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Null Learns Plenty In First Start
Null Learns Plenty in First Start
Monday, December 14, 2009
By Nick Wagoner
Although he was nervous, rookie quarterback Keith Null let nobody know that the moment of making his first start was too big for him.
And, like most players making their NFL debut, Null’s nerves went away quickly.
“I’d say after the first play,” Null said. “I went out there pretty comfortable. It definitely helps to go out and throw a completion on your first pass so after that any player would tell you, you get that first play then you are out there playing football again.”
It was a long road from tiny West Texas A&M to taking the reigns of the Rams offense for Null but on the first play from scrimmage, Null had a number of firsts.
Null took his first snap in a regular season game (and from under center, something he hadn’t done much of in his shotgun-heavy career), dropped back and delivered his first pass to tight end Daniel Fells for a gain of 7 yards.
It wasn’t the flashiest opening to a NFL career, but it was enough to shake the butterflies loose from Null’s stomach and allow him to settle in.
By the end of his first busy NFL Sunday, Null had a rough statistical day in line with what many rookie signal callers – let alone sixth-round draft choices with Division II pedigrees – would have.
But in retrospect, it wasn’t so much the numbers Null posted as the way he handled an extremely difficult situation that impressed teammates and coaches alike.
“Under the circumstances and how it all went down, I thought he handled himself well in the huddle, I thought he was composed, he had command of what he was doing,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “He’d like some throws back. I thought he stepped up in the pocket well and actually had some pretty nice throws. That part of it was encouraging.”
Null finished the game 27-of-43 for 157 yards with a touchdown and five interceptions for a rating of 37.8.
Considering that Tennessee represents one of the most hostile environments in the league with one of its toughest defenses, Null’s assignment was loaded with landmines before he ever was even declared the starter.
Last week, Null split repetitions with Kyle Boller in practice for most of the week. With Boller battling a thigh injury, Null got more and more reps as the week went on.
By Saturday, it had become clear that Boller would be a game time decision and Null was a viable candidate to start.
That made for some interesting moments for Null in the run up to the game as he awaited word on his role.
“I was going out, getting ready to play not really know what was going to happen and trying to prepare myself for whatever they tell me,” Null said. “I went back in the locker room, they told me I was going to start. I am not going to say I wasn’t nervous. I was nervous but I was also excited to get out there and play and I got pumped up for the game and was excited to run out there on the field.”
In the immediate aftermath of the game, Null acknowledged that the speed of the game was greater than anything he’d seen, even in the preseason.
Of course, that’s a normal recognition for any rookie but for one with Null’s inexperience and background in a spread heavy offense that emphasized quarterbacks working out of the shotgun, the simple act of taking snaps under center and dropping back to pass could be a difficult chore.
“I think he found out it was different,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s an away game against a good defense, there’s an adjustment there, no question.”
Null said he had gradually gotten used to taking snaps from center and adjusting to scanning the field while dropping back as opposed to being set up to throw from taking snaps out of the shotgun.
“I have been getting used to that,” Null said. “Definitely in the game things started to speed up a little bit more. I think I adjusted to it as the game went on. It got sort of shaky for a while but then it slowed back down to me so overall I am starting to get used to that.”
Null also did well with some of the other more minor but just as important details. Things like getting the plays on the headset, dealing with the crowd, making adjustments and communicating the plays properly sound like simple acts but they are also ones that can easily get lost in translation for a rookie.
By all accounts, Null handled that part well also.
“You look for that when you send a rookie out there in that situation, in that position you always want to see the look in their eye,” Spagnuolo said. “I thought he had a good look, he wasn’t frazzled by anything really.”
After getting an opportunity to watch the film, Null believed he did some things well though the statistics won’t necessarily show it. More important, though, are the lessons Null can take from that tape study for his next opportunity.
“It was definitely a lot to learn from,” Null said. “It was great to get out there and have that experience. I have taken a lot of things from that and I am going to get better from it.
Having that film to watch helps you a lot. I saw everything I did wrong and hopefully I’ll go out there and never make that mistake again.”
Perhaps more than anything, though, is the way Null’s confidence never took a hit despite his struggles. That will bode well for someone playing the most pressure packed position in sports.
The next question is when Null’s next opportunity will come. Boller is still dealing with a thigh issue and the Rams would prefer to have a better handle on who will start this week earlier in the week so that person can get the bulk of the reps in practice.
Spagnuolo said Monday the Rams would wait to see where Boller is in terms of his health and that if Boller is healthy, he would likely get the start.
For his part, Null says he would love another opportunity.
“I am going to go out and play with confidence no matter what happens each week,” Null said. “You can see watching the game I threw a pick, threw another pick, threw another one, I was still coming out and slinging it around. I didn’t let that stop me. I am going to go out with the confidence in the ability God has given me and that’s what my confidence is in anyway so I am not going to doubt that.
“I would love to get out and play again. The more experience I can get, the better.”
Re: Null Learns Plenty In First Start
I hope he gets better.
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