Ram rookies take the field
Rookies Begin Learning Process
Friday, April 29, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
The Rams’ rookie mini-camp is now in its third season, but as the years have come and gone, the idea of the camp remains the same.
Every year, the team’s class of rookies and first-year players arrived at Rams Park. Before even getting a chance to catch their breath and realize they are about to embark on an NFL career (some much longer than others), they are immediately tossed into the fire.
This camp is about one thing: learning. Quarterbacks get a chance to delve into the playbook. Linemen face a barrage of information involving everything from protections to footwork. Safeties are inundated with lessons in how to turn their hips.
“I have always maintained, I really believe this, so much of the success of a young player that comes into this league is how he comes into it,” coach Mike Martz said. “This is a teaching pace with all the information that they need over and over and over again and then we slowly increase the speed of these things so that when the veterans come here and they are thrown into the mix A) they know what to do and B) they have been through these drills so now they can blend in and have a chance and have more success early.”
The Rams welcomed 23 new faces to St. Louis on Thursday and the group immediately went to work. The group spent Friday morning in meetings, getting acquainted with each other as well as the coaching staff.
The 8 a.m. meetings lasted until 10:45, after which the players got their first opportunity to pull on the jersey and show what they can do on the field. The group promptly settled into positional drills with each coach taking their players and showing them how they want things done.
Take for example fullback Madison Hedge****, a seventh-round choice out of North Carolina. With no other running backs at this weekend’s mini-camp, Hedge**** was given the opportunity to work in a one-on-one setting with running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery.
Hedge**** spent time at defensive end for the Tar Heels before moving to fullback permanently as a senior. With the build of a defensive end, but the athleticism of a running back, Hedge****’s biggest weakness is his technique and receiving abilities.
With that in mind, Montgomery put Hedge**** through a series of pass-catching drills during the workout. Hedge**** displayed fairly soft hands and nimble feet for a fullback that weighs 266 pounds.
That one-on-one instruction could be invaluable to Hedge**** sometime in the near future.
“I just want to learn the basic first of all and build on that,” Hedge**** said. “It’s definitely an advantage for me coming in as a rookie not knowing the offense, not going to learn it fast. I didn’t necessarily know it was going to be one-on-one, but I knew there wasn’t going to be many people out there.”
Not all of the learning this weekend is grasping new information. Some of it is actually better described as unlearning.
As is the case with every NFL team, there is a way the player already knows to do something and there is the Rams way. This weekend is all about learning to do things the Rams way.
“That’s part of what we are doing here,” Martz said. “They have to unlearn a lot of things that they learned prior to this…Really, the unlearning process, the stripping away if you will, to begin with these guys are so motivated to learn this stuff. The attention out here is so terrific; I was really impressed with this group.”
EARLY IMPRESSIONS: Though the first day of workouts doesn’t give much opportunity to form an opinion of what a player is, there is a chance to catch a glimpse of what a player could become.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick worked directly with Martz during the first workout. Martz gave the young signal-caller some pointers on footwork and release points. Fitzpatrick seemed to pick up on the cues well, showing a strong arm for the most of the workout before it appeared fatigue set in.
“When you tell somebody here is what I want you to do, they can take what you are saying to them and do it immediately without a lot of repetition, that is very unique,” Martz said. “Those are really unusual athletes that can do that. That’s a Marshall Faulk; that’s an Isaac Bruce. (Ryan) has that innate ability within him to take exactly what we are saying without practice to play and do it in an effective way. I think he’s pretty unusual in that respect.”
A few of the defensive backs also made a quality first impression. Ronald Bartell, the team’s second-round choice, gave a glimpse at his speed in defensive back drills. Bartell was extremely quick in his cuts and appeared to have all of the physical abilities to succeed at this level.
First-round offensive tackle Alex Barron was also impressive, displaying the type of footwork and athleticism that earned him a pair of All-American honors at Florida State.
CLARK GONE: Undrafted free agent Colby Clark, a defensive tackle from Northwestern was excused from the mini-camp because he failed a physical. Clark agreed to terms with the Rams on Monday.
Re: Ram rookies take the field
I can't wait for the season to start
Re: Ram rookies take the field
We'll at least Martzie is saying the right things so far.
I would expect good things to be sad about Barron - positives about Bartell and Fitzpatrick and Hedge"hog" are a pleasant surpsrise.
Come to think about it -Martzie had nice things to say about a lot of rooks at this point kin prevoius years. ... No point in dwelling on the negatives now.