Rams Head Home
Rams Head Home
Friday, August 20, 2004
By Nick Wagoner
With the quickness of a Marshall Faulk cutback, coach Mike Martz ended the Rams’ 2004 training camp about 5:15 Thursday evening. Martz cited a major storm brewing in the Macomb area as the reason for the abrupt end.
“I told them to get out of here tonight,” Martz said. “I don’t want them driving home in the rain in the morning. We wouldn’t get anything out of a morning practice here, anyway.”
The players and coaching staff will leave for St. Louis on Thursday night and probably have a practice Friday afternoon at Rams Park. The end of camp signals the next step in the drive toward the regular season. St. Louis will play cross-state rival Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium on Monday night.
The regular season kicks off Sept. 12 against Arizona at the Edward Jones Dome. Martz said he is more than satisfied with the work the team put in at camp. “We had a heck of a camp up here,” Martz said. “The injury list is minimal compared to what it’s been in past years. I’m pleased with where we are.”
WOHLABAUGH GONE: It was a disappointing ending for center Dave Wohlabaugh, who spent 2003 starting in the middle of the Rams’ offensive line.
St. Louis cut ties with its injured center Wednesday night. Wohlabaugh had surgery on his hip in March and was not expected back for at least three or four months.
Wohlabaugh had not practiced with the team during this training camp and was likely going to miss the entire season. He recently traveled to Ohio to have the hip check out again, but the results were not positive that Wohlabaugh would play again this year or any other.
With his tenure in St. Louis ending, so too, might his career. Wohlabaugh signed with the Rams on Feb. 28, 2003. Wohlabaugh was entering his 10th season in the league. Andy McCollum, who started at left guard for the Rams last season, moved back to center at the beginning of camp.
McCollum said he feels comfortable playing his original position again, but he is sorry to see his friend and linemate struggle with injuries. “It’s just unfortunate, the injury that Dave had,” McCollum said. “He’s only been here a year, but I consider him a friend of mine.”
TIGHT COMPETITION: Brandon Manumaleuna seems to be the only tight end that has wrapped up his position, though a return from hamstring problems by Cameron Cleeland could bring the competition into focus. Manumaleuna looks like he is in better shape, showing better burst off the ball and making some difficult catches in traffic.
Martz said Manumaleuna’s offseason efforts are paying off handsomely. “Brandon has come a long way,” Martz said. “First of all, he has lost a lot of weight. He’s done a terrific job, in terms of being a receiver and a significant blocker. The thing about him is that he has been consistently excellent, throughout our practices and our preseason games. He has not had any lapses. He, finally, at this point looks ready to take off.”
With each passing day, a different Ram at a different position seems to be making a statement about where he fits in on the squad. This week, tight end Mike Brake appears to be shouting his credentials from a mountain. Brake’s sure hands and consistency seem to have made him the top contender for a spot on the 53-man roster. Martz said he has been impressed by Brake’s performance. “I think Mike Brake has done a much better job than we anticipated,” Martz said. “He’s made some real good plays out here. He’s a much better receiver in the passing game than I gave him credit for. He has excellent hands. I’m very pleased with him.”
JENSEN RETURNS: Rookie tight end/fullback Erik Jensen did limited drills Wednesday afternoon, but came back at full tilt Thursday. Jensen, who played tight end through his time at Iowa, played fullback in high school. Jensen said it was frustrating to have to miss out on valuable opportunities to learn the offense and impress the coaches. “It happened the first week in camp and I felt like I was just starting to get that football feel back,” Jensen said.”
Jensen missed about two weeks of practice with a knee injury.
INJURY UPDATE: Cornerback DeJuan Groce returned to Macomb Wednesday night, hours after he rode back to St. Louis to have an MRI on his sprained knee. It is unknown when Groce will return, but the injury was not as serious as first feared and he should not miss extended time. Grant Williams (ankle), Cleeland (hamstring), Robert Cromartie (hamstring), Kevin Curtis (shin splints) and Bernard Holsey (knee) joined Groce on the sideline.
Re: Rams Head Home
This happens every year. There's always some excuse, but I think Martz plans to leave early on purpose. First, to keep fans from getting in the way of their departure. Second, trying to practice while the equipment you need to use is being stowed away in a truck is a bit tricky to avoid. Third, if they did stay till the day before the students at WIU had to move into the same rooms that the Rams previously occupied, the cleaning crew would have to work overnight to get them ready, and frankly, I've worked for the university cleaning dorms before, I don't think it's humanly possible. There's also the cross over sharing practice fields with the university's football team.
The last time the Rams stayed till the scheduled end, it was the first year with Martz as coach, they had a shorter camp that didn't cross over as much with the university's fall session, and it was still a mess grabbing equipment out of the players hands as soon as they were done with them to load them into a semi parked on the sidewalk leading to the practice fields. Lesson learned.
I've noticed that Martz uses a lot double talk to manipulate his players to put forth a greater effort to impress him, (tells press he's got faith in a player but bringing in other talent to "compete" with him for the spot, etc.) it's no different when dealing with the public. As long as it culminates into a successful season, he's forgiven.