By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Friday, Aug. 15 2008
MEQUON, WIS. As rain poured down Wednesday afternoon, Concordia University
Wisconsin President Patrick Ferry and other school officials were summoned out
to midfield by coach Scott Linehan to "break" the huddle.

It was the last practice of training camp for the Rams, but it might not be
their last practice in Mequon. Both the Rams and the university were so pleased
with how things went this summer, they'd like to do it again.

"We'd definitely like to have them back," Ferry said. "It's been a great
experience for us. Having the Rams here has really exceeded our expectations in
terms of things we hoped to accomplish. We just hope they've had a good
experience as well."

The feeling is mutual. "It was outstanding," Linehan said of the team's 17-day
stay.

(The Rams also spent four days in Nashville for practices and a preseason game
against the Tennessee Titans.)

"I've been to obviously some other camps, and been off-site," Linehan said.
"This was by far the best off-site that I've been to as far as the facility,
and the people, how they treated us, and everything."

So does he want to come back?

"I do," Linehan said. "You don't make any commitments other than to say we'd
like to. There's no reason we wouldn't. But we'd have to make some plans as to
how we would come (back) and things we would do different. Any of those little
things. And if we'd agree to those, I'm sure it would work out."

One of those "little things" is to upgrade the grass field on campus to make it
NFL-caliber. The current area, which lies between the two artificial turf
fields, isn't level and is less than 100 yards long.

"We'll work with them on that," Ferry said.

Practicing every day on the artificial turf at Century Field the Concordia
football stadium was tough on the legs and joints of the players.
Particularly the veterans.

"After we went down to Tennessee for four days (on grass), the guys said they
felt good," center Brett Romberg said. "Their knees felt good. Their ankles
felt good. Their backs felt good. Halfway through the first practice (back at
Concordia), guys were like: 'My God!' Your ankles hurt. Your back's tight. You
don't really notice it till you go onto grass, and you actually feel the
difference. Hopefully, the next time we come up here we might have a little bit
more work on some grass."

If there was a tradeoff for working on artificial turf, it was the moderate
Wisconsin weather. Unofficially, the temperature never got higher than 88
degrees. Most days it was closer to 80 than 90, with pleasant breezes off Lake
Michigan.

No one lamented missing three weeks of St. Louis summer. "Not at all," said
defensive back Ron Bartell, laughing. "That humidity, St. Louis can keep that."

The cooler temperatures led to more productive practices. "It's able to flow a
lot better," Bartell said. "Because you don't have to deal so much with getting
water, dehydration, muscle pulls and things like that, you're able to keep your
intensity up in practice."

During the team's entire stay at Concordia, Rams athletic trainers administered
only two IVs to restore fluids. During camp in St. Louis, three to 10 IVs per
practice were routine.

"If you're training for (weeks) in that kind of heat in the St. Louis heat
I really don't think it's too beneficial," Romberg said.

Weather aside, most players are concerned most with living accommodations and
food. Other than the usual complaints about thin dorm mattresses, players liked
the spacious dorm setup at Coburg Hall. Two players were assigned to a living
area normally assigned to four students. The rooms were cleaned every day, with
fresh towels and soap.

"I've been in New York (with the Jets), where you go to Hofstra, and it's kind
of a dump," tight end Anthony Becht said. "So it's not a bad deal."

And it was a room with a view of Lake Michigan, atop 135-foot bluffs. "It's a
fantastic view," Becht said. "It's almost ocean-like. It's a beautiful school.
Beautiful place."

Reviews were mixed on food, with several players giving it a 7 rating on a 1 to
10 scale.

"They kind of threw the wool over our eyes the first night with the lobster
tails and the steaks and stuff," Romberg said. "But we knew that wasn't going
to last. I even had one of the cooks chuckle at us and say, 'Don't be thinking
you're going to get this every night.'"

As for breakfast, well, don't ask Bartell.

"The same thing every day," he said. "Pancakes that are hard. Runny eggs.
Undercooked bacon. I like breakfast. But not here."

Bartell survived by eating lots of fruit and cereal in the morning.

Linehan wanted to train away from St. Louis to achieve more team bonding, and
to amp up the tempo and intensity. Did he get all that out of Camp Mequon?

"Oh, I know we did," Linehan said. "Now the proof's going to be how it pays off
in the end."