By NICK WAGONER
When the Chicago Bears came to Macomb for a series of practices capped off by a scrimmage this past week, everyone assumed it was simply a matter of Rams’ coach Mike Martz calling Bears’ coach Lovie Smith and asking.
That assumption would be wrong. Sure, Martz did ask Smith to come to Western Illinois University, but there is another reason for the added workouts with the neighbors to the north and John Oswald is his name.
Oswald is in his third decade with the team and the Vice President of Operations since 1992. Every time the Rams go on a road trip, Oswald makes it happen. When the team moves its entire organization to training camp, Oswald makes it work.
It was no different this past week, when Oswald brought the Bears and Rams together in Thompson Hall for three days seamlessly. Martz was one of the first to credit Oswald for his efforts. “Let me just say this,” Martz said. “John Oswald really orchestrates this whole thing. He is the one that does all of this. By golly, he does a fantastic job.”
Oswald helped put together the scrimmage with Tennessee in 2000, so he had some experience doing it, but there were a few new wrinkles this year. The setup was similar in that the Titans and Bears were put in Western Illinois’ locker room, training room and equipment room.
The biggest difference, though, was a change made in Thompson Hall. In 2000, there was no cafeteria for the teams to share, so they ate on the 18th floor. Since then, Western Illinois has put in a new cafeteria that has more than enough room for two football teams and their staff.
Oswald said he can’t take all of the credit for the planning. “We started from when they check in to when they check out, what exactly is their schedule going to be like,” Oswald said. “We go through it piece by piece and then we incorporate the university here which is very helpful. “There were a wide range of people that really assisted with the scrimmage itself.”
The university provided the teams with security, transport vans and set up meeting rooms. Like with any meeting involving that many people, Oswald said there were a few hiccups along the way and there will be a meeting to evaluate those mistakes so the problems can be corrected in future scrimmages.
Oswald said he is always on the lookout for another scrimmage opportunity, so he can do his part to help break up the monotony of camp. “Overall it went off without a hitch,” Oswald said. “I give all the credit to the university and the city of Macomb.”
Those two entities deserve credit for helping, but, as Martz said, without Oswald in a leadership role, it would have been difficult.
ROSTER MOVE: Offensive guard Jason Lenzmeier arrived to give the Rams another body on their thinning offensive line. Lenzmeier got word of the opportunity while in Boise, Idaho.
After flying in to Peoria, Lenzmeier rode into Macomb and arrived in time for practice without eating lunch.
The 6-foot-4, 300-pound undrafted free agent was released by San Diego about a month ago and spent most of that time working out and hoping for another shot. Injuries to Kyle Turley, Dave Wohlabaugh and Jeremy Phillips made the signing necessary.
Lenzmeier said it is tough to enter a situation two weeks late, but there might be an opening because of the attrition on the line.
“I’m definitely not at an advantage,” Lenzmeier said. “I don’t know the playbook yet. It’s going to take some time. There is definitely an opportunity so hopefully I can take advantage of it.”
DAILY INJURY CHECK: Linebackers Brandon Chillar and Brandon Spoon returned to action for the first time in about a week. Chillar had struggled with a shoulder injury and Spoon had hamstring problems.
Robert Cromartie and Cameron Cleeland missed practice again with hamstring problems. Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy had surgery on his broken foot. Running back Lamar Gordon had surgery on his ankle in St. Louis
Martz said Gordon’s surgery went well.
“There was an abnormality in there,” Martz said. “We figured out what it was… which was a great relief to all of us and Lamar. We’ll expect him back in about four weeks.”