Nick's Mailbag: July 22
Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Bill Hundt

Will there be any accommodations set up for handicap fans at training camp?
(Parking, wheelchair access, etc)

NW: Any specific questions about camp can be answered right here at the site on our training camp page. But yes, there will be accommodations for anyone and everyone to attend practices.

Gerry Kettler

Do you see the rams carrying two legitimate fullbacks with the offensive emphasis on the ground game? Karney and Johnson or Fells?

NW: Itís not likely that they would carry two fullbacks. Karney will be the guy. Fells qualifies at tight end, where they will likely keep three.

Jared McMahon

Is there anyway to ever have a chance to try and become pro if you didnít play college ball?

NW: There are lots of circuitous routes to get to the NFL. But most NFL teams donít simply have open tryouts or anything. The best way I can think of would be to tryout for a semi-pro team or a lower-level arena team, play really well and hope to work your way up. Itís been done before, see: Warner, Kurt.

Sam Thomas

As a someone who is interested in the turf industry, I was wondering if the new turf going in the dome is going to be a portable system, as I know that the Rams have wanted to install a FieldTurf tray system since 2005, but haven't because it was deemed not ready.

NW: To the best of my knowledge, no. The turf installed will be the same stuff that has been used in recent years and will be brought in for the season and then replaced with a new one in 2010.

Don Riley

I'm in Jersey and suffered through watching the Rams against the Giants, Jets and Eagles last year. Also, what people in St. Louis may not know, the Super Bowl Giants with Spags, in what I believe was his first year, looked like the worst team in football after the first two weeks. Then Spags was able to work his magic. The Giants were a defensive powerhouse. I believe the Rams may be the most improved team in the NFL by season's end. Do you think that could be a possibility, Nick? Remember the Giants defense wasn't exactly scaring people when Spags took over in Jersey. They were in disarray and everybody wanted Coughlin Ė out! I'm not sure the players in St. Louis aren't about to go from the outhouse to the Penthouse, quicker than anybody thinks.

NW: I love the enthusiasm, Don. Nobody knows better than Rams fans how fast you can go from the bottom to the top. Letís temper that by not expecting it to happen and letís focus on making gains weekly in terms of better performance but remember this is a process.

Eric B.

Nick,

A friend and I were discussing the two best Rams RB's, in our humble opinions. Obviously they were Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk. Although they were different style backs, they are both Hall Of Famers. With that said, how do you think The Greatest Show on Turf Teams would have been, had Dickerson been magically transplanted onto that team? Better? Worse? The same? I consider Faulk the best Rams RB to play, but my buddy has a strong argument for Dickerson. Your thoughts on this strange but intriguing subject?

NW: Another good question, sort of along the lines of last weekís question asking me to rank them. But for the purposes of the Greatest Show on Turf, this one to me is a no brainer. Could Dickerson have been a major contributor in that offense? Absolutely. Would he have been better for it than Faulk? Absolutely not. And that is not a slight of Dickerson at all. Plain and simple, I donít believe thereís a running back in the history of the NFL more suited to that offense than Faulk was because of his dual running/receiving ability and his overall intelligence for the game. That offense with Dickerson would still have been tremendous but to me for as important as Warner was in making it go, Faulk was every bit as special if not more.

Chris B.

So Nick, Madden 10 comes out in less than a month and I already have my copy preordered. Do you play and are you excited for the new Madden?

NW: Chris, I am not a Madden (or video game) enthusiast but that doesnít mean I didnít used to be one. There was a time where I would have been on the preorder list myself but I havenít purchased a video game in years. If a friend wants me to hop on the sticks and has the game, I usually will oblige but thatís about the extent of my video game interest these days.

Michael Moses

Hey Iím sure you've gotten questions about this but what about trading for Tavaris Jackson? I think we could get him for cheap, his carrier numbers are not that bad and all he knows is the West Coast which the Rams now run. He could be a great backup and maybe even start if Bulger struggles.

I just want your opinion on if this would be a good move, not if it would happen or not.

NW: Iím not a Jackson fan at all. I have seen him play in person a few times and, especially in the 2006 season finale, I was underwhelmed at best.

Brad Lafferty

Hey, Nick. Two things: what kind of playing time can John Greco look forward to this year; and in regards to the "pick 5" question: I agree with your choices at corner and tackle (Asomugha and Thomas); solid reasoning all around. I would choose Mario Williams over Ware, but that's because I believe in a strong line first. Recent history has shown that QB, while important, is not the "key" to everything: more often than not, the "great" quarterbacks are at home watching the Super Bowl (though that trend has begun to swing a bit lately); so I would want a stud running back, say Adrian Peterson or Michael Turner; and settle for a "manager" at QB. That leaves me one more spot, and here's the surprise: If you don't have a kicker, you're dead. So, I would be looking at Steven Gostkowski or Rod Bironas. What say you?

NW: Greco will get a shot to compete for a job in camp but I would expect him to be the teamís top backup on the interior (at least at guard).

I couldnít disagree more on the quarterback thing. There are examples of average signal callers getting to and even winning Super Bowls but for the most part, the big winners have a winning quarterback. Guys like Trent Dilfer, a game manager by all accounts, needed one of the best defenses in history and a strong running game to win it all. Look at recent history and you can see the great quarterbacks making plays to get to and win Super Bowls. Brady, Manning, Roethlisberger, Warner, Elway, Favre, etc. Even Eli Manning had to make the leap to a top signal caller for that team to truly take off. And although kickers are important, it would be one of the absolute last positions I would consider using for my ďtop five.Ē

Brad Schreiber

Nick this is the first time I have looked at the mailbag so I apologize if I ask an obvious question that has already been asked. How does the season look? What do you think we can expect? Iím a lifetime Rams fan (South Dakota) and have followed them from Los Angeles to Anaheim to St. Louis. Thanks.

NW: I donít do predictions in terms of wins and losses. But I think you can expect a passionate team that plays with more discipline that will make some tremendous strides in 2009. What that means in terms of wins and losses only time will tell but thereís little doubt in my mind it will be a better product on the field this year.

Jerry Blanks

Nick, First time writing to ďNicks MailbagĒ. I was wondering what the atmosphere was like around the OTAs. I remember in 99 when there was a feeling of something great waiting to happen. I still remember Isaac Bruceís face when Green went down. Iím not recommending that the Rams are going to win the Super Bowl but do you feel that the TEAM is getting over this losing approach. Thanks.

NW: The atmosphere you speak of was outstanding. It really felt like this team was buying into what the new coaching staff was selling and that was clear in the superb attendance (around 98 percent) for the entire offseason program, OTAs and minicamps. The team bonding and chemistry building was excellent, now it just needs to carry into training camp and eventually the season.

Steve Schroeder

Nick,

Did Jim Haslett find a coaching job anywhere?

NW: Haslett is the head coach of the Orlando franchise in the new UFL, a four-team league that some are hoping becomes a sort of minor leagues for the NFL. Best of luck to him down there, heís a great guy and a good football coach who will likely re-surface in the NFL in the near future.

Bob Smith

Just how many of our draft choices have we signed and the ones that are not signed how close are we?

NW: As of right now, Bradley Fletcher and Brooks Foster have officially put pen to paper. Itís my understanding that the team is awfully close to finalizing deals with at least two, possibly three more that could happen this week. Expect the entire draft class to ink deals before training camp, though.

Reason Warehime

We'll a year for #21. That could mean two things Nick 1) -one year leaves salary cap for signing a WR, a DL or a good vet? Or 2)-to see if he continues to put up the numbers. What is your guess Mr. Wagoner? What are your thoughts on this Nick? GO RAMS!

NW: The Rams still want to get something done with Atogwe but keep in mind something very important as it relates to the collective bargaining agreement. If the NFL goes into next season with no salary cap, Atogwe could revert back to being a restricted free agent based on league rules dictating that players would need six years instead of four to reach unrestricted free agency under the uncapped year agreement. That would certainly make things interesting and open up some alternatives with Atogwe.

But more than anything, Atogwe should be commended for the professional way he has handled being the franchise player. I fully expect him to have another excellent season and sign a long-term deal after the season.

Miguel Iniguez

Thanks for answering one of my questions. Is it possible for Chris Long to be moved to left defensive end? He did get the majority of his sacks from the left side.

NW: Spagnuolo likes to move his players around, especially on the defensive line. Thereís a strong chance youíll see Long in a variety of different spots this year.

Mark Tipple

Hi Nick. Always a pleasure reading your column. I have a question that is a little off the beaten path.

As more and more jersey numbers get retired in the NFL, it's obvious that teams will eventually run out of numbers. As your educated guess, do you envision 3 digit numbers on the uniforms, or possibly a letter designation with the number? I realize that it's going to be years down the road, but it would seem strange to see jersey numbers like "179" or "39a". Just a silly question that I thought you might like to take a stab at. Thanks!

NW: Iíd be shocked if this ever happened. Remember, you only really need a ton of jersey numbers for the preseason when the rosters are large so you can double up on those. That already happens, in fact. But in the regular season, you only have 53 and any team with 46 retired jersey numbers better have one heck of a history of great players and a whole bunch of Super Bowl rings and Hall of Famers.

Trey Fannin

Hello again Nick,
Thanks for your response to my previous question on Rams game readiness and Coach Spags approach. I understand your not having an answer on that question just yet. I want to ask your opinion on the Rams running game. Now that SOMEBODY with some greater intelligence has given Steven Jackson the proper fullback to run behind, what do you think his chances are of returning to 2000+ all purpose yards for the season like he displayed about 3 seasons ago with Hedgecock blocking for him? Personally, I knew it was going to be a disaster for Steven when they let Hedge go to sign with the Giants. Look what they did after they signed Hedge...nothing but SUPERBOWL CHAMPS! I am still little bitter about that fiasco. Letís hope Steven can get that kind of support again!
Go Blue & Gold! Go Rams!

NW: If Steven Jackson is healthy, there are not many, if any, running backs in the league who are better. Heís more than capable of a monster season given the revamped offensive line, the addition of Mike Karney and an offense built around him.

AJ Miller

Hey Nick, Iíve closely followed the Rams WR situation for the past year and a half. Specifically Keenan Burton and Donnie Avery. Now my question is whatís your take on the situation? As in how are they progressing, any injuries that are in serious concern for the upcoming season? Or who has the leads on starting positions?

NW: Avery looked good during the offseason program, OTAs and minicamps. Heís ready to become a game breaker. Burton battled a hamstring injury and his injury history has to be a bit of a concern. He will compete with Laurent Robinson for the job opposite Avery.

Scott Geisen

Nick,
I was Mark Rubin's trainer in high school and I don't see his name on the roster/depth chart. Is he still in St. Louis?

NW: Rubin was released.

Rich Hyman

Hi Nick,
I'm a UK Rams fan and only just discovered your mailbag! Thanks for taking the time and effort each week to keep us fans updated - especially for those of us who don't live too near!!!
I have 2 questions for you!
1. Before the draft there were rumors the rams were interested in re signing Jason Craft. Are they still keen? If so whatís holding the deal up?
2. Now Dante Hall has left, who do you think will handle the KR/PR duties next season?
Thanks again,
Rich

NW: 1. After the trade today for receiver Ronald Curry (the Rams dealt defensive tackle Orien Harris for him), the roster isnít going to change much before camp. Craft is unsigned though and remains an option should injuries hit.
2. The battle for return duties will be one to keep an eye on during camp. Derek Stanley is the early favorite but that could change as others get opportunities.

Roy Bristol

Nick: Want to commend you for the very informative profiles on the Ram's coaching Staff.

Answering MANY of the question', this reader of your "mail-bag", had re: same.

Thanks for your efforts, providing in-sights for the Ram FAITHFULL...

NW: Appreciate the kind words. It has been enjoyable getting to know the coaching staff. A lot of great, really talented guys up there.

Eddie Perez

Hello Nick, hope all is well. My question is about the #2 WR. I'd like Laurent Robinson to get the job; he has the prototypical size of good receivers. From what you've seen in the OTAs, who seems to be pulling away from the pack?

NW: Nobody has pulled away from the pack. The battle is going to rage well into training camp and the preseason.

Jim Scoggins

Hey Nick, first time writing to you, but I enjoy your Q and A....Looking over the Rams schedule, I don't see an easy game (not that there is such a thing in the NFL), as a matter of fact, its kind of scary...What are the chances of a .500 season?

NW: What a schedule looks like now means almost nothing. The teams you think are imposing might not be and the teams you think might be pushovers might be good. And the team you care about (in this case the Rams) might be the team thatís a lot better than people expect.

Percy Lee

Hi Nick,
With the passing of Steve McNair, do you know what might be planned by the league to honor him? Will players wear his number? Will it be limited to the Titans? Or will it be league-wide? I think the Rams should honor him by wearing his number. McNair is part of Rams history considering SB 34 and the so-called "1 yard". Dec 13 at Titans, I hope the Rams will wear his number either on helmet or jersey. No matter what his private life was (no one's perfect, we all have dirty laundry), I think he was a good guy and an ambassador to the game.

NW: I would expect the Titans might honor him with a patch or a sticker of some sort but I wouldnít expect much more. I suppose individual players could attempt to do something around the league but considering the circumstances, I donít know if the league would sign off on a league-wide way of honoring him.

Chris Bushnell

Hey Nick, I was reading an article on NFL.com about Shaun Alexander wanting to come back. It got me thinking. He has all the characteristics that Spags wants in a player. He probably isn't gonna want a lot of money, he will bring some more leadership to the locker room, and we all know it wouldn't hurt for the Rams to have a nice veteran back up running back. He is a freakin former MVP. What do you think about the Rams signing him? I think it would be a great addition.

NW: Nope, not going to happen. Unfortunately in this league, when you are done, you are done, especially as a running back.

Brandon Birkhead

Me and my best friend are both 16 and both rams fans. With the way gas prices are would it even be worth the gas to come see the rams in training camp in Earth city?

NW: Gas prices arenít so bad. Last summer at this time, they were much worse. And to answer your question, I think you answered it with your first sentence. If youíre both Rams fans and want an up close look at your favorite team, split the gas money and come on out.

Eddie Perez

Hey Nick, how are you doing pal. I'm a full-time college student so I don't get much time to get my Ram info but you do a great job.

I saw your response to a question last week about your top 5 players to start a team, and decided to give it a try:

1. RB: Adrian Peterson. This guy is a total beast; both agile and power back, plus he wears that number 28.

2. LT: Joe Thomas. He's a big, tough, physical lineman. He also as a lot of years ahead of him.

3. CB: Nnamdi Asomugha. Just had to steal this guy from you. I live in Cali so I get a lot of Raider games. Opposing QBs fear throwing to his side.

4. OLB: James Harrison. I love his intensity. This guy is just brutal.

5. QB: Big Ben: He may not put up the biggest numbers, but he puts up the numbers that count; the ones in the WIN column.

So what do you think Nick? Is it a good 5? Give me your opinion. Be honest.

NW: Hard to argue with any of your choices. You could make a case for Harrison over Ware but I prefer Wareís consistency. Peterson is a beast and was hard for me to cut and Roethlisberger has a pair of rings. That would be an excellent top five.

Dennis in Sweden

Hey Nick, the Sweed here again!...

I saw your top 5 picks for your 'dream team'
I got to ask; wouldnít you rather just pick Brady and then go 4 defensive studs? We all know that Brady can play ball without any superstar WR or a great RB.
I'd go like this:

1. Tom Brady
2. DeMarcus Ware
3. Ed Reed
4. Patrick Willis
5. Shaun Rodgers

Good luck Nick when you go against my Defense
-Sweden knows football-

NW: That would be a great foundation for a defense but no way would I pick Rogers as my defensive tackle, too inconsistent. Give me Kevin Williams or Albert Haynesworth if Iím going that direction. Hard to argue with the rest of your list.

Rodney McDowell

Nick, love the mailbag. Been a fan for over a decade now and Iím only 21.

My question is, with camp approaching and Iím eager to start the season, what would be the chance that you can update the mailbag every couple of days instead of every Wednesday? Just drop in and post how things looked or who did this and that while camp (the open parts youíre allowed to see anyways) is going.

NW: The mailbag will continue to be just one day a week in terms of my participation. But keep an eye for some special edition mailbags with players, coaches and front office types. We are working out the details of all of that right now but it will be coming.

And as far updates, be sure to check the ďFrom the SidelinesĒ blog which I expect to be updating at least a couple times a day during camp and throughout the season.

Mike Cook

Nick, will the players be available to sign autographs at any of the practices. I have an eight year old and we are decorated his room with a sports theme and would like to get a few Rams items signed.

NW: Players will be signing autographs after every practice. I believe they break up who signs when by position but that information should be forthcoming. Regardless, there will be a chance to get autographs after every practice.

Thanks for all the questions this week. We are coming down the home stretch, almost time for the real thing. Hope to see all of you out here in the coming weeks and weíll be back for more mailbag action next week.