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Draft Notebook .. St Louis Globe-Democrat

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  • Draft Notebook .. St Louis Globe-Democrat

    By Steve Overbey

    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    Brian Westbrook, a former standout running back with the Philadelphia Eagles, took a physical with the Rams on Saturday.

    Head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who previously was an assistant coach with the Eagles, cautioned reporters that Westbrook coming to town for the physical did not guarantee that he would be signing with the Rams.

    "Brian is here just because we want to do the physical," Spagnuolo noted. "We want to do that part of it. But then we'll see where it goes from there. It’s way, way early in the stage."

    The 30-year-old Westbrook, a former Pro Bowler, was released by Philadelphia in February. He suffered two concussions in 2009 and missed eight games because of the concussions and an ankle injury.

    Westbrook has rushed for 5,995 yards on 1,308 carries in his career. He said last week that he does not plan to retire.

    The Green Bay Packers, along with the Rams, are among the three or four teams that have shown interest in Westbrook.

    The Rams did not select any running backs during the draft.

    More new players: The Rams' work didn’t stop when the draft ended Saturday. The team reportedly agreed to terms with 11 undrafted free agents Saturday night. The list was unofficial, and nothing was announced by the team.

    In a list compiled from various web sites and Twitter messages, the following players were said to have come to terms with the Rams:

    Thaddeus Lewis, a quarterback from Duke; Brandon McRae, a wide receiver from Mississippi State; Simoni Lawrence, a linebacker from Minnesota; DeMaundray Woolridge, a running back from Idaho; Jimmy Jones, a safety from Idaho; Rod Owens, a wide receiver from Florida State; Jamie McCoy, a tight end from Texas A&M, Keith Toston, a running back from Oklahoma State; A.J. Jefferson, a cornerback from Fresno State; Adrian Davis, a defensive end from Arkansas, and Kennedy Tinsley, a linebacker-fullback from North Carolina.

    In addition, running back Alex Henderson of Northern Arizona signed a tryout contract for the mini-camp with the Rams. Offensive lineman Nick Ekbatani from UCLA will be coming to town for a free-agent tryout, the university announced.

    Rookie minicamp on tap: The Rams will hold their rookie camp this weekend. All of the players drafted the past few days will be present, in addition to the undrafted free agents. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said six non-rookies that don't have a credited season will also be at the minicamp.

    Those players are believed to be defensive tackle Chris Bradwell, cornerback Marcus Brown, wide receivers Travis Brown and Nick Moore, tight end Eric Butler, guard Mark Lewis, tackles Ryan McKee and Eric Young, wide receiver/cornerback Cord Parks and quarterback Mike Reilly.

    In advance of the camp, which will include time on the field and even more in the classroom, rookies are given some of the playbook hat they can start getting familiar. Asked about quarterback Sam Bradford being given "take-home" work, coach Steve Spagnuolo said, “We did. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you what happens now. (Offensive coordinator) Pat (Shurmur) and (quarterbacks coach) Dick (Curl) sat with him. He’s got a reduced playbook of some things to study and he will.

    "What we do with all of our draft picks is if they didn’t come here to give that to them, like we did with Rodger (Saffold) and Jerome (Murphy), we overnight it to them. Not a lot of information, but just something to get them started. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, we’ll do phone meetings. So we did that with Sam as well. Just a little bit. Just a way to get a head start.”

    Tigers to the NFL: Three Missouri players who were not drafted agreed to terms with NFL teams Saturday night as free agents, the university announced. Wide receiver Jared Perry agreed to terms with the San Francisco *****, defensive tackle Jaron Baston came to terms with Denver, and guard Kurtis Gregory was signed by the Carolina Panthers.

    Wide receiver Denario Alexander was not drafted, and reportedly will have to pass a physical exam before he will be able to sign with an NFL team. He reinjured his knee at the Senior Bowl and has said he should be able to run at full speed by the beginning of June.

    Juice Williams gets tryout: Illinois quarterback Juice Williams agreed to a tryout contract Saturday night with the Chicago Bears.

    Another Illinois player, Jeff Cumberland, a tight end, agreed to terms on a free-agent deal with the New York Jets.

    Two Lindenwood Lions sign: Two Lindenwood football players signed free-agent contracts following the draft. Wide receiver Marcel Thompson signed with the San Diego Chargers and wide receiver Roren Thomas, a graduate of Soldan High School, agreed to terms with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Thompson transferred to Lindenwood as a junior. In two seasons, he had 83 receptions for 1,342 yards and 12 touchdowns. Last season, he was second on the team with 53 receptions and 844 receiving yards, and was third with seven receiving touchdowns. Thompson had three 100-yard receiving games in 2009.

    Thomas played one year for the Lions. He caught 37 passes for 409 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 236 yards and three scores. He was also a kick returner, averaging 22.3 yards on kickoff returns, 18.5 yards on punt returns, and scoring three return touchdowns.

    Devaney pleased but tired: Rams general manager Billy Devaney was pleased - yet tired - at the end of the lengthy three-day draft.

    "Do you fill every need going in, or course not?," he said. "You miss on some guys. But I feel good about the way the whole thing went. Was it perfect? Of course not. No draft is ever perfect. But I feel great about the way the three days went."

    After the Rams selected five offensive players among the first seven picked, the final four were all on the defensive side of the ball.

    Coach Steve Spagnuolo joked that it happened because, "You guys didn’t know; I cornered Billy earlier today.”

    Said Devaney, “I was tired. At that point I said, ‘Just do whatever. Just move.’ He got me at a weak moment.”

    In all seriousness, talking about the new draft format, Devaney said, "We’re going to do it again next year it sounds like. That was a long three days, man." NFL Writer Howard Balzer contributed to this report.

  • #2
    Re: Draft Notebook .. St Louis Globe-Democrat

    A.J. Jefferson signed with the Arizona Cardinals not the St. Louis Rams


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      ST. LOUIS -- The day that would shape the man's future moved mercifully toward finality as he dashed from the darkened team headquarters through the steady spring rain to his SUV in the parking spot labeled "Head Coach". Following months of torturous deliberation that sent him and the staff cross country and back, sifting through endless possibilities in the name of due diligence, they had made their decision.

      Nothing left to do now but embrace hope and kiss it up to the fates.

      Entranced by a lonely, wet highway and the rhythmic movement and hum of overworking windshield wipers, the man momentarily slipped into reflective thought midway into his 40-minute drive home to the city. He didn't appear to notice the muffled radio program in the background that talked of the night's events -- quite enthusiastically, by the way. He figured the town would happily comply with their selection, and that was always welcome, given the importance of public opinion to the industry.

      Still, though, the fickle nature of it meant that if somehow the 22-year-old quarterback who played two games and change last year didn't become the franchise as planned for the St. Louis Rams, everyone would forget how they felt at this moment and call ingloriously for his hide.

      The man could handle the torchbearers. The notion of failure, he couldn't stomach that. He didn't sacrifice his life for the coaching calling to lose. Without kin in the game, he landed his own sprawling office with the two desks -- one for the many business details of coaching football in the NFL, the other stationed in front of a large flat screen for the "fun stuff," the actual football element, film study and game-planning -- on the second floor of Rams Park by working rungs, beginning way back in 1983.

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      In 2001, he rose to defensive backs coach for the Eagles. Then linebackers coach in 2004. Then defensive coordinator for the Giants in 2007. Buoyed by his unit, the Giants won the Super Bowl that year. He rebuffed head-coaching offers that offseason, and stuck around one more season, out of loyalty and the handsome raise that amounted into the first real money he earned in 25 years in the business.

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    • Nick
      Cornerback, D-lineman, receiver pace Day 2 haul
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      Cornerback, D-lineman, receiver pace Day 2 haul
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      Monday, Apr. 27 2009

      Tempted by the television coverage of the NFL draft but motivated by a
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      Still, Scott paused long enough Sunday to take a call from the Rams, informing
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      Sunday's activity began with the selection of Iowa cornerback Bradley Fletcher
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      "We're like 31 other teams; we're pleased with the way it went," Rams general
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      many good players that were going to be part of this process. It wasn't a case
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      take a tackle.' It wasn't anything like that at all."

      Added first-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo: "I thought it went real smooth.
      ... Billy's (scouting) staff did a great job; they put together a wealth of
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      Fletcher, a full-time starter for the Hawkeyes for only one season, appealed
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      Spagnuolo explained that the Rams quizzed the Iowa coaches extensively about
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      At a time when only diehard Rams fans were paying close attention, the team selected nearly 40 percent of its draft class late Saturday afternoon.

      Three of the team's eight picks were chosen in the seventh round, when scouts and general managers were panning for just a sliver of gold in what was left of the 2011 talent pool.

      "You know, when we get down to this point, you're usually looking at developmental kind of guys," general manager Billy Devaney said. "You're not looking at these guys as coming in and making an immediate impact as starters.

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      By the time Baylor cornerback Mikail Baker heard his named called by the Rams, 215 players had been drafted. A dozen picks later, the Rams selected linebacker Jabara Williams of Stephen F. Austin, and on the very next pick took free safety Jonathan Nelson of Oklahoma.

      None of the three players was invited to the NFL scouting combine, so they're already beating the odds simply by getting drafted.

      Devaney said the Rams really liked Baker on tape but brought him in to Rams Park a couple of weeks ago for a physical to check out a serious knee injury that cost him most of the 2009 season.

      "McMahon loves him," Devaney said, referring to special teams coach Tom McMahon. "So we put him in the mix and see what we have."

      Baker left Baylor as the school's career record-holder for kickoff returns (83) and kickoff return yards (1,963). He had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Iowa State in 2008, and his career return average was 23.7 yards.

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      Baker, who will turn 24 in June, played in parts of six seasons at Baylor, receiving a medical redshirt in 2007 after suffering an early-season broken collarbone against Rice. He was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA after suffering the knee injury (a torn anterior cruciate ligament, plus a lateral and meniscus cartilage tear) in Game 3 of the '09 season.

      The injuries and questions over durability undoubtedly affected Baker's draft status, and so did the fact that he switched positions late in his career. From 2005 though '08, Baker was a wide receiver, with 26 catches for 354 yards and two touchdowns over those four seasons, including four starts. He switched to defense during preseason camp in '09.

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    • HUbison
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      Rams general manager Les Snead says that in any given year, about 16 percent of the starting players in the NFL entered the league as undrafted rookies.

      If Snead's math holds up, and the Rams' scouting department did its homework, three to four players from this year's crop of rookie free agents will end up starting in the league. Although the Rams have yet to release their list, 23 undrafted rookies have either signed or agreed to terms with the team so far. A few more are expected to be added to the list before the team's rookie minicamp next week.

      That's more undrafted rookies than the Rams usually sign, but only because the NFL decided to increase the offseason/training camp roster size to 90 players — or 10 more than usual — shortly before the draft. Even so, the Rams have signed so many undrafted rookies that they've had to release some veterans to stay within the 90-man limit.

      Five players were released Monday: tight end Demarco Cosby, defensive tackle John Henderson, cornerback Nate Ness, running back Quinn Porter and cornerback Chris Smith.

      • Cosby, from Central Missouri State, spent two weeks on the Rams' practice squad last year.

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      • After an earlier stint on the practice squad, Ness appeared in four late-season games but registered no stats.

      • Porter shared kickoff return duties with Jerious Norwood last season, averaging 22.2 yards on 25 returns, with a long of 32 yards.

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    • evil disco man
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      Despite being one of the newest members of the Rams and not having a position to call his own, offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka feels right at home in St. Louis.

      He's surrounded by familiar faces.

      Though he appeared in eight games with the New England Patriots last season, Ojinnaka spent the first four years of his career in Atlanta, where he was drafted in 2006 by Rams general manager Billy Devaney. He played there with guard Harvey Dahl and running back Jerious Norwood, whom the Rams signed this summer, and worked with Ted Crews, the Rams' senior director of communications.

      "I had calls from other places, but this seemed like a good fit," he said. "They signed Harvey a couple days before me and he liked it here. I had so many connections it was easy to feel comfortable."

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      Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said versatility in a backup lineman could help his cause when trimming the roster to 53.

      "It adds value to the team when the backup offensive linemen can play more than one position. We need that," Spagnuolo said. "We need someone who can play guard and center, guard and tackle. Typically, we've activated seven offensive linemen on game days, so those two (backup) guys have to do a number of things."

      Officially listed as a tackle, Ojinnaka said he would be happy to make the Rams at any of the three positions, or any combination thereof. Until then, his wife, Ebony, and son, Emmanuel King, wait in Atlanta and hope to make the move here shortly.

      "I feel good. I felt like I played well enough in the first three games to make the team," he said. "But at the end of the day, I don't make the call. Billy and Coach Spags do. Hopefully they see versatility as a good thing."


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