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  1. #1
    evil disco man's Avatar
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    Post Mort's Training Camp Bus Tour: Rams

    Spagnuolo changing culture in St. Louis
    By Chris Mortensen
    ESPN

    ST. LOUIS -- So I sense a trend. Teams like the Cowboys, Saints and Rams, who all missed the playoffs, have resurrected physical training camps that were growing extinct.

    Or maybe it's just what Rams first-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo learned in his 10 years under the Eagles' Andy Reid and the Giants' Tom Coughlin.

    The Rams' early camp practices have displayed a rarity in this era: players getting tackled to the ground. Yes, wide receivers are fair game, too.

    "You don't want to get stupid about it and lose someone to injury," Spagnuolo said. "But we wanted to establish that we are going to be a physical football team ... change the culture around here."

    The Rams' intent was clear under GM Billy Devaney when they hired Spagnuolo and then used their first two draft picks on physical players: offensive tackle Jason Smith (Baylor) and linebacker James Laurinaitis (Ohio State), who are both known for their physical DNA.

    Training camp isn't where Spagnuolo began to change the identity. Like many hard-core, consistent, winning teams, he went back to Olympic-style free weight lifts as a core element of the strength and conditioning program.

    "It's something we all did in college -- squats, power cleans, all those Olympic lifts -- but we've had the machines around since I've been here until now," Rams running back Steven Jackson said. "You get re-acclimated. It brings a different mindset and body to the program. I like it. Anything beats what's happened here lately."

    When you pick second in each of the past two drafts, you can get their attention. As vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff pointed out, "It doesn't hurt physically or in attitude that we've gone from the third-oldest team in the NFL to the third-youngest team. The guys are buying in."

    Here's what I saw and learned on the third stop of my training camp bus tour:

    Spagnuolo was able to coax Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur to run his offense. When I asked Spagnuolo whether the offense will resemble the more pass-oriented Eagles or the smashmouth Giants, he indicated it would be more smashmouth with Jackson "because that's the type of personnel we have."

    Smith, the second pick in the draft, is at right tackle, with Alex Barron moving to left tackle. Smith's power and aggressiveness already has aggravated some defenders. That's a good thing. Add a huge free-agent pickup in former Ravens center Jason Brown (who can handle the big 3-4 nose tackles) with Richie Incognito moving permanently to guard, and it's easy to forecast the smashmouth theme.

    Jackson admits he gets far more questions about his fantasy football output than he does about the Rams' chances in 2009. He's able to laugh about it. He now also has one of the best running backs coaches pushing him in Sylvester Croom, the former Mississippi State head coach who served as an NFL assistant for 17 years before that.

    Marc Bulger is cemented as the starting QB. Donnie Avery, who emerged in his rookie season last year as a big-play receiver, and Laurent Robinson, who was acquired from the Falcons in a trade, will be Bulger's primary targets. Robinson was drafted by Atlanta when Devaney was the assistant GM and he flashed nice potential under Bobby Petrino.

    No illusions here. No playoff predictions. Just trying to get better, day by day.

    Interesting sidebar: When asked if Reid or Coughlin ran a more physical training camp, Spagnuolo didn't hesitate: "Reid but, you know, Tom isn't soft." That was a good laugh. But interesting.

    Spagnuolo is mourning the death of his mentor, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, but was grateful he had the opportunity to visit Johnson in June. "I didn't want to acknowledge it, but I knew there was a chance it may be the last time I'd see Jim, who was a tremendous influence. It's very sad to see him gone."


  2. #2
    shower beers's Avatar
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    Re: Mort's Training Camp Bus Tour: Rams

    I saw this by chance on ESPN this morning. There was a cool video interview. Everyone should check it out.

  3. #3
    TekeRam's Avatar
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    Re: Mort's Training Camp Bus Tour: Rams

    What? No playoffs? Well that's fine. I'll take one step at a time. We need to get more physical. Let's make the finesse based NFC West afraid to play us! It's a good change.

  4. #4
    RebelYell's Avatar
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    Re: Mort's Training Camp Bus Tour: Rams

    Quote Originally Posted by evil disco man View Post
    Spagnuolo was able to coax Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur to run his offense. When I asked Spagnuolo whether the offense will resemble the more pass-oriented Eagles or the smashmouth Giants, he indicated it would be more smashmouth with Jackson "because that's the type of personnel we have."
    I was told on this board that Spags never said anything like this.

  5. #5
    TekeRam's Avatar
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    Re: Mort's Training Camp Bus Tour: Rams

    Really Rebel? We, or I at least, always knew that we were going to try to be a run first team like the Giants. It's our pass game that'll look like the Eagles. Overall, I think that's pretty darned scary, trying to take the best NFC run game and combine it with the NFC's most consistent, and non relying on star receivers, pass game. I just hope it works!

  6. #6
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    Re: Mort's Training Camp Bus Tour: Rams

    i think the key piece of that was the fact the Rams have now gone from the 3rd oldest to the 3rd youngest team in the league,that to me is huge.

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    peramoure is offline Registered User
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    Re: Mort's Training Camp Bus Tour: Rams

    Anyone have the vid of sportscenter or a link to the rams part?

  8. #8
    evil disco man's Avatar
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    Re: Mort's Training Camp Bus Tour: Rams

    Quote Originally Posted by peramoure View Post
    Anyone have the vid of sportscenter or a link to the rams part?
    Here you go:

    NFL: ESPN analyst Chris Mortensen has observations on the St. Louis Rams during his bus tour of training camps. - ESPN

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