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    Rams rookies get stars in their eyes

    Rams rookies get stars in their eyes
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    04/28/2005

    Some of the newcomers had been at Rams Park before, having made a pre-draft visit. But for many others among the Rams' 2005 class of draft picks and rookie free agents, Thursday marked their first time inside an NFL locker room.

    "Right now, I'm a little star-struck," said safety Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe, a third-round draft pick from Stanford. "My locker's next to Marshall Faulk's. It's kind of crazy when you think about it. But we're in the NFL now. I can't be in awe of them, because I've got to play against them in practice."

    Well, not for a while.

    The Rams' newbies won't see their veteran counterparts until the full-squad minicamp in early June. But just the sight of the veterans' vacant locker stalls - with nameplates, career accolades and action photos hanging above - was impressive to second-round draft pick Ronald Bartell. Bartell, incidentally, has been assigned Aeneas Williams' former locker stall.

    "Coming from Howard, where I'm playing with a whole bunch of unknowns, to be in St. Louis with Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Orlando Pace - all the guys - I think it's going to be great," said Bartell, a defensive back. "It's good company."

    But for this weekend, it's strictly freshman orientation. For the second year in a row, the Rams have invited only rookies and "first year" players to their initial minicamp of the spring.

    ("First year" players have been in NFL training camps, or on offseason rosters, or on practice squads previously.)

    So besides the Rams' 11 draft picks and 10 undrafted rookies, wide receivers Michael Coleman and Brandon Middleton, offensive linemen Toby Cecil and Matt Morgan, and running back Dusty McGrorty are on hand for practice sessions and meeting time today, Saturday and Sunday. Those five players were on the Rams' practice squad for at least part of last season.

    Third-round draft pick Richie Incognito, an offensive lineman who last played at Nebraska in 2003, will not be in attendance this weekend. He underwent kneecap surgery Thursday in Birmingham, Ala.

    "Originally, we thought he might be able to come in here for the weekend," coach Mike Martz said. "But he's going to stay down in Alabama until Monday, and then we'll send him home. He can't do anything rehab-wise for two weeks, so we won't bring him in here until about mid-May."

    In addition, one of the Rams' undrafted rookies - defensive tackle Colby Clark of Northwestern - failed his physical and was sent home.

    The newcomers filed in Thursday afternoon, with first-round draft pick Alex Barron welcomed with an introductory press conference in the team auditorium. Martz later pronounced Barron, who is from Florida State, as the team's starter at right offensive tackle.

    "Our very first practice, he's going to start for us at right tackle," Martz said. "It's like when my dad took me when I was 3 or 4 years old to teach me how to swim. He picked me up and threw me in the water. I sunk like a rock. . . . He had to jump in and get me."

    Later, Martz gave the 26 players on hand an idea of what to expect this weekend.

    "Coach kind of laid it out for us," Atogwe said. "It's going to be a very large teaching session."

    Classroom work takes precedence over field work this weekend. By the time the minicamp breaks up Sunday afternoon, participants will have spent nearly 20 hours in the classroom, compared to only five to six hours on the field.

    "They'll do a lot of film work, a lot of note-taking," Martz said. "We're really low-key and informal. It's really a study time. Otherwise, mentally, when they don't know what to do when they're on the field, everything looks like they're in slow motion. It's hard to know what you've got."

    The practice time this weekend basically is an introduction to the drill work the team will do in a full-squad practice when the veterans show up.

    "Then, when we hit our regular minicamp ... they will have had all this classroom work," Martz said. "They will have a much better idea of what to do. And they'll perform way better."

    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Rams rookies get stars in their eyes

    "Our very first practice, he's going to start for us at right tackle," Martz said. "It's like when my dad took me when I was 3 or 4 years old to teach me how to swim. He picked me up and threw me in the water. I sunk like a rock. . . . He had to jump in and get me."
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    Re: Rams rookies get stars in their eyes

    Bartell, incidentally, has been assigned Aeneas Williams' former locker stall
    Is this a not-so-subtle way of denying the "Aeanas is coming back" rumors?
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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