When Rams send out SOS, Nutten answers the call
By Jim Thomas

Of the Post-Dispatch
08/21/2004


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Had 31 other NFL teams called Tom Nutten about coming out of retirement, the answer would have been short and not so sweet.

"Obviously, I'd say 'hell, no,'" Nutten said Friday at Rams Park
But it wasn't any old team calling Nutten on Wednesday. It was the Rams, for whom he had played five seasons - including four as a starting left guard - and started two Super Bowls.

So how could he say "hell, no" to them?

"These are the guys I've bled with, I've sweated with," Nutten said.

He was sweating with them again Friday afternoon after his first practice with the club.

"I still have a hard time believing that I'm here," Nutten, 33, said. "I have a long way to go. But I made the commitment. I do believe that it's do-able. I'm here to help out in any way or shape I can."

Nutten signed with the New York Jets in March 2003 as an unrestricted free agent. But he didn't make it through training camp last summer. Slowed by an elbow injury, Nutten told Jets coach Herman Edwards on Aug. 15 last year that he was retiring. In the process, Nutten returned his Jets signing bonus of $600,000, which is more than the $535,000 base salary he will earn this season after signing a one-year deal with the Rams.

Over the past year, Nutten got in some family time with his wife and son in the Tampa, Fla., area - their permanent residence. But he kept his hand in football, too. This spring, Nutten returned to Germany, where he grew up, to work as an assistant coach for the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe. He covered Super Bowl XXXVIII last season for German television. He was scheduled to leave today for Germany, where he was to run a youth football camp.

But then the Rams called.

"And then it happened quite quickly," Nutten said. "With my history, they had to do a couple of medical checkups, which apparently I passed, thank God."

Besides the elbow problems, Nutten had battled a nagging ankle problem for much of his career. But he feels fresh after the year off. He weighed in at about 280 pounds, 20 pounds lighter than his normal playing weight.

"Just to physically keep up, I definitely need about five or 10 pounds," Nutten said. "And obviously strength will come with that."

Eventually, Nutten will figure into the left guard mix with Chris Dishman, Andy King and perhaps Scott Tercero. But it's going to take awhile.

"Tommy's a ways away, obviously, from being ready to play," coach Mike Martz said Friday. "We'll see. When it is, it is."