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Rams;Young Wide Receivers Must Grow Up in Hurry ..
BY KATHLEEN NELSON
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Wednesday, Jun. 17 2009
After three minicamps and a couple of weeks of organized team activities, the
Rams' future at wide receiver seems entrusted to Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton
and Laurent Robinson. The trio has garnered the bulk of playing time with the
first unit since offseason workouts began, but their pro game experience is
Avery and Burton will enter their second seasons with the Rams, Robinson his
third in the NFL. Their combined statistics through four seasons: 108
receptions for 1,335 yards and five touchdowns.
Veteran wide receiver Torry Holt eclipsed their combined career total for
yardage five times in his 10 years with the Rams, and topped their touchdown
total eight times. As of March 13, though, Holt no longer was a Ram.
Even the backups have sparse résumés. With the exception of seven-year veteran
Tim Carter, who was out of the NFL last season, none of the reserves has more
than two years in the league, most of it on practice squads. All are newbies in
the West Coast offense of coach Steve Spagnuolo and coordinator Pat Shurmur.
Rather than bemoan the lack of experience, Shurmur seems to focus on the
potential and boundless energy of the young.
"I like the guys we have," Shurmur said. "I think they're playing hard. They're
working hard to get open, and they're really working hard at catching the
football. I think they're all trying to think of themselves as playmakers, and
that's what you want."
Though Burton and Robinson stressed their personal responsibility to improve,
both shied away from accepting a leadership role.
"My whole focus is to make sure that I don't ever let my teammates down,"
Burton said. "To lead, you first have to show by example. I think that's
everybody, whether you're a rookie, a second-year guy or a six-year or 10-year
veteran. If you come out every day and you're aggressive and you make plays,
then I think you're a leader. As you gain years in the NFL, then I think you
can be more vocal."
Burton and Avery had the luxury of listening for a year to the voice of Holt,
who will offer pearls of wisdom to the young receivers in Jacksonville this
"Torry always told me it's important to take care of yourself, focus on what
you're doing, understand that this is a business, worry about self first,"
Burton said. "And then, come out and play hard; don't lose the hunger that you
had when you were younger."
Robinson, used primarily as a third receiver in workouts, didn't benefit from
Holt's wisdom. The Rams acquired him after the first minicamp in April as part
of a draft-pick swap with the Atlanta Falcons. Injuries and a coaching change
slowed his development last year, his second in the NFL, so the move to the
Rams is more like a fresh start for him than an opportunity to share his
hard-earned experience with others.
"We're not worried about not having a veteran," said Robinson, who set a career
record for receptions, 192, at Illinois State. "We know we have a lot of
talent. We've got to use it and keep working hard."
The young receivers' workload also has increased off the field under strength
coach Rock Gullickson. Rather than mindlessly softpedaling on a stationary bike
when the second unit takes the field, the receivers do core strengthening
exercises under Gullickson's tutelage.
"Rock works you, but you're always getting better," Burton said. "I like the
The players contend that the offseason program has whipped them into better
shape, improved their route running and given them familiarity with the new
"Being able to go against Ron Bartell every day is a blessing," Burton said.
"He's one of the best guys in the league. If you get a chance to go against our
guys, it helps your confidence."
Plenty of work remains, though, especially on details and developing rapport
with quarterback Marc Bulger.
"Marc is a great guy. He puts the ball on the money," Robinson said. "We've got
to learn to make plays for him."
Last edited by laram0; -06-17-2009 at 12:37 PM.
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