Rams training camp opens today
BY STEVE KORTE
ST. LOUIS - Six months after being hired as head coach of the St. Louis Rams, the moment of truth has arrived for Scott Lineman.
The Rams open training camp today at their Rams Park practice facility in Earth City, Mo.
"The time is here," Linehan said. "We're going to find out how good of a football team we are now because we're putting the pads on. We've done the mental (work). We've done the conditioning. We've spent a lot of time improving our roster. All of those are very crucial to building a team, but now we have to find out how good we play the game."
Linehan has a lot of questions that he needs answered over the next 6 1/2 weeks leading up to the team's season opener against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 10 at the Edward Jones Dome.
"Do we have the ability to tackle?" Linehan said. "Do we have the ability to protect the passer? Do we protect the football on offense? Do we try to create turnovers defensively? Are we going to have the commitment it takes as an entire team to improve our special teams? Those are going to be the things that are the challenges that I have to get our team to another level.
"This team is not far removed from the greatest level in the game. I believe with the veterans who are still here, and the young players who are eager, and new players that we have from other teams that we have the right ingredients to get back to that position of being a dominant type of football team. But, it doesn't happen by just saying, 'Here we are, new coaches, new players.' What we have to do is go out and earn that right in the next five or six weeks."
Camp officially opens with a team meeting at 1 p.m. today at Rams Park. The team will hit the practice field for the first time at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Linehan will go with a practice schedule that alternates two practices one day with one practice the next day. The two-a-day practices will be held in the morning and night, while the single practice will held late in the afternoon.
"The 2-1 schedule makes sure that there is ample time for recovery between practices," Linehan said. "Players now have plenty of time to get treatment, plenty of time to eat and hydrate, plenty of time to rest and get off their legs. Coaches have time to watch much more film to evaluate practice."
The morning and afternoon practices will be open to the public free of charge. The night practices will be closed to the public due to concerns over security and parking.
"It's a great tradition that most clubs do," Linehan said of opening practices. "If you're a local, you can come watch your favorite players even if you can't do that during the regular season."
Linehan was introduced to the 2-1 practice schedule under Nick Saban last season with the Miami Dolphins.
"I'm sold on it," Linehan said. "I was a little skeptical of it myself going into it for the first time last year because you want to get those multiple practices in, but the quality of the practices really seems to be much better."
Linehan said the Rams will be in full pads during the majority of training camp.
"The one message that I am sure the team will hear very loud and clear is that we are going to be very physical in this camp," Linehan said.
Asked what positions would be the most competitive during training camp, Linehan said, ''I think what is going to be interesting is watching what happens on the defensive side of the ball because of the competition we now have in the secondary, the depth we have at linebacker and we've brought in some guys who are going to push the veterans on the defensive line."
On offense, Linehan pointed to tight end and the interior offensive line as the most hotly contested positions.
The leading candidates for the starting job at tight end are rookies Joe Kloppenstein and Dominque Byrd.
"We're young there, we're scary young," Linehan said of his tight ends. "If you are going to take two guys in the draft, you want to play them and put them on the field and go through the growing pains with them. They are talented guys."
Linehan said veterans Andy McCollum and Adam Timmerman will be pushed by young players such as Richie Incognito, Blaine Saipaia and Claude Terrell.
"We've got some guys who are close to the end of their career with Andy and Adam, and we're certainly glad to still have them, but we also know that there are some young guys who were brought here that are going to be pushing for starting roles," Linehan said. "I don't foresee anything unusual happening, but if somebody steps up and plays good, you reward people for performance by moving them up the depth chart."