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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    McMichael Happy To Be Back

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    When Rams tight end Randy McMichael suffered a season-ending right tibia injury against Buffalo on Sept. 28 of last season, you could see the pain in his eyes.

    Standing in the locker room after the game, McMichael fought back tears as he pondered the thought of a lost season that resulted in his missing games for the first time in his seven-year career.

    Even though the pain was excruciating, the ever-optimistic McMichael held out hope that he would be able to return before the end of the season. Alas, that was simply the denial stage and McMichael was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 6.

    “I was just trying to do something that no tight end has ever done and that’s play in every game he’s ever (had a chance to have) played in,” McMichael said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be that way, but they say you start a new streak.”

    McMichael was supposed to be a focal point of the Rams’ offense in 2008 after a 2007 spent as a glorified third tackle for a team desperately needing blocking help up front.

    In the four games he was held to in 2008, McMichael posted 11 catches for 139 yards and was one of quarterback Marc Bulger’s top targets.

    Just when it seemed McMichael was settling into a role that had him as a prime target for Bulger, he shattered the tibia and his season came to an abrupt end.

    The passionate McMichael struggled with the idea of not being around his teammates and not getting the opportunity to do what he loves most: play football.

    McMichael spent the next few months doing whatever he could to try to stay close to the game.

    “I was trying to do anything,” McMichael said. “I was playing football with my 4-year-old. I just missed it so much. You really take it for granted (before) you don’t have it.

    “I think just the fact that you look from the sideline and see plays that could probably be made that you could probably help the team. I think that was probably the most frustrating thing.”

    The injury ended a streak of 100 consecutive games played by McMichael since he was a fourth-round pick of Miami in 2002. For a guy who had played and made a difference since entering the league, it was en excruciating time.

    But it also served as serious motivation for McMichael to get back to health and on the field as soon as possible.

    McMichael has been an ardent participant in the offseason training program and returned to the field during the first minicamp in April.

    At this past weekend’s minicamp, McMichael was on the field and looking as sharp as ever.

    “I think I need to prove myself to myself, personally,” McMichael said. “I don’t really worry about the outside influences or what anybody else says. I think I’m my hardest critic and I don’t think anybody pushes me harder than I push myself. Like I said, I’m just glad to be a part of this football team and I’m really looking forward to doing some good things here.”

    Of course, on his return to the field McMichael is being asked to learn his third offense in three seasons in St. Louis. This time, he’s adapting to the offensive stylings of new coordinator Pat Shurmur.

    In Shurmur’s offense, the tight end will play a key role. Although he wasn’t the coordinator in Philadelphia, Shurmur was part of a staff that used the tight end with a fair amount of frequency.

    At their peak, the Eagles regularly threw the ball to tight end L.J. Smith, who emerged as a top target underneath and in the red zone when he was healthy.

    McMichael will be asked to play a similar role for the Rams.

    “The tight end has to threaten (the defense),” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “The defense has to be concerned about the tight end or else there are so many other things you can do to take away the wide-outs. Having a tight end that can stretch the field vertically I think is huge.”

    While the Rams’ offense isn’t considered the West Coast in the truest sense of the word, it is a reasonable facsimile of it.

    McMichael said he has spent time talking to other tight ends about what he can expect in this type of offense. In a conversation with Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, McMichael said Gonzalez told him it’s the best offense possible for a tight end with pass catching aspirations.

    “There are so many throws underneath,” McMichael said. “Everybody knows that the West Coast offense is get the ball out of your hands fast and get the ball to your playmakers and let them do what they do. That’s basically what this is and I’m just really excited to be a part of it.”

    In addition to learning the new offense and fully recovering from the injury, McMichael’s role will include a healthy dose of leadership.
    The Rams added Billy Bajema as a blocking specialist to replace the departed Anthony Becht and he joins a group of four tight ends likely fighting for three roster spots in training camp.

    With little experience in the receiver corps, McMichael is also serving as a guy that the young wideouts and tight ends can look up to.

    “He’s a vet,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s played a lot of football. He’s a real good player at his position so I think that helps that whole group in that I consider him a pro too. So the guys that are behind him can follow him.”

    McMichael embraces that role but he says for now he’s going to try to lead with actions and not words.

    “Me, just being the veteran of the group, I have to just set the example and just keep on trying to keep the guys motivated,” McMichael said.

  2. #2
    eldfan's Avatar
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    Re: McMichael Happy To Be Back

    Glad to see McMichael is happy to be back. We need him to be a big part in the passing game with the young wide outs, should make Bulger job a little easer.

  3. #3
    maineram Guest

    Re: McMichael Happy To Be Back

    Wouldn't it be nice to finally get the kind of season out of him that we all expected when we first signed him ! He has been a pretty unselfish player in his time with the Rams, I'd like to see him have a brake out year catching the ball in 2009.

    Maineram -

  4. #4
    Ramer Guest

    Re: McMichael Happy To Be Back

    I see McMichael having a hugh season this year.

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