The pace picks up today
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Saturday, Aug. 02 2008
CAMP SCRIMMAGE — Players fighting to make roster will get chance to show
coaches what they can do.
NO HITS ALLOWED — Starters, established second-teamers won't be involved in
full contact portion.
* * * * * *
MEQUON, WIS. — After eight days and 12 practices worth of pushing and shoving
each other, the Rams finally get to do some tackling in today's team scrimmage
at Concordia University.
As has been the case in Scott Linehan's previous two training camps as head
coach, the starters and more-established second-teamers won't go full contact.
They'll get in about two dozen plays in what amounts to a more aggressive
11-on-11 — or "team" — setting.
Then again, things advanced several stages beyond aggressive during last year's
camp scrimmage at Rams Park. Running back Steven Jackson took a shovel pass
from Marc Bulger up the middle, and was surprised by a hard jolt from strong
safety Corey Chavous. Remember, this was the "no-tackling" portion of the day.
And when free safety Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe followed up with a very
aggressive attempt to strip the football, Jackson took umbrage and started
throwing haymakers. A doozy of a brawl broke out, probably the biggest since
the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995.
President of football operations-general manager Jay Zygmunt — of all people —
ventured into the mosh pit of flailing players to help break things up.
When asked if Zygmunt's services would be needed again as a peacemaker, Linehan
smiled and said, "He might have to do that. Right now, we don't have the same
matchup. I don't think either guy's going to factor in."
That's because Atogwe is sidelined with a hamstring injury, and Jackson remains
AWOL in a contract holdout.
Then again, Mr. Incognito will be present. Just when things began to calm down
during last year's fracas, in came Richie Incognito, flinging a loose helmet
into the air with a toss that would've made Kyle Turley proud. Afterward,
Incognito declared himself the team "sheriff" — there to restore peace and
order and protect Jackson.
Linehan doesn't want to see a revival of the helmet toss, either, when today's
proceedings start at 9:50 a.m.
"No, I think we're going to try to keep it to just blocking and tackling," he
The live tackling portion of the scrimmage begins when the second- and
third-teamers take the field. Only the quarterbacks will be off limits when it
comes to hitting, so it's a time for young players fighting for a roster spot
to attract the attention of the head coach.
"This is a time where a guy like Quinton Culberson starts to kind of catch the
eye," Linehan said, referring to Culberson's emergence as an undrafted rookie
to make the 2007 squad. "Initially in camp, we knew a little bit about him and
he was doing some really good things. When we got in the scrimmage and started
getting ready for the preseason games ... that's when (Culberson) just all of a
sudden comes out of nowhere. That's what you'd like to see."
This season, Culberson is competing for a starting job at strongside linebacker.
Derek Stanley, a seventh-round draft pick a year ago from NCAA Division III
Wisconsin-Whitewater, remembers experiencing some "pregame" butterflies before
the '07 scrimmage.
"It was my first contact, my first like real-live kind of action in the NFL,"
"It was a little nerve-wracking at first. You didn't know what to expect. How
hard the guys hit. You get to the 'League,' and everybody knows all the little
tricks and stuff like that."
Stanley is a little calmer and more comfortable this camp, but he's fighting
for one of what probably will be six spots at wide receiver on the final 53-man
roster. He has made some big plays on the practice field thus far in camp, but
"I'm in a dogfight trying to make this team, so I know that along with making
those big catches I've got to show consistency," Stanley said. "Always lining
up right. Always doing the correct technique and the correct assignment, and
always giving 100 percent effort."
Rookie Chris Chamberlain, a seventh-round draft pick this April out of Tulsa,
is trying to earn a job as a backup linebacker. He has been working at weakside
linebacker and as a "dime" package linebacker, and has had some good moments in
coverage on the practice field.
"I know the coaches have said good things so far, but I'm not guaranteed
anything," Chamberlain said. "I'm definitely looking forward to getting out
there and playing some live football. This (practice routine) is sometimes a
little unrealistic, tagging off or 'thudding' them up. I'm excited to go out
there full speed, fly around, and hope to make some plays."
Him and about 40 others.