little bit.Ē


    *Defensive end Leonard Little has been on the field for less than a handful of plays after injuring his hamstring on the first possession of the season. He practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, and Linehan hopes he can play Sunday.


    Said Linehan, "It looks pretty favorable that he might get a certain amount of plays this week, so I am optimistic."


    Asked if he will be ready to go, Little said, ďI donít know, I am just going to see how this week goes and just take the cautious approach. A lot of coaches want me to. So I am just going to see how it goes.Ē


    *Left guard Jacob Bell was back at practice with the first unit Wednesday and is expected to start Sunday against Buffalo. Bell missed the last two games because of a hamstring injury.


    *Bills wide receiver and punt returner Roscoe Parrish is out 4-6 weeks after suffering a thumb injury in the Bills' win over Oakland Sunday. Parrish underwent what coach Dick Jauron described as "intricate" surgery.


    Last season, Parrish led the NFL in punt returns with a 16.3-yard average and his 15.2 average this season is third in the league. Parrish was also beginning to contribute more as a receiver


  2. #2
    thoey's Avatar
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    Re: A Matter of Trust-Balzer

    Anyone else concerned with the following:

    *Defensive end Leonard Little has been on the field for less than a handful of plays after injuring his hamstring on the first possession of the season. He practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, and Linehan hopes he can play Sunday.

    Said Linehan, "It looks pretty favorable that he might get a certain amount of plays this week, so I am optimistic."

    Asked if he will be ready to go, Little said, ďI donít know, I am just going to see how this week goes and just take the cautious approach. A lot of coaches want me to. So I am just going to see how it goes.Ē
    Seems to *me* the coach, and I use that term very loosely, might be rushing LL back.
    This space for rent...

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