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Pace will start vs. Arizona Sunday
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Tuesday, Sep. 07 2004
Is Orlando Pace ready for some football? Mike Martz didn't hedge or hesitate
when asked how long it would take Pace to get ready to play.
"Four days," Martz said, without blinking.
Call that the pragmatic answer. Because when Pace stepped onto the practice
field Monday afternoon at Rams Park, four practices remained until the
regular-season opener against Arizona.
Ready or not, Pace will be in the starting lineup for Sunday's noon kickoff at
the Edward Jones Dome. He will do so without the benefit of participation in
the offseason conditioning program, minicamps or lighter spring workouts known
as OTAs. He will do so despite missing all four exhibition games and 5 1/2
weeks of work since the start of training camp July 28.
So is four practices enough?
"I guess it'll have to be," Martz said. "I think it is. We haven't changed what
we do - the calls, the terms. ... So it's not like he just got here and is
learning the offense."
Pace ended his contract stalemate Sunday night by signing a one-year, $7.02
million tender as the Rams' franchise player. To help entice Pace to report,
the Rams gave him $1 million of that total in the form of a signing bonus.
"We're all excited to have Orlando back," Martz said. "I know he feels good
about being back, too."
On that last point, we'll just have to take Martz's word for it. Pace declined
to speak to reporters Monday.
On the practice field, Pace appeared to be in better shape than last season,
when he reported 4 1/2 weeks into camp.
"He came into camp this year 16 pounds underneath what he did last year," Martz
said. "He's obviously trained very well and has prepared himself to come to
camp. Watching him out here in practice, he's a little rusty with some things,
but he's a pretty unique individual."
Pace is listed at 325 pounds on the roster but was probably closer to 345 or
350 when he reported last season.
On Monday, Pace was with the first unit from the outset, and took his regular
turn with the starters throughout practice. There was no easing him in. During
one-on-one pass-rush drills with the defensive linemen, Pace went up against
Bryce Fisher and Anthony Hargrove.
Hargrove got some penetration with an inside move his first time up against
Pace. But the second time around, Pace flattened Hargrove like a pancake,
drawing hoots and hollers from teammates.
But overall, there was little fanfare surrounding Pace's return. It was pretty
much another day at the office.
If there was any ill will, or rough moments, related to Pace's absence, Martz
said, "That's never remembered. ... It's just like an injury. Like I said
before, it's like he just came off an injury list and is healthy to practice
again. That's how you have to look at it."
Besides, Martz keeps his nose out of business negotiations, or in this case,
nonnegotiations. "That's his deal," Martz said. "I don't have anything to do
with that. That's another world, one that I don't participate in."
But Martz does know what Pace can do on a football field and what it means to
have him back.
"Guys like Orlando, you just can't find them," Martz said. "They're very
important to us in what we do, in both running and passing. It just solidifies
everything on the offensive side."
Similarly for Pace's teammates, there are no hard feelings.
"Hard feelings for what?" defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "C'mon man,
he's going to be pancaking people on Sunday. At the end of the day, that's what
this is all about.
"I don't remember having one conversation about, 'Man, we're missing Big O. We
need Big O.' So I can't say that it was something we were worried about. But
I'll tell you this, seeing him walking into the locker room, instantly you feel
a lot better. He's the best in the game."
As for business, Rams president of football operations Jay Zygmunt said he
would let the dust settle on the final roster cuts; let the team get started on
the regular season; and then reassess how to close the wide gap between what
the Rams have offered and what Pace is seeking in a long-term deal.
"Nothing has really changed," Zygmunt said. "We'd like to do something. You
can't just say forget about it. So we'll try and we'll see. Our intention has
never wavered. We do want to sign him to a long-term deal. That's still our
For now, Pace earns that $7 million.
"He's making more than I made in my whole career, so that's pretty good," said
offensive guard Chris Dishman, an eight-year NFL veteran.
-09-07-2004 #2Reborn Guest
Re: Pace will start vs. Arizona Sunday
Ah one good thing about living in this heat infested hell hole is I get two extra games a year on TV.
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