Rams pack up and head home ... some for last time
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Dec. 30 2008
As the players filtered in and out of Rams Park on Monday, a day after the
losingest season in franchise history concluded with a 10th consecutive defeat,
nostalgia wafted throughout the building.
"Guys that are in the locker room today, realistically some of them aren't
going to be here next year. ... It's the last time we'll be here with this crew
of guys," linebacker Will Witherspoon said. "Part of it's the nature of the
game, and part of it's the nature of the situation."
The situation — a 2-14 record this year on the heels of last season's 3-13
finish — calls for a major overhaul. That already has begun in the front
office, with the resignations last week of top executives John Shaw and Jay
Zygmunt, and the promotion of personnel chief Billy Devaney to general manager.
Next up are head-coach interviews and a decision on who fills that role. Then
comes the roster. Of the 73 players on the payroll now, at least half could be
seeking employment elsewhere in 2009.
"It's tough," rookie defensive end Chris Long said. "You're saying good-bye to
people you might not see again, because you just don't know."
As offensive lineman Adam Goldberg noted, "It's a pretty cutthroat business."
It's particularly harsh when losing becomes the norm rather than the exception.
"Things are habit-forming. Winning's a habit, losing's a habit," Goldberg said.
"You get in the habit of winning, you get things rolling, and you end up
falling into wins. Unfortunately we as of late have been falling into losses."
Still, the loss that brought the curtain down provided a degree of hope,
several players insisted. The Rams held a three-point lead late in the fourth
quarter before yielding to the playoff-bound Atlanta Falcons 31-27 in front of
64,617 at the boisterous Georgia Dome.
With Steven Jackson piling up 215 total yards — 161 rushing, 54 receiving — the
Rams amassed a season-high 408 yards and scored three touchdowns for only the
second time all year.
"I think it just shows the character of the people we have on our team," tackle
Orlando Pace said. "Guys went out there and fought. We didn't have anything to
play for but pride and what we believed in. We just came up a little short, but
guys really laid it on the line."
Added Jackson: "It was a game that I enjoyed playing in. We haven't had that
kind of game in a while. I felt like whoever was going to have the ball last
pretty much was going to win the game."
After absorbing beat-downs of 44, 35, 28, 24, 24, 20 and 21 points earlier in
the year, the Rams dropped four of the last five games by four points or fewer.
"We were in a lot of competitive games that if one more play would've gone our
way, we would've had a different record. So, that's promising," safety
Oshiomogho Atogwe said. "That means the potential of having a winning season is
here, and it's definitely something that we can shoot for and look forward to
coming into this next year."
First, though, some rest — mentally as well as physically — is in order. "I
think guys are just ready for this to be over," Pace said. "It was like a bad
What will linger, Long pointed out, is that the Rams were packing up Monday
while 12 other teams were preparing for the postseason.
"Every NFL player's body needs a rest at the end. But there are guys that are
going to be in the playoffs next week," he said. "So for us, we just need to
remember this feeling next year, and nobody will want a break then."
So far, two Rams are scheduled for surgery: tight end Anthony Becht (elbow) and
tight end Joe Klopfenstein (knee). Defensive tackle La'Roi Glover probably is
facing knee surgery, too. ... It's not official yet, but it's believed that
Goldberg was the only player in the NFL this year to start at four different
positions on the offensive line: right tackle, left tackle, right guard and