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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    08/02/2009

    So much for the Club Med approach. Steve Spagnuolo laid down his calling card for the 2009 Rams on Saturday. The result was something that hasn't been seen at training camp in years. Live tackling.

    Sure, the Rams have a team scrimmage with live tackling every year on the second weekend of camp. But during a regular practice? Featuring the starting offense and defense? And with the offensive centerpiece running back Steven Jackson deemed fair game?

    Maybe during Dick Vermeil's first two seasons here more than a decade ago. Maybe. "Do you think it was tough?" Spagnuolo shrugged. "I didn't think it was that tough."

    Every once in a while during camp under Mike Martz, the backups would go live for about 10-12 plays. Once in 2005, when Martz was in a particularly foul mood, the defensive starters took part in a full tackling session during practice, but it was against the backups on offense. Jackson, then in his second season, was given a yellow jersey to wear all camp signifying to the defense: hands off.

    That was far from the case Saturday. During the morning practice, the first full-pad practice of Camp Spags, the Rams ran about 30 live plays over two 11-on-11 periods. It seemed everyone on the swarming defense got their hands on Jackson, bringing him to the ground on more than one occasion with aggressive gang-tackling.

    Way back when, Rams defenders would be chastised for even laying a hand on Marshall Faulk. But they didn't take it easy on Jackson.

    "Well, we're not going to do that," linebacker Chris Draft said. "When you say 'live,' it's not 'live, but hey there's exceptions.' It's live and he's got to get hit. Everybody else has got to get hit. We've got to get ready, too."

    (Only the quarterbacks were exempt from contact.)

    So Jackson got tackled more Saturday than in his two previous preseasons combined (when he had zero carries and only two catches.)

    "We know how much 'Steve' means to us, so guys are not going to take cheap shots," cornerback Ron Bartell said. "We're going to hit Steve, of course. He needs the work; so do we. But a guy like me, a DB, normally I would go low (for the tackle). I wouldn't go low on him in practice."

    Even so, at one point Jackson complained about a slow whistle after being brought to the ground by half the defensive unit. But it was quickly back to business.

    In this age of the salary cap, eight-figure contracts and limited roster size, full-fledged tackling in camp is a rarity because of the risk of injury.

    "Yeah, I'm doing this every time," Spagnuolo said, crossing his fingers.

    But it's clear the Rams' new head coach is trying to establish a new attitude at Rams Park.

    "We need to find out quickly," Spagnuolo said. "You've got to remember, again, it's a whole new staff and a lot of unknowns. Really the only way to find out is to put them in those kinds of situations."

    Particularly for a defense, much maligned in recent seasons, that's trying to establish itself.

    "I think we've got guys (on defense) with that kind of attitude," Spagnuolo said. "I do believe that. We've got to keep healthy. (But) we've got to do the things out here to kind of get ready for the competition that we're going to face going forward."

    Apparently, what happened Saturday wasn't a one-shot deal.

    "We'll kind of, as we go along here every day, we'll just decide how many of those periods will be live," Spagnuolo said.

    Bartell says the defense is up to the challenge.

    "You better have some attitude," he said. "I don't think we've carried the attitude the past couple years that we should've had, and we paid for it on the field. So (the coaches) are coming in, they're instilling a new attitude, new philosophy. We're just buying in."

    Spagnuolo told the players beforehand what was coming Saturday morning, so they knew what to expect. But for the 630 fans in attendance and the media, it was quite a surprise.

    "It's a new feel around here," Bartell said. "I don't know if you (media) guys can tell. But for us as players, we definitely feel it. And like I said, I think guys are welcoming the challenge. (Spagnuolo) said camp is going to be tough, and we're ready."


  2. #2
    ramsanddodgers's Avatar
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    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    Good for Spags!

    We don't need anybody getting hurt inpractice, but we definitely need the new attitude. Shoot, just an attitude, period!
    RnD

    GO RAMS!!

  3. #3
    AtlantaRamFan's Avatar
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    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    Great read, and I'm glad to hear about practices being live. I think if the Rams can make it through camp without any major injuries, they'll be much more game-ready than anyone else, which they really need if they're going to get off to a good start.

  4. #4
    Ramer Guest

    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    I like it, I think this is what this team needs. I just pray that no one gets hurt.

  5. #5
    CaliGirlRamsFan Guest

    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    Ditto to all of the above. If our D is bring down Jackson, I LIKE IT! (It sounds strange to say that). I like the comment of "No cheap shots" .

    Here is to no injuries in camp!.

  6. #6
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    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    This has to be controlled to some degree, and not by the coaches in my opinion. They are doing it right in letting the players hit each other ...

    The players need to take care to protect one another. When you are playing your opponent, you have a certain killer instinct. When you hit the opponent you do literally want to "kill" them. You've got to be careful when hitting your teammates. Rare do players get hurt on hard, crunching hits, they get hurt when you go low, or cut tackle, or hit at the head ...

    We've been unable to avoid the injury bug for three years. Alot of this is because nowadays, players come into camp ripped and jacked, with little or no body fat. When they get smacked something has to give, especially when they are not conditioned to it ...

    This new regime is going to make sure we are full speed on day one. Remember how the Titans abused us in the first preseason game last year? Guarantee you that aint happening again ..

  7. #7
    Keenum's Avatar
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    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    I LOVE this approach. You can't go around worrying about injuries like that all the time. This will have us way more game ready than last year, and will help our toughness.

  8. #8
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    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    This makes me happy. If we get the attitude right, from the beginning, we have a much better chance of actually competing during the season. GO SPAGS!! GO RAMS!!!!
    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!!

  9. #9
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    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    Nice!

    Good to hear that Spags is trying to instill toughness from the get go.

    Please keep these camp reports coming. I like reading up on how the new coaching staff is running things.

    Thanks!

  10. #10
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    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    Quote Originally Posted by ramsanddodgers View Post
    Good for Spags!

    We don't need anybody getting hurt inpractice, but we definitely need the new attitude. Shoot, just an attitude, period!
    I hear you it has been broken for a while and he is trying to fix it, so hit away.
    :ramlogo:

  11. #11
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Keenum View Post
    I LOVE this approach. You can't go around worrying about injuries like that all the time. This will have us way more game ready than last year, and will help our toughness.
    Exactly! Injuries have always been a part of football. If you want to play tough, you've got to practice tough. Get the players used to it from day one .. Last year we got to see what it looks like when a HC plays his team scared .. It wasn't pretty ...

  12. #12
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    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    One way to prevent injuries is to get these guys used to taking hits now.

  13. #13
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    Re: Rams dish out hits in practice ..

    As I have sat back and cautiously read reports and some of the sordid opinions of different "columnists" and fans alike, I have finally read something worth paying attention to. I echo the remarks made so far in this response which all seem to be happy about the contact. I think -edit- I know that our team has had a reputation of being soft these last couple of years, and the reputation in my opinion is mostly valid. This team NEEDS toughness and getting hammered on and being able to be that hammer is what football is all about. I think that having a coach like Spags here shines the light on what has been missing from the team as a whole. It will most likely take a couple of years to fully instill the mental and physical toughness that we need, but I see this as a great starting point and it gives me hope that we can at least be competitive and not constantly get pushed around.
    Steve

    What you see is what you get, but what you see depends on where you stand.

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