Wednesday, August 13, 2008

By Brett Grassmuck
Staff Writer

MEQUON, Wis. - With a rash of injuries to the offensive line last season, Rams tight end Randy McMichael had to step out of his comfort zone as a receiver and lock himself to the offensive line to help with protection.

“It was just a new role that I wasn’t accustomed to, and me being the person I was, I didn’t really want to adjust,” McMichael said. “I really felt like ‘why do I have to adjust my game,’ but I had to. It was miserable, but it was a humbling experience. It lets you know that sometimes things aren’t going to always go your way.”

This is a new season for McMichael, and during the Rams 2008 training camp, he’s had plenty of passes come his way. McMichael has been catching the ball all over the field, including several deep balls. He’s even made a few circus catches. Early in camp, he was hit on a play and his helmet came off. He came down with the ball and the helmet.

“I remember catching the ball, and I didn’t have my helmet buckled,” McMichael said. “My helmet started falling off, and I stuck my hand out there. It really just fell into my hand. Not too many people can do two things at once. It’s hard enough trying to catch a football without trying to catch a helmet at the same time.”

With the offensive line back to full strength, McMichael can get back to doing what he does best, catch the football, and he’s in the right offense for it. New offensive coordinator Al Saunders likes to utilize the tight end, so McMichael should have plenty of chances to find the end zone in 2008.

“I think there are a lot more reads for the tight ends in this offense,” McMichael said. “A lot of times when you’re running, you’d just be trying to clear out for another receiver. But now, you run like you’re getting the ball every play, because there really isn’t a designed play where somebody’s a decoy. That’s why you have guys flying all over the place, because everybody wants to get the ball. So, I think the first guy to get open, Marc’s going to throw it to him.”

Last season’s 3-13 record weight heavily on McMichael. He spent the offseason watching every offensive play the Rams ran last season, trying to find ways to improve. One thing the veteran tight end wants to do is gain his teammates’ confidence, especially the confidence of his quarterback.

“Think about it,” McMichael said. “You're a new guy coming into an offense, plugged into a unit where (Bulger) is used to throwing to guys where he knows where they're going to be every play. So far, from spring to summer, Marc and I have done a great job of being on the same page on every play.”

In the end, it doesn’t matter if McMichael catches 100 passes or one, all he wants from this season is a winning record.

“I think that’s the most important thing about football, winning,” McMichael said. “Anybody will tell you that. No matter what the stats are, if you lose it doesn’t matter. You could have zero catches, but when you’re winning, that just makes everything better.”

RAMS ADD DAVIS, RELEASE BRYANT: In and effort to bolster depth among the secondary, the Rams have added cornerback/safety Tanard Davis.

Davis, 5’9”, 184 pounds, from the University of Miami, spent the end of last season with the Eagles after the team signed him off the Carolina Panthers practice squad. He originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. Davis was released by the Eagles in June.

Defensive tackle Vernon Bryant, an undrafted rookie out of Hampton, was released to create a roster spot. Rams coach Scott Linehan said they didn’t want to waive/injured cornerback Justin King before putting him on injured reserve, because other teams would have a chance to sign him. So the team had to release a player to make room for Davis.

THAT’S A WRAP: With the conclusion of practice on Wednesday came the conclusion of the Rams 2008 training camp at Concordia University in Mequon, Wis. The Rams were scheduled to practice Thursday morning, but instead will use that day to make their way back to St. Louis to prepare for Saturday night’s preseason home opener against the San Diego Chargers.

WATER WORKS: The heavens opened over Concordia’s Century Stadium about midway through practice Wednesday, but the Rams kept working. A few die-hard fans remained in attendance through the rain and several Rams players acknowledged the crowd throughout the downpour.

INJURY UPDATE: Rams safeties Oshimogho Atogwe and Eric Bassey were back on the sideline after limited work Tuesday. Atogwe is suffering from a hamstring injury and Bassey is recovering from a neck injury.

Cornerback Fakhir Brown (shoulder), tight end Anthony Becht (hamstring), tackle Brandon Gorin (shoulder) and safety Jerome Carter (groin) also missed practice Wednesday.