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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
    MauiRam is offline Pro Bowl Ram
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    Workout Warrior ...

    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    08/03/2009

    Leonard Little didn't stop working once the Rams' official offseason program ended in mid June. Day after day back home in Charlotte, N.C., Little headed to a nearby park, strapped on a 17-pound vest and ran hills.

    "I think it's the hardest I've worked out in the offseason before training camp," said Little, now 34.

    Was the Rams defensive end trying to brace himself for what figured to be a tough camp under new coach Steve Spagnuolo? "It wasn't that," Little said. "I felt like I needed to do it. I wanted to stay on top of my body this year; hopefully keep my body healthy and try to carry it on through the year."

    There is an upper field and a lower field at that park in Charlotte, with a hill blocking vision between the two. On one of Little's last days at the park before heading back to St. Louis for camp, he climbed into his car after a run and saw a living, breathing flashback.

    "I see some bald-headed guy walking toward me," Little said. "It was London Fletcher. He actually moved to Charlotte. He was out there running too, on that other field at the same park."

    Little went over to Fletcher's house and renewed acquaintances with an old friend, and an old teammate. Fletcher was the feisty starting middle linebacker on the Rams' Super Bowl championship team for the 1999 season.

    These days, chance meetings are one of the only ways Little will spend time with Super Bowl XXXIV teammates. Because 10 years after that amazing run to collect the Lombardi Trophy, Little is the sole remaining member of that squad — St. Louis' only world championship team in professional football.

    That became the case this past offseason, when offensive tackle Orlando Pace, wide receiver Torry Holt and quarterback Trent Green — all part of the '99 team — were released. One by one, those players have gone by the wayside in recent years. Isaac Bruce went to San Francisco ... Marshall Faulk retired ... Jeff Wilkins retired ... On and on.

    And now there is only Little from the team that toppled Tennessee 23-16 in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever played.

    "Those times are over," Little said. "We've got a different coach; we've got a different mentality of how we're going to approach the games. Steven (Jackson)'s going to be a big cornerstone of our offense running the ball — he and the backup running backs. We're going to play good defense."

    With a defensive-oriented head coach in Spagnuolo, the Rams' formula for victory figures to be much different than those pass-happy days at the turn of the millennium.

    Little managed to survive the offseason purge in which many veterans were sent away from Rams Park. Besides Holt, Pace and Green, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and safety Corey Chavous were cut. The contracts of veteran free agents La'Roi Glover, Dante Hall and Dane Looker were not renewed.

    Until late February, it was unclear if even Little would survive the housecleaning.

    But at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Rams executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff met with Little's agent to inform him that the Rams were retaining Little in 2009.

    "I wasn't worried (about getting cut)," Little said. "It was out of my control. They knew who they wanted anyway, so there's nothing I could do about it."

    It had to be a strange feeling Friday for Little, walking onto the practice field for the start of his 12th NFL training camp and seeing no Pace, no Holt ... no anybody.

    "We won a lot of games together," Little said. "We went through a lot of stuff together. I miss all those guys that left."

    These days, Little takes a lot of ribbing from his current teammates about his advancing age. At least he's not the oldest player on the roster anymore, not since the Rams signed 35-year-old defensive tackle Hollis Thomas.

    "I told him, 'I'm glad you signed. ... You can be the grandpa around here now,'" Little joked.

    Despite injuries that limited his playing time and effectiveness the past two years, Little still can get around the edge and rush the passer.

    His 81 sacks are the most for a "St. Louis" Ram. (The franchise moved here in 1995.)

    Spagnuolo's defenses with the New York Giants were known for their line play and strong pass rush, and that more than anything might have led to the decision to keep Little around.

    "I've been blessed to have some experience with guys at that position who played a lot of football," Spagnuolo said. "It's tremendously valuable. That's an important position on defense, and to have that kind of experience and leadership (in Little), I think it'll only help us."

    But after this season, who knows?

    Little's contract expires after '09, and he doesn't seem like one of those athletes who tries to hang on to his pro career. Little revealed little Sunday when asked if this would be his last NFL season.

    "I'm obligated for this last year, so I don't know," he said. "If this is my last one, I want to make sure it's my best one."

    That is why he spent that time running hills in Charlotte.


  2. #2
    TekeRam's Avatar
    TekeRam is offline Registered User
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    Re: Workout Warrior ...

    While I would hate for this to be the last year for Leonard to be in St. Louis, we do need to start thinking of the future without him. We obviously have Chris Long for one spot, at right end for now, even though I think he fits the strong, left side end mold better.

    James Hall is not the future, and we don't really know what to expect from Victor Adeyanju. He's been a backup run stuffing run for most of his career, but from what i remember, last year he started flashing some pass rushing skills. He could the future at the position, but if he'll always be that 3rd guy, we need to look strongly at taking a top rusher next year, as there's not likely to be one we can afford come next free agency. While it might not be as important as QB to some, I think that finding a quality pass rusher next offseason is paramount.

  3. #3
    Keenum's Avatar
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    Re: Workout Warrior ...

    Glad to here he's ready to go. He needed to work hard to stay in shape, especially at his age.
    If he can have one more good year, and the rest of our D-line can step up, it would really help out our secondary.

  4. #4
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    Re: Workout Warrior ...

    lets do it baby... come on LL get some!!!!

  5. #5
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Workout Warrior ...

    Quote Originally Posted by TekeRam View Post
    While I would hate for this to be the last year for Leonard to be in St. Louis, we do need to start thinking of the future without him. We obviously have Chris Long for one spot, at right end for now, even though I think he fits the strong, left side end mold better.

    James Hall is not the future, and we don't really know what to expect from Victor Adeyanju. He's been a backup run stuffing run for most of his career, but from what i remember, last year he started flashing some pass rushing skills. He could the future at the position, but if he'll always be that 3rd guy, we need to look strongly at taking a top rusher next year, as there's not likely to be one we can afford come next free agency. While it might not be as important as QB to some, I think that finding a quality pass rusher next offseason is paramount.
    Great post. I like Adeyanju but I think we'd benefit from a quicker pass rusher off the edge starting opposite of Chris Long, whom I agree is probably better suited for the traditional LDE position. Adeyanju could serve as a valuable reserve in a heavy rotation both at DE and inside at DT when we could use some extra inside rush.

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