Rams Team Report
It's been a brutal month for coach Jim Haslett and the Rams. The team entered November coming off three straight solid outings, two of which were wins. They went into the Nov. 2 game against Arizona knowing a victory would bring them to within one game of the first-place Cardinals.
After taking an early 7-0 lead over Arizona, that game and the next three have been total nightmares. In each game, the outcome was virtually decided by halftime. It has left Haslett scratching his head, as he tries to find a way to win and achieve a reported mandate of owner Chip Rosenbloom that the team win two games in the final part of the season to return as the team's head coach for 2009 and beyond.
The day before last week's game against Chicago, Haslett met with Rosenbloom and co-owner Lucia Rodriguez (Rosenbloom's sister).
Haslett told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "We talked about the future of the team. We talked about the present. We talked about the offseason. We talked about a lot of different things. Why we have the record we have. We talked about the players. We talked about the people in the building.
"It was a good meeting. It was a chance to get to meet Chip and Lucia. I thought it was very productive. I don't know where it's going to go from here."
As for the apparent need for two wins, Haslett said, "I think Chip got on the table what he expects. And hopefully we can fulfill that. We're going to try."
Asked Wednesday at his normal press conference about the published reports of the necessary two wins, Haslett said, "I never said that. Obviously, you'd like to win some games, so it would make ownership and the fans and everybody feel a little better about yourself, but we'll do the best we can. I'm going to do whatever I can to win games. ... I told players we have to win games, not for me, not for the coaches, win games for yourself because really the only people you have are in that room.
"The whole world's against you right now, so why not buck up together, play as a team, be together on the same page, work hard, do the things you have to do for the next month, and let the cards fall and see what happens. I think that's the most important thing."
As the Rams prepare for Miami this week, they are hopeful of having running back Steven Jackson and left tackle Orlando Pace back in the lineup, as well as quarterback Marc Bulger.
Jackson has hardly played since injuring his quad muscle against Dallas on Oct. 19. That was the team's last win. Pace missed last week's game because of a knee injury, while Bulger was knocked out of that game with a concussion on the first possession.
All practiced for a second straight day Thursday. Bulger passed a neuropsych test and Jackson worked after being shut down all last week.
Haslett said Jackson "took limited reps but he took more reps than he has taken in five weeks. We scripted the reps out that we needed to see and we will give him a little more tomorrow based on how he feels. Hopefully, there is not a setback and Friday we will do short yardage and goal line and he should be OK. We will see how he is tomorrow."
Haslett hopes getting some players back can at least produce better starts and at least competitive games.
"It's a bad cycle," he said. "You've just got to keep working at it, keep pushing along, and hopefully we'll come out of this. I think everybody's frustrated. That's why you see some of the things going on."
SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead 8-2. The only Rams wins in the series were in 1976 and 2001. The 2001 score was 42-10 in St. Louis. In 1995, the Dolphins defeated the Rams in St. Louis, 41-22.
—RG Richie Incognito apologized Wednesday for remarks he made last week about the team's fans. Incognito's comments led to a firestorm of controversy, which was fueled Sunday when Incognito mocked fans as he left the field after the team's loss to the Bears.
Said Incognito, "First off, I want to apologize to all of the fans out there. It's been a frustrating year. I really didn't mean to offend anyone by the words I said. Judging by the feeling of the Dome, a lot of people were offended and I fired a lot of people up and I just want to apologize. There are frustrated fans out there and we're not giving them much to cheer about and we're just as frustrated. It was wrong what I said. I said, 'They don't know how to cheer or when to cheer,' which is definitely wrong. We're not giving them much to cheer about, so I apologize to any fans. In that quote, I kind of rambled on a little bit and those words were taken and they were put on blast. I did say it. I'll be a man and be the first to say that I said it, but I apologize and I really want to just put this behind me. We can't really have any more distractions. We're trying to win some more ball games here to keep (coach Jim) Haslett and I think that's where our focus needs to be."
Asked about the apology, Haslett said, "I hope he was sincere about it. If he said it he was sincere, I'm sure of that and I'm glad he said something to the media and I guess he addressed it to the fans. To his play, I think Richie's been our best offensive lineman all year, no question about it. The guy is a good football player and obviously he has to control his emotions. Hopefully, as he goes on in his career he'll mature and keep maturing and he'll understand that part of it."
—QB Marc Bulger practiced Wednesday after passing a neuropsych test and expects to play Sunday against Miami after practicing again Thursday. Bulger suffered a concussion against the Bears on the first possession of the game for the Rams and missed the remainder of the game.
Said Bulger, "I felt a lot better Monday morning so we were optimistic then. I came in and worked out yesterday and didn't feel any effects. I got through practice and I think we'll be fine this week."
Asked to compare this concussion to one he suffered last season, Bulger said, "The one last year, I think, was worse than this one. That one I felt foggy for days after. This one cleared up, probably, within 24 hours, so that was good."
As for his availability this week, Bulger said, "I'd say 99 percent, barring a setback."
—Coach Jim Haslett on the progress being made by rookie DE Chris Long: "I thought Chris was getting better and better and now he has kind of flattened out a little bit. We talked to him today about picking it back up. With young guys, this is that time of year where they get tired and he has to fight through it. He is going to be a good football player but there are a lot of things going on in his head. He has to fight through it until the end of the season."
—Coach Jim Haslett was fined $20,000 by the NFL for cursing at an official during the team's Nov. 16 game in San Francisco.
Haslett was penalized 15 yards after a play in which the Rams gained 29 yards on a close play out of bounds. The Rams wanted to quickly run a play so the ***** couldn't challenge, but Haslett contended an official was standing over the ball, preventing the Rams from snapping it.
Haslett admitted he cursed, but that it wasn't directed at the official. He said he yelled, "Get off the (bleeping) ball."
BY THE NUMBERS: 9-20 — The Rams' record at home since the start of the 2005 season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a good coach. If they bring somebody else in here, he won't know really what we need. (He) has been around here for three years. He knows our strengths; he knows our weaknesses. That's the biggest thing. He's familiar with this team." — DE Leonard Little on hopes of having Jim Haslett back as head coach.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—RB Steven Jackson practiced again Thursday and believes he will be fine to play Sunday against Miami. Said Jackson, "I had two good days of practice and no major setbacks. The leg is a little sore but I was able to give coach (Jim) Haslett what he wanted to see so I guess those are positives things and things are going in the right direction."
—QB Marc Bulger participated fully in practice Thursday and will start Sunday against the Dolphins.
—LT Orlando Pace, who practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, had full participation Thursday and is expected to start Sunday against Miami.
—MLB David Vobora took significant reps with the first unit in practice Thursday, and might start instead of Will Witherspoon, who has injuries to both his shoulders.
—MLB Will Witherspoon, who has injuries to both his shoulders, practiced on a limited basis Thursday and could yield his starting spot to rookie David Vobora Sunday. Even if he doesn't start, Witherspoon might play in certain situations.
—TE Daniel Fells has been working as a blocking fullback in practice following the release this week of FB Dan Kreider.
—WR Keenan Burton, who did not practice Wednesday after having his knee drained, participated fully on Thursday.
GAME PLAN: In the case of the Rams, there can only be one major plan: Keep the game close in the first half. They haven't been able to do that for four weeks, thanks to breakdowns everywhere.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams DRE Chris Long vs. Dolphins LT Jake Long — This is an intriguing matchup of the first two selections in last April's draft. Jake Long was first, followed by Chris Long. Chris Long will have to find a way to keep from being handled by the larger player.
Rams run defense vs. Dolphins running game: Whether it's from the Wildcat formation or just conventional runs, the Dolphins have had success this season. The Rams' run defense has been shredded in recent weeks, so if they have any chance of making this a game they have to find a way to limit RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
INJURY IMPACT: The Rams hope to have RB Steven Jackson, LT Orlando Pace and QB Marc Bulger available for Sunday's game. All practiced Wednesday and Thursday and appeared OK.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: Oklahoma | Arizona | San Francisco | Miami | Dallas | St. Louis | Chicago | Rams | Dolphins | Bills | Marc Bulger | Trent Green | Steven Jackson | Jim Haslett | St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Trent Edwards | Orlando Pace | Alex Barron | Josh Brown | Bulger | Marc | Richie Incognito | Donnie Avery | Dome | I'm. | Jacob Bell | Adam Goldberg | Brett Romberg | Chip Rosenbloom | Derek Stanley | Jim. | Nick Leckey | Pro Bowl MVP | Lucia Rodriguez