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Spagnuolo happy with results of first minicamp
BY Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Apr. 06 2009
You have to start somewhere, and for coach Steve Spagnuolo and his Rams, the
just-completed first minicamp was all about attitude, tempo, accountability and
the concept of team.
After five practices over three days, Spagnuolo and his coordinators came away
with some good first impressions.
"There was a lot of energy and a lot of great effort, which I appreciate,"
Beyond that, the coaches sensed that the squad was receptive to their coaching
styles and how they want them to practice.
"I'm so impressed with the eagerness the players (showed)," offensive
coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "They're really kind of buying in to what we're
trying to teach. Their effort and their enthusiasm and their competitive spirit
was great this camp."
And why shouldn't it be? After just five victories over the past two seasons,
the players are eager for anything that will change their fortunes. Besides,
Spagnuolo arrives with a Super Bowl championship ring from the New York Giants
and a reputation as one of the game's bright defensive minds.
"They're very detail oriented. Very team oriented," said defensive tackle
Clifton Ryan. "I'm glad to be a part of it. I'm going to put my best foot
forward and show 'em I've bought in."
In terms of player evaluation, Spagnuolo wanted his staff to come in with an
open mind and try to focus on what players can do rather than what they can't.
Conversely, quarterback Marc Bulger said Spagnuolo's message to the players was
to act like they're rookies again, that is, eager, energetic, with a totally
clean slate and something to prove.
As for scheme, Bulger isn't sure how much he saw at minicamp.
"I honestly don't know ... because I don't know how much is in this offense,"
he said. "I think they tested us a little bit just to see what we could take,
and I think everybody did a good job."
With a new coaching staff, the Rams get three minicamps this spring instead of
the usual two. Minicamp No. 2 is the first weekend in May, after the draft.
"We gave them some scheme, but for this camp really the focus was to teach them
how to practice," Shurmur said. "Teach them the pace and the tempo. Give them
some scheme so we could see what they can learn. And then we really focused on
As for personnel, despite all the talk about Jacob Bell switching to right
tackle, Spagnuolo confirmed that Bell spent the minicamp at left guard.
Shurmur had some nice things to say about Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton, who
as of now are the starting wide receivers.
"Donnie Avery, obviously, is tremendously fast and he's quick," Shurmur said.
"We worked a lot on him getting off the line of scrimmage and getting down the
As for Burton, Shurmur said, "He gets in and out of routes very well. Catches
the ball well. I think he'll be a fine playmaker for us as well."
On defense, coordinator Ken Flajole played starters Adam Carriker and Ryan at
both the nose tackle and "3-technique" positions.
"We wanted to kind of get a better feel for who could be a '3,' and who could
be a nose," Flajole said. "Who played better out of a lefthanded stance, who
played better out of a righthanded stance. ... We're trying to evaluate where
is the best fit for our players that gives them the best chance to be
At linebacker, Will Witherspoon played the weak-side position, with Pisa
Tinoisamoa at the strong side. Chris Draft was in the middle.
"I remember the things (Witherspoon) did even prior to coming here, when he was
at Carolina," Spagnuolo said. "I always thought he was a disruptive, energetic,
productive, playmaking linebacker. I want to put a lot of pressure on him to
make sure he's that guy. I think he can do that."
In the secondary, Spagnuolo liked the communication between starters Ron
Bartell and Tye Hill at cornerback, and Oshiomogho Atogwe and James Butler at
safety. A healthy and productive Hill is essential to a successful secondary in
There was some confusion Saturday night on the length of quarterback Kyle
Boller's contract. One team official told the Post-Dispatch it was a two-year
deal. But executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff, the
Rams' contract negotiator, confirmed Sunday morning that Boller's deal is for
only one year.
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