To win, Rams may need to keep their cool
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Sep. 13 2005
Take it from Phoenix-area resident Toby Wright, it's the time of year when the
locals are told not to venture outside if they can help it from 11 a.m. to 4
"It's nothing but heat," Wright, a former Ram, said Tuesday from Tempe, Ariz.
"I can't tell you no more than that. It's hotter than hell out here."
On Sunday, the Rams will play football in that environment. In a game that's
scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m. Tempe time - or right in the middle of the
"don't go outside" period - St. Louis will take on the Arizona Cardinals in Sun
Devil Stadium. Although there is some talk of a "cool front" moving into the
area, the early forecast calls for a high of 98 degrees Sunday.
In 17 prior seasons in the desert, owner Bill Bidwill's Cardinals played only
10 afternoon games at home in September. Wright, a hard-hitting safety from
1994 to 1998, played in one of those September sizzlers for St. Louis.
On Sept. 29, 1996, the Rams played Arizona for the first time since moving from
Los Angeles to St. Louis. It was 97 degrees at kickoff that day at Sun Devil
In Tony Banks' first NFL start, the Rams led 28-14 after three quarters on two
long touchdown passes to Isaac Bruce, a third TD bomb to rookie Eddie Kennison
and a 66-yard punt return for a score by Kennison.
But the Rams - particularly the Rams' defense - wilted in the desert sun in the
fourth quarter, eventually losing 31-28 in overtime. Wright, who now owns the
Spot Fitness gym in Tempe, remembers it well.
Arizona began its comeback with a 19-play, 93-yard TD drive that started late
in the third quarter, spanned 10 minutes 22 seconds and sapped the energy out
of the defense.
"We have a TV timeout (during the drive)," Wright recalled. "Everyone takes a
knee. Everybody is gasping - gasping - for air. Larry Centers walks over to the
line of scrimmage and he says, 'T. Wright! Are you guys tired yet?'"
Centers was then a running back for the Big Red.
"I couldn't even respond, I was so tired," Wright said.
Arizona eventually tied the score on a TD pass from Kent Graham to Frank
Sanders with 11 seconds to play. On the second play of overtime, Cardinals
running back LeShon Johnson raced 66 yards to set up the game-winning field
All told, 10 Rams players needed IVs to restore lost fluids, both during and
after the game.
"I took two IVs on the plane," Wright said. "I lost 11 pounds in three hours of
play. I wasn't able to practice until Thursday."
When asked what advice he'd give current Rams players about what awaits on
Sunday, Wright replied: "Stay hydrated during the week right now. It's just a
game of attrition. No matter how you start this game off, if you're already at
half a tank, you're going to be in the red before you're done."
That's red, as in empty.
The Rams are doing everything they can to prevent another Arizona meltdown,
including a relatively new system that blows cool air onto players on the
sideline through a shoulder-pad attachment.
Each Rams player will have a nylon-like wraparound material Velcro-ed
underneath his shoulder pads before the game. Each attachment weighs only a few
ounces and contains five holes in the front and five holes in the back.
While on the sidelines, players can hook up to a compressor and cooling system
that will blow cool air (45 degrees) into a tubing attachment in the back of
the shoulder pads. When he's hooked up, cold air is shot through tubing and
through the 10 holes, sending the air down the player's chest and back.
"Everybody who's not playing could honestly sit on the sideline and get cooled
down," Rams equipment manager Todd Hewitt said. "What it really does is it's
cooling your core temperature down. That's what it's trying to do."
The Temperature Management System Pads, or TMS, are produced by a company based
in Jacksonville, Fla. The Rams used the same system and same equipment last
season for a late-November Monday night game in Green Bay. Instead of pumping
in cool air, the equipment blew in warm air, to serve as a heating system.
It wasn't all that cold that evening - 28 degrees at kickoff - and only a few
players used the heating system, according to Hewitt. There figure to be more
takers for the cooling system this Sunday in Tempe.
"If it keeps us fresh for a little bit longer in the game, or helps us to be
fresh throughout the game, it's something to at least try," Hewitt said.
Re: To win, Rams may need to keep their cool
So anyone know what color the uniforms will be on Sunday? The lighter the better, but it doesn't sound like it will help much.