Rams find Camp Macomb was much cooler than usual
Rams find Camp Macomb was much cooler than usual
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Saturday, Aug. 21 2004
For the Rams, Camp Macomb '04 is best summed up by one lingering snapshot. It
was Thursday morning, on what turned out to be the last day of camp for the
team at Western Illinois University.
And there, doing his thing in the Rams secondary, was No. 35, Aeneas Williams .
. . in sweatpants!
Think about that for a moment. Training camp. Mid-August. Midwest. Sweatpants.
So much for the dog days of August. In their 10 summers since the move to St.
Louis, this has been the Rams' coolest training camp.
"By far," head trainer Jim Anderson said. "I think we had maybe two (hot) days.
We had that one Friday that was kind of in the low 90s and pretty humid a
couple of weeks ago."
And a couple of days where the temperature may have reached the mid-80s. But
that was about it.
"In past summers, it's been upper 90s and even up in the 100s on a few days. We
just didn't have anything near that this year. Other than those (few) days, you
couldn't have asked for a better camp."
Gone are the days when tight end Troy Drayton collapsed in the dinner line
because of dehydration. When offensive tackle Ryan Tucker sweated off 10 to 12
pounds per practice. Or when Anderson's training staff would work overtime
after practice administering IVs to restore fluids.
"There were times when we'd do 10-12 IVs after a practice on a hot day,"
Anderson said. "We didn't do one IV this year - not one. That's just pretty
much unheard of for this part of the country."
The weather, says middle linebacker Robert Thomas, "has just been a blessing."
Some days, the Macomb weather was almost too cool, according to wide receiver
"It's kind of tough in the afternoons when it's cool like that," Holt said. "It
takes a minute for the muscles to get going, and strains and different things
like that can happen."
Despite the resort weather, Camp Macomb '04 was hardly a, pardon the
expression, country club.
On that same cool morning last Thursday, defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson was
dripping sweat when he spoke to reporters after practice. "Well, with Bill
Kollar, he's going to find a way to get you wet," Jackson said. "That's not an
Kollar is the Rams' defensive line coach.
"Camp is still rough no matter where it is," Jackson said. "But the weather can
make it either extra rough, or tolerable. So this year, it was pretty tolerable
with the weather."
Jackson has been to 11 training camps as an NFL player. He has not been to a
camp in which the weather was so moderate.
Nor had he been to a camp where the players got a night off to go to the
"Absolutely not," Jackson said. "When I was with Tampa, the schedule was what
it was every single day. That's just the way it was. And again, Tony Dungy's a
great coach. Don't get me wrong. But I like it when a guy can see what's going
on, and change what he's doing based on the needs of the team."
So it is for coach Mike Martz. He runs the team hard. Defensive end Erik
Flowers says they're the toughest practices in the league because the Rams try
to practice at game speed. But Martz also can back off.
"He's been good to us," safety Adam Archuleta said. "He's given us some time
off and helped us get our legs fresh. I don't know if he could've been any
easier on us. So now it's up to us to return the favor and play well. And be
fresh and run around."
The night at the movies was preceded by a team barbecue, which helped break up
the monotony of camp. Martz gave the team a full two days off following the
Chicago preseason game on Aug. 12. Earlier in camp, he canceled team meetings
"We've worked so hard," Martz said. "You've got to recover. You just have to,
and let some of these nicks heal."
But the first 11 days of camp, culminating with the Bears scrimmage on Aug. 7,
were as grueling as any Martz camp since he took over as head coach in 2000.
There was more hitting, and more live segments in practice, although the
full-tackling work basically was done by backup players.
"I think he was trying to send a message," Holt said. "His thing is being
physical. Playing fast. And I think the message was, 'Well, we're going to go
until I feel we're at that point where we're physical.'
"I think it was good for us as a football team. It gets us tough. It gets us
physically ready to roll throughout the course of the preseason."
And what lies ahead in the regular season.
But the idea isn't to grind down players during camp, which is why Martz throws
the players a bone every now and then in terms of extra time off.
"He's done that ever since he's taken over the head coaching spot," Holt said.
"It's good for us as a football team. I think the most important thing is how
we respond after he's thrown us that bone. And that's coming out and practicing
hard, and paying attention to details and giving him exactly what it is that he
"Mike's a guy (who) likes perfection. He wants it done right. He wants it done
fast. And he wants it done with an attitude."
So the Rams leave camp knowing that young players such as wide receiver Shaun
McDonald and offensive lineman Scott Tercero have made moves up the depth
chart. There appears to be much more depth at linebacker than in recent years.
The early returns on Bryce Fisher and Erik Flowers at right defensive end have
The offensive line remains a big concern because of injury and the absence of
Orlando Pace. Depth is a concern at defensive tackle and tight end. Marc Bulger
has thrown the ball well. Veterans Isaac Bruce and Mr. Sweatpants, Williams,
look frisky. Not enough has been seen from Marshall Faulk to draw any
All in all, the Rams broke camp in Macomb on Thursday night with as many
questions unanswered as answered. But cool weather or not, training camp is
still more about developing an attitude - mental and physical calluses, if you
will - than answering depth-chart concerns. There's still plenty of time for
Re: Rams find Camp Macomb was much cooler than usual
Speaking as one who lives here, I like cool summers in Macomb. Sure it's odd, but we usually pay for it later. Wet fall, very cold winter, something. The cooler weather put fans more into a football mood I think because the bulk of the season is played in cool weather. If the fans feel like it's more like real football, they respond more like it's real. They cheer, they oooh, they aah, they argh! That in turn puts more fire into the players. They respond to fans responding to what they are doing. In the end, it's all good.