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Special teams becoming priority for Rams
ST. LOUIS - Upgrading special teams has been a priority for the St. Louis Rams since the end of last season.
After the team finished last or next-to-last in every category in an 8-8 season, the team's draft day strategy incorporated filling that area of need along with improving depth at various positions.
And the rookies who participated in a three-day minicamp this weekend already know they'll be needed to contribute beyond their college role.
"So I hear, so I hear," said second-round pick Ron Bartel, a cornerback from Howard. "Hopefully, with the addition of me and some other guys and everybody working hard with the right attitude, we can take care of it."
In the past, special teams were an afterthought for the Rams. The only area that wasn't dead last year in the NFL was punt coverage, which was next to last. And that area was exposed in a second-round playoff loss to the Falcons, when Allen Rossum gouged them for an NFL playoff-record 152 yards on three returns.
In the offseason, the Rams hired a new special teams coach, Bob Ligashesky. In the draft, they took a tight end, Jerome Collins of Notre Dame, because of his special teams potential. They took a punter, Reggie Hodges, to put the heat on incumbent Kevin Stemke. They wanted willing players.
"That's a mistake I've made in the past when we've gone after defensive players," coach Mike Martz said. "We've spent so much time looking for ability only on defense, but really didn't go into the next phase of that.
"You have to be equally significant on special teams."
The new guys know that. Or if they didn't know it, they learned soon enough that adopting that attitude could give them a leg up on an NFL career.
"It's an important part of football. It can't be ignored," said safety Jerome Carter, a fourth-round pick from Florida State. "Special teams are like offense and defense, you need them. I'll do whatever I have to do to help this team."
That's what Martz likes to hear.
"We made an issue of it this year both in free agency and the draft," Martz said. "So, hopefully we'll make a quantum leap."
Players spent a lot more time in the classroom, nearly 20 hours, than they did on the field during the minicamp. There were five workouts, scheduled for 75 minutes each but all of them ending early.
At least on the field, they weren't overloaded.
"I think they gave us just enough. It wasn't too much, it wasn't too little," Bartel said. "I think it's going to give us a head start, so when we get to camp we can hit the ground running."
This is the third straight year the Rams have held their first minicamp for rookies and first-year players only, a tight group of 23 supervised by a coaching staff of 19.
"Rookies are fun to work with. They come in so eager to learn," Martz said. "We try to create the best environment for them and we try to do as much for them as we can.
"We'll see if they can play under the pressure and deal with everything that happens in the NFL, but it's a good start, anyway."
Most of the players will return in mid-May for informal workouts armed with a base of knowledge. Then comes a full-squad minicamp on June 3-4-5.
One no-show for the camp was guard Richie Incognito, who underwent kneecap surgery on Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. Incognito will be sidelined four to six months and was kicked out of Nebraska due to anger management issues, but that didn't stop the Rams from taking him in the third round.
"We just feel eventually we're going to get a real good player there," Martz said. "When he's back, he's back. Maybe we lose him for the season but we're prepared for that."
-05-02-2005 #2psycho9985 Guest
Re: Special teams becoming priority for Rams
I didnt know Incognito was going to be out that long... that sux.I thought we might see him in the line up around mid to late October.I guess his knee injury was pretty bad,Leaving me wondering if he'll be able to come back at all.
Re: Special teams becoming priority for RamsOriginally Posted by psycho9985
Bear in mind, I'm no doctor...nor do I play one on T.V......and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express."Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod
-05-02-2005 #4SFCRamFan Guest
Re: Special teams becoming priority for Rams
Don't fret psycho. This surgery is not that bad when compared with other types. Ligaments must be treated as bones; meaning casted for at least 6 weeks. Then it must be rehabed like a ligament; which takes 2-3 months to rebuild leg muscles and range of motion in the ligaments and the tendon. He may be ready for practice in a few months but will need extra time to get into game shape. Hence the time table. He is young, hungry and has the competitive fire needed to get him through rehab. I've had five surgeries on the same knee, so trust me. I know.
Last edited by SFCRamFan; -05-02-2005 at 10:20 AM.