By Jim Thomas
Saturday, Aug. 18 2007

Every year at this time, there are rookie surprises at Rams Park, players who
come out of nowhere and produce under pressure. But there are just as many
disappointments, those who simply can't get it done under the glare of the
bright lights.

So when veteran Corey Chavous referred to Jonathan Wade earlier in camp as "one
of the worst of all time," you know Wade had to be hurting inside.

Outwardly, Wade shrugged it off. "When you're the worst, you can only go up,"
he said.

Fortunately for Wade, a third-round pick from the University of Tennessee,
Chavous was referring to his singing talent — or lack thereof. Not his play at
cornerback. Nonetheless, when Wade couldn't even remember the words to "Rocky
Top," the Volunteers' fight song, boos reverberated throughout the team
auditorium at Rams Park.

Having rookies serenade teammates is one of the time-honored traditions of NFL
training camp. Wade fumbled his chance, but undrafted rookies Andre Kirkland
and Steve Buches were hits.

Kirkland's version of the Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" and Buches'
rendition of Brad Paisley's "I'm Going to Miss Her" earned rave reviews.

"It wasn't a standing ovation, but it was a good response," said Kirkland, a
safety from Kent State.

"I don't even think anybody knew who I was until I sang that song," Buches, a
tight end from Pittsburgh, said earlier this week. "Now everybody talks to me."

Alas, they're not talking to him anymore. Buches was cut Tuesday. Who knows
whether Buches will get another chance in the NFL? At least first-round draft
pick Adam Carriker got a second chance at singing.

"I started off singing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' and got booed pretty badly,"
Carriker said. "So that's when I went to the Nebraska fight song."

"There is no place like Nebraska, dear old Nebraska U. ..."

Coach Scott Linehan generally approves of such rookie high jinks. But there are
ground rules. "We don't haze," Linehan said. "Hazing to me has a very negative
connotation to it."

He calls what takes place at Rams Park rookie initiation.

"It's very much a tradition if done right, with tact and class, and not
offensive or degrading," Linehan said. "I think a lot of it's just kind of
earning your stripes as a young player."

Besides singing, rookies might also have to carry a veteran's shoulder pads,
helmet or playbook. Rookies who talk out of turn may find themselves taped to
the goal post with cold water dumped over their heads after practice.
Fifth-round draft pick Dustin Fry, undrafted safety Jeffery Dukes and Kirkland
all got the goal post treatment recently.

An end-of-training-camp tradition that predates Linehan is the Rams' rookie
show, featuring skits, songs and comedy. This year's show was held Thursday
night in the team auditorium.

"The rookies didn't hold back," Linehan said Friday. "They had some fun with
some of the veterans, and that's part of the deal."

Back in the days when the team trained in Macomb, Ill., the rookie show also
featured, uh, exotic dancers shipped in from Peoria. Those days are gone;
Linehan said Thursday's show was rated PG.

"A lot of it's just locker room fun, but nothing inappropriate," he said.