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Thread: Strauss: Rams discipline about carrots and sticks, apples and oranges ..

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    Strauss: Rams discipline about carrots and sticks, apples and oranges ..

    • BY JOE STRAUSS

    Jeff Fisher has heard the labels but still wonders where they came from. He’s been described as a patron saint of second chances, a risk-taker when balancing talent against character and the guy who enabled the notorious Adam “Pac Man” Jones.

    To those who think numbers don’t lie, five of 10 is the more recent indictment. That’s how many among the Rams’ 2012 draft class have since run afoul of league or team rules.

    Running back Isaiah Pead and guard Rokevious Watkins are suspended for the upcoming season’s first game. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson several months ago was charged with DUI in Montana, where he was tazed during an alcohol-related arrest in college. Johnson could face one or two docked game checks.

    To hear some descriptions, Fisher must favor talent from Attica and Rahway over Alabama and Penn State. At Fisher’s previous stop, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth received a five-game suspension for stomping on Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode while playing for the 2006 Tennessee Titans. Jones was arrested three times in two seasons with the Titans before being tied to a 2007 shooting incident at a Las Vegas strip club that left a bouncer paralyzed.

    The Rams are sensitive to suggestions they are soft on character, insisting they removed more than 20 bad eggs from this year’s draft board.

    “I can say this for a fact: We’ve done things in the last year nobody else in the league has done. I know that. It’s a number of different things,” insists Fisher, who stopped short of enumerating the practices for fear of surrendering a proprietary edge. “We’re using everything we have. It’s not because of the players (who have encountered trouble). It’s to help all the players. It’s not a one-time deal. It’s over an extensive period of time. Every player is different. Every year is different.”

    “We’re not an organization of renegades. We’re not seeking to take players with issues,” asserts chief operating officer Kevin Demoff. “I think the perception is we’ll take anybody, no questions asked. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”

    No organization is immune. The severity of the Rams’ recent off-field issues is relatively minor compared to what Fisher encountered inTennessee. But they are there. The number disciplined among the Rams’ Class of ’12 is actually inflated 40 percent by Fisher’s decision last November to suspend rookie receiver Chris Givens and cornerback Janoris Jenkins for violating team rules in San Francisco.

    The team could have fined and discreetly punished the pair, left them eligible for a huge division game against the ***** . Fisher and general manager Les Snead advocated otherwise.

    The players ran the steps at Candlestick Park before the game. Jenkins later sought counsel from mentor and former Rams defensive back Aeneas Williams. “It paid off as the season went along,” says Jenkins. “We talked about life and what was going on.”

    The Rams say and do this while admittedly taking chances on players previously involved in brushes with the law. (Jenkins had legal issues at Florida before transferring to North Alabama.) They reconcile this by pointing to a comprehensive program designed to offer direction to younger players as soon as they arrive at Rams Park.

    The Rams last year initiated a player development program focusing on educating players about staying off a police log, managing money and intelligently using social media. During an approaching six-week hiatus leading up to training camp – “the scariest six weeks of the year,” according to Demoff – staff will randomly text and phone players at late hours.

    Snead is an avid student of behavioral science. He notes the volatility created by 22- and 23-year-olds and millions of dollars but also believes in a pro-active program that asks everyone in the organization to form a support system. He uses the analogy of the Lion King: a first-year player gradually maturing from a cub to a leader, a big cat.

    “You’re going to be asked to play like a lion and asked to behave a lion and you’re that little kid,” Snead says. “But if at some point we believe it’s going to take too much energy from all the people to a player to meet our standards… then, no.”

    It’s impossible to ignore the fact that Fisher and Snead joined an organization that had endured the worst five-year run in NFL history. Predecessor Steve Spagnuolo’s Four Pillars approach brought nothing except an increasingly apathetic fan base and, ultimately, a pink slip. The current regime arrived desperate for talent, pillars or not.

    “You can’t win without talent. You just can’t,” Fisher notes. “Second, you have to then go in and find out if there are character concerns. You have to identify players, examine then and then make your decision. There were a lot of players we took off the board. There’s a balance.” Fisher believes “you’re going to win an extra two or three games with the appropriate chemistry in the locker room.”

    The Rams enjoyed a good room last season. They played with what Snead calls “a passion” uncorrupted by internal dissent. Truth to tell, the Rams give more weight to a player’s worth as a teammate than whether he got popped for using weed in college.

    “To me, as an organization, our tolerance level for taking on risk is probably greater than some other teams. It probably will remain that way,” says Demoff. “You understand eventually you’re going to get burned. You understand how you handle that. Jeff and Les know that.”

    When outside linebacker Alec Ogletree plummeted in April’s draft due to a series of off-field incidents at Georgia, the Rams saw it as an opportunity to gobble him up at No. 30. They did so after investigating his background and interviewing him. They concluded that Ogletree offers Pro Bowl potential and minimal risk within a new environment.

    “There were issues and choices made. You do your research, which we did, and at the end of the day we ended up picking Alec,” Fisher said. “He’s athletic. He has ability. He has tremendous potential. There were also choices that he made during his college career. He understands that those things aren’t tolerated here.”

    Fisher chafes at any hint of professional amorality. The organization invited parents of this year’s draft class to attend May rookie minicamp, where they became familiar with the support system offered by the club.

    It was during last spring’s rookie camp that Fisher arranged for a Brinks truck to transport $1 million cash to Rams Park. Armed guards spread the loot on a meeting room table. Fisher then divided the money – this much for taxes, this much for an agent’s commission, so much for immediate family and so much for hangers-on. Only a small fraction remained for the athlete.

    Visual aids can also come in handy as disciplinary instruments. During a team meeting Fisher brandished a gas can when relating a player’s supposed vehicle-related tardiness. Fisher then informed the player the can of gas would cost him $19,000.

    Private acts of discipline contrast to the public willingness to gamble. The Rams, for example, were alone in placing a waiver claim on troubled ex-Detroit Lions receiver Titus Young. The Rams ultimately elected not to sign Young, since arrested at least three times, including twice in one day.

    Merely considering Young may seem like Wild West risk-taking. To Fisher it is nothing more dangerous than exploring any avenue that might enhance his roster.

    “We had an opportunity to claim him. We didn’t want him to clear waivers and have to compete with other clubs. We took advantage of the claiming rules to get a talented player who had some issues,” Fisher says. “We brought him in. We evaluated him. He didn’t pass the evaluation.”

    In some ways, the evaluation never ends.


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    Re: Strauss: Rams discipline about carrots and sticks, apples and oranges ..

    I have mixed feelings on this topic. On one hand, I believe firmly in the concepts of playing with honor and character- concepts that some people mistakenly confuse with "being a choir boy". Positively representing yourself through not only quality play but quality character is something that no one should EVER have to apologize for. It is expected for the teams I've coached and preferred for the teams I root for, it's as simple as that.

    On the flip side, I believe in redemption. Unless a guy has committed a transgression so egregious that one couldn't justify keeping him, I feel a second chance or taking a flyer on a guy who isn't the world's greatest citizen is acceptable. The Rams appear to have done their due diligence on guys and Fisher has demonstrated not only a plan to keep these guys on the straight-and-narrow, but a willingness to discipline if necessary. He also shows that he cares about his guys.

    While I have and will continue to trust Fisher's judgment, there is a fine line between being regarded as a team willing to give a guy or two a second chance and a team that gives the perception as being one who will take on most anyone in the name of winning. I AM NOT SAYING the Rams have done that- but they HAVE taken an inordinate number of guys with warts in their past. Snead's comment about the Rams "probably having a higher tolerance level for taking on risk" and that "you understand eventually you'll get burned" concerns me to a degree. And bringing in a guy like Titus Young- a complete scumbag- does nothing but draw negativity towards you. At least they had the good sense to unload him almost immediately.

    The Rams are hardly the only team in football that have had and will have players in trouble. I will continue to trust Jeff Fisher and the current regime. But with this approach there is always going to be a measure of concern from fans.
    Last edited by NJ Ramsfan1; -06-12-2013 at 10:44 AM.

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    Re: Strauss: Rams discipline about carrots and sticks, apples and oranges ..

    NJ,

    I understand where you are coming from and I too resonate with your thoughts. While there are some players with transgressions (public) as a whole, they seems pretty tame to me. The hype by the media is more concerning to me on this then the incidents. Coupling the internal issue with Givens and Jenkins as well as drudging up the past issues and bundling into a neat little package is media hype. When it is all boiled down, what are we truly factually looking at? Tru's issue and the two (1 game) suspensions.


    I will take a wait and see on this as I too have trust in the brain"trust" Remember, we had number 91 play for us for many years and that was a HUGE incident.....compared to these things.
    NJ Ramsfan1 likes this.

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    Re: Strauss: Rams discipline about carrots and sticks, apples and oranges ..

    Quote Originally Posted by macrammer View Post
    NJ,
    When it is all boiled down, what are we truly factually looking at? Tru's issue and the two (1 game) suspensions.
    So far, yes .. With guys like Finnegn, Long (both of them), Bradford, Laurinaitis, Harvey Dahl, Pettis and a coaching staff that is highly respected by the players, kids who are dealing with maturity issues will have the benefit of a strong supportive environment in which to grow. They will learn accountability isn't just knowing the playbook and executing assignments. It is also involves learning to avoid foolish decisions which could keep them off the field of play. Jenkins and Givens hopefully learned a huge lesson last season. The team needed those guys on the field, not running up and down steps - particularly against our most hated rival.

    As far as getting "burned" goes, one can be a bust without having "character issues." We have done very well so far with Fish/Snead at the helm. I am not overly concerned about our current crop of rookies - Ogletree included.
    NJ Ramsfan1 likes this.

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    Re: Strauss: Rams discipline about carrots and sticks, apples and oranges ..

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    The Rams are hardly the only team in football that have had and will have players in trouble. I will continue to trust Jeff Fisher and the current regime. But with this approach there is always going to be a measure of concern from fans.
    Very good post NJ I agree with a of it. I just wanted to make this point. Fisher rep for taking risky players will always big the headlines when one of those players gets in trouble. Players taken by older Ram regimes also have gotten in trouble on and off the field. The four pillar regime drafted Pettis and he was suspended for four games as a rookie. Leonard Little, was a great player but a train wreck off the field. Lawrence Phillips again a player that set this franchise back. My point is Fisher and Les are not the first Ram executives to take risky players and give second and third chances. It's the nature of the beast, Pac man arrested again and he's in practice the next day. It's funny how he is always linked to Fisher but how many coaches and teams have employed him after Fisher had enough.

    I do agree with you 100%, who wants to root for a team with a bunch of knuckle heads on it, I don't. But I also can't root for a team that is getting pounded year end and year out.

    Sure Fisher is taking on some risk but it does sound like he can manage the risk he's taking on. Fisher's ability to take talented players with risk that other teams pass on could be Fishers greatest asset as a head coach.
    NJ Ramsfan1 likes this.

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    Re: Strauss: Rams discipline about carrots and sticks, apples and oranges ..

    Quote Originally Posted by macrammer View Post
    NJ,

    I understand where you are coming from and I too resonate with your thoughts. While there are some players with transgressions (public) as a whole, they seems pretty tame to me. The hype by the media is more concerning to me on this then the incidents. Coupling the internal issue with Givens and Jenkins as well as drudging up the past issues and bundling into a neat little package is media hype. When it is all boiled down, what are we truly factually looking at? Tru's issue and the two (1 game) suspensions.


    I will take a wait and see on this as I too have trust in the brain"trust" Remember, we had number 91 play for us for many years and that was a HUGE incident.....compared to these things.
    Agree completely - well said. What I find amazing is the press's continual harping on Pacman and Haynesworth. 2 guys in 17 YEARS, say 120 draftees? Really? Watkins and Pead, I could care less. Those are simply not character issues, and neither were Givens and Jenkins curfew violations, (and they were internal. Trumaine Johnson worries me as well.
    "the Heart Lies and the Head Plays Tricks with us, but the Eyes See True".

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    Re: Strauss: Rams discipline about carrots and sticks, apples and oranges ..

    Media just doesn't know how to adjust, so they're in the first stage of the Kubler Ross model ... denial.

    Fisher can't turn around our favourite whipping boy, so we'll just sell the hypothesis that Fisher's stragety will lead to an unmanageable cast of players.

    That right there just puts a smile on my face.

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    Re: Strauss: Rams discipline about carrots and sticks, apples and oranges ..


    Wait. An honest - almost off-topic - question: Didn't we go through this a couple of weeks ago in practically the same thread? Certain rookies of ours being "in trouble", etc.?

    Is it horse meat or is it just the off-season?

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