Tinoisamoa works on shedding bad tackling habits
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Wednesday, Aug. 08 2007

It sounds funny considering he led the Rams in tackles in each of his first
three NFL seasons. But Pisa Tinoisamoa is learning how to tackle again.

During the offseason, as he reviewed his performance on game film, Tinoisamoa
didn't like what he saw. "My tackling was horrible. It was horrific," he said.
"And I kind of prided myself on bringing guys down. And then as far as taking
on blockers, I felt really soft at the point. I wasn't using my hands as much
because I didn't trust 'em."

He didn't trust them because as Tinoisamoa's nightmarish 2006 season
progressed, there wasn't much on his upper body that still worked. Hand, elbow
and shoulder problems sidelined Tinoisamoa for five games — the first contests
missed by the linebacker as an NFL player. Even when he was on the field, the
avalanche of injuries forced Tinoisamoa to compensate in various ways in terms
of tackling form. Predictably, as his tackling form suffered, so did his
tackling.

The result was a career-low 47 tackles, about one-third of Tinoisamoa's yearly
average in his previous three NFL seasons.

Surgery has repaired the shoulder. "It was dislocated and the muscle was torn,"
he said. "So what they did is reattach it to the bone and make sure that I do
have that strength and that function when my arm goes overhead or when my arm
is extended."

Down time in the offseason, plus a lighter workload in spring drills and
minicamp, also helped Tinoisamoa heal in general. Throw in an altered approach
to diet and training and Tinoisamoa is re-energized entering his fifth NFL
season.

In the past, Tinoisamoa said, "I didn't really take care of myself as much as I
should have. I kind of took things for granted, that it didn't matter what
happened to me. I felt like I could take on the world and still be all right."

Tinoisamoa spent his offseason eating better and putting in more time in the
weight room. He has done specific types of exercises to strengthen the muscles
around his elbow and shoulder.

"To make sure that when it comes to game time, I can trust that they're going
to hang in there tight," he said. "I can just go ahead and play and perform and
know it's strong."

Despite the heat and the rigors of training camp, Tinoisamoa has kept his
weight above 240 pounds this summer. He played last season at about 235.

"And it was a bad 235," he said. "It was really soft. So I definitely got a lot
stronger this year."

In terms of relearning how to use his hands and proper tackling technique,
Tinoisamoa said, "I feel like a kid trying to walk. I'm learning how to use
these hands now, and it's different. But I'm getting to use them, and I feel
more confident in using them."

Nearly two weeks into camp, Tinoisamoa says he is surprised at how well his
shoulder feels. Of course, he won't know for sure until he starts tackling
people in the preseason, and the time for that is nearly at hand. The Rams'
exhibition opener takes place Friday at Minnesota.

Tinoisamoa and other Rams coming off surgery, such as offensive tackle Orlando
Pace (triceps) and wide receiver Torry Holt (knee), will use exhibition play to
test their old injuries and build up confidence that they're fully healthy.

"That's the only way you get it," coach Scott Linehan said. "You can't really
wait till you play the first regular-season game. You don't want to be going
into that game and finding out whether you're ready or not. There's no better
way to do it than to play a certain amount of snaps in these preseason games."

Of course, a healthy Tinoisamoa means a better Rams defense. When he's paired
with Will Witherspoon, the Rams have two heat-seeking missiles at linebacker —
run-and-hit players who can roam sideline to sideline but don't shy away from
collisions. Last year, Tinoisamoa suffered the first of his multiple injuries
just six quarters into the season. So he and Witherspoon got scant time
together when both were at full strength.

"Not that we had bad chemistry, but when Pisa wasn't in there it disrupted our
playing chemistry," Linehan said. "He's just such a dependable guy."

Especially when he has full use of both arms.