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  • Rams add quarterback, tight end

    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    06/02/2004


    Just as one Rams quarterback exited, a new one arrived. On Wednesday, the day that the release of Kurt Warner became official, the team signed Russ Michna, an undrafted rookie who will be right at home when he reports to training camp.

    The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Michna is a product of Western Illinois University in Macomb, the site of the Rams' preseason camp since 1996. He is a two-time offensive player of the year in the NCAA Division I-AA Gateway Conference. As a senior, Michna completed 211 of 371 passes for a WIU- record 3,160 yards and 21 touchdowns. He is a native of Elk Grove Village, Ill.

    Essentially, Michna is being added as a camp "arm." He'll join fellow quarterbacks Marc Bulger, Chris Chandler and Jeff Smoker, the team's sixth-round draft pick in April, on the roster.

    Still seeking depth at tight end, the Rams also signed Joel Jacobs of Nebraska-Kearney. Jacobs, 6-5 and 225 pounds, had 27 receptions for 228 yards last year as a senior. For his career, Jacobs caught 66 passes for 623 yards and three touchdowns. He was selected three times to the All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference squad.

    Cam Cleeland and Brandon Manumaleuna shared the tight end duties last season, after veteran Ernie Conwell signed with New Orleans in April 2003 as a free agent. Manumaleuna is back, with a new five-year, $8.3 million contract. Cleeland became an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the Rams still hope to sign him for 2004.

    The team used a seventh-round spot in the draft to take Erik Jensen, a tight end from Iowa.

    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • RamWraith
    Rams add QB and TE
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    06/02/2004


    Just as one Rams quarterback exited, a new one arrived. On Wednesday, the day that the release of Kurt Warner became official, the team signed Russ Michna, an undrafted rookie who will be right at home when he reports to training camp.

    The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Michna is a product of Western Illinois University in Macomb, the site of the Rams' preseason camp since 1996. He is a two-time offensive player of the year in the NCAA Division I-AA Gateway Conference. As a senior, Michna completed 211 of 371 passes for a WIU- record 3,160 yards and 21 touchdowns. He is a native of Elk Grove Village, Ill.

    Essentially, Michna is being added as a camp "arm." He'll join fellow quarterbacks Marc Bulger, Chris Chandler and Jeff Smoker, the team's sixth-round draft pick in April, on the roster.

    Still seeking depth at tight end, the Rams also signed Joel Jacobs of Nebraska-Kearney. Jacobs, 6-5 and 225 pounds, had 27 receptions for 228 yards last year as a senior. For his career, Jacobs caught 66 passes for 623 yards and three touchdowns. He was selected three times to the All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference squad.

    Cam Cleeland and Brandon Manumaleuna shared the tight end duties last season, after veteran Ernie Conwell signed with New Orleans in April 2003 as a free agent. Manumaleuna is back, with a new five-year, $8.3 million contract. Cleeland became an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the Rams still hope to sign him for 2004.

    The team used a seventh-round spot in the draft to take Erik Jensen, a tight end from Iowa.
    -06-02-2004, 04:21 PM
  • RamWraith
    Rams stand pat at tight end position
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Monday, Aug. 30 2004

    The Rams had the help-wanted sign out for much of the offseason, with no fewer
    than 10 tight ends under contract at one time or another.

    But four of those players never made it to training camp; two others have been
    cut since training camp started. Which leaves the Rams with four candidates at
    the position - and two familiar names in Brandon Manumaleuna and Cam Cleeland.

    The Rams basically are standing pat at the position in 2004, hoping that
    another year in the system will benefit Manumaleuna and Cleeland.

    "You can't come in and do it one year," tight ends coach Frank Falks said.
    "It's not that type of system. It's a great system, but you have to be in it
    for a while to understand all the nuances of it."

    The Rams are hoping this is the year for Manumaleuna, otherwise they wouldn't
    have matched Carolina's five-year, $8.3 million offer sheet to him as a
    restricted free agent last March. Even though he's entering his fourth NFL
    season, Manumaleuna is only 24. That, in part, explains the team's patient
    approach.

    "Brandon is practicing and actually playing with the passion that we would like
    to see him play with," Falks said. "His techniques are way above last year. His
    intensity is above last year. He's practicing physical. And playing physical.

    "I think he can be as good as there is in the league in terms of being an
    all-around tight end - at the line of scrimmage and receiving. And I think he's
    starting to push towards that point."

    An unrestricted free agent entering the offseason, Cleeland didn't re-sign with
    the Rams until early June. After an impressive first week of training camp, he
    missed most of the next three weeks with a hamstring injury, returning to make
    his exhibition debut Friday against Washington.

    "He has come back after the hamstring and moved very well," Falks said. "He's
    very confident in what he's doing... He's a different guy than last year."

    With Manumaleuna and Cleeland givens on the final roster, undrafted rookie Mike
    Brake is the leading candidate for the No. 3 tight-end spot. Although drafted
    as a tight end, seventh-rounder Erik Jensen has been practicing at fullback for
    much of camp. But if the Rams decide to keep Jensen over Brake, Jensen should
    be able to handle the Rams' "move" tight-end position as well.

    "The position he plays at fullback carries over to one of the tight end
    positions," Falks said. "So he could easily play them both - go in the ballgame
    and execute at either position."
    ...
    -08-31-2004, 06:42 AM
  • RamDez
    Rams Make Roster Moves
    by RamDez
    By ClanRam staff

    TE Joel Jacobs, S Justin Lucas, and QB Russ Michna have signed with the St. Louis Rams. In another roster move, the Rams released TEs Spencer Nead and John Frieser.

    Jacobs, 6-3, 250, is a rookie from Nebraska-Kearney. He is one of only three players in school history to earn first-team all-conference honors three times, as he caught 66 passes for 623 yards and six touchdowns in his career. The Mullen, NE native made 27 receptions for 228 yards as a senior.

    Lucas, 5-10, 211, will enter his sixth NFL season in 2004 after playing his first five professional seasons for the Arizona Cardinals. The Abilene Christian product has played in 58 games, with eight starts in his NFL career, and has tallied 141 tackles (81 solo) with two interceptions. Last season, Lucas played in 11 games, notching 23 tackles (17 solo), adding four special teams tackles.

    Michna, 6-1, 224, is a rookie from Western Illinois. The former Leatherneck earned Gateway Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors as a junior and senior, leading WIU to a 20-6 record and two trips to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs. As a senior, he threw for a school-record 3,160 yards and 21 touchdowns on 211 of 371 passing, adding 167 yards on 70 rushing attempts and four touchdowns.

    Nead, 6-4, 259, played in 10 games with two starts as a rookie in 2003 at fullback and tight end, catching one pass for six yards. The product of BYU ended the season on the practice squad.

    Frieser, 6-4, 260, was a rookie from Colgate....
    -06-04-2004, 03:19 PM
  • RamDez
    Rams Inside Slant
    by RamDez
    Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the Rams' offseason came when the team matched an offer made by the Carolina Panthers to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna.

    A restricted free agent, Manumaleuna signed an offer sheet worth $8.3 million over five years that included a $2 million signing bonus. After much deliberation and some disagreement from within the Rams' front office, the offer was matched.

    Manumaleuna started for the first time last season following the departure of Ernie Conwell, but didn't play only tight end. He moved around consistently, often playing fullback or H-back. That led to inconsistency and mistakes.

    "When you're jumping here and there, here and there, sometimes it makes it hard," tight ends coach Frank Falks said. "As a human being and a football player, you don't like to say it, but it does."

    Falks knew Manumaleuna was struggling last season and at times confused. He said, "When you're around someone, you know their moods. And I always talk to him, so I could tell something was bothering him."

    The fact the Panthers made the offer they did showed that Manumaleuna has value.

    "They didn't offer him that because his name's Brandon," Falks said. "They did it because he fit what they needed."

    Now, the Rams hope Manumaleuna will fit what they need: solid blocking at the position. Any contributions in the passing offense is gravy.

    Said Manumaleuna, "I'm just trying to get better."

    NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

    —The Rams are continuing to tweak their roster in preparation for the start of training camp on July 27. The latest additions are tackle Jeff Hatch, safety Nijrell Eason and wide receiver Brian Sump.

    Hatch was released by the Giants on March 22 after being drafted on the third round (78th overall) in 2002. He missed his entire rookie season because of a back injury, and then started four games last season. Those four games, the final ones of the season, were the only ones in which he played.

    The Rams need depth at tackle in training camp because of the expected absence of Orlando Pace and Kyle Turley's return from offseason back surgery. Grant Williams is the most experienced backup, and coaches want Andy King to work mostly at guard.

    Eason was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Arizona Cardinals in 2001. He was released on Aug. 28 and went to camp the following year with the Steelers. Released by Pittsburgh on Sept. 2, he was added to the Cardinals' roster for the final game of the '02 season and played in that game. Eason injured his shoulder last summer, and spent the entire year on injured reserve. At the start of free agency in March, the Cardinals elected not to tender him as an exclusive rights free agent.

    Sump joined the Chargers...
    -06-14-2004, 10:34 AM
  • RamWraith
    Long shot Michna is making good impression
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    08/19/2004
    MACOMB, Ill. - Quarterback Russ Michna is right at home in Macomb. During his standout career at Western Illinois University, he spent two years living in the Thompson Hall dormitory.

    These days, Michna finds himself right back at Thompson, trying to make the Rams' roster as an undrafted rookie.

    "How weird is that?" Michna said. "It's even weird walking around seeing the same people in the dorms. Seeing the same security people. The same janitors.

    "The only thing that I can say is different is they've got a new dining hall. Otherwise, everything looks exactly the same as the first day I walked in there."

    No, Michna didn't ask for his old dorm room.

    "I wasn't getting greedy," he said. "Wherever they put me, I was happy."

    In college, Michna was a two-time offensive player of the year in the Gateway Conference. He threw for a school-record 3,160 yards last year for the Leathernecks, annually a Division I-AA football power.

    About 10 or 12 NFL teams talked to Michna up to and through the draft, but he didn't get selected despite his lofty numbers and Western's success

    "I didn't have my mind set on getting drafted," Michna said. "A lot of the things that I heard (from scouts) is that I was very raw. I hadn't been coached. But I just wanted the opportunity ... and to have that opportunity to learn. I've got that here."

    The Rams had talked to Michna not long after the draft.

    "They said, 'We're planning on bringing you in after June 1,'" Michna said. "But still, what does that mean?"

    In this case it meant: When we release Kurt Warner, we'll have a roster spot at quarterback.

    Michna was signed on June 2 - the same day Warner was released.

    Michna (pronounced MICK-nah) is a bright player. Not only does he have his undergraduate degree in finance - he already has is master's in business administration. He already has been able to grasp some of what the Rams' do on offense. In addition, the lefty has an accurate arm, decent arm strength, and very good mobility.

    "He's a good little player," coach Mike Martz said. "He's not a camp arm."

    For the record, Michna is 6-1, 224 pounds. His chances of making the 2004 Rams roster are slim. During the offseason, the Rams made a four-year, $19.1 million commitment to Marc Bulger as their starter. They also brought in veteran Chris Chandler as their backup, and drafted Michigan State's Jeff Smoker in the sixth round.

    With practice squads expanded to eight players this year, Michna's best chance of staying with the Rams in '04 would be on that developmental squad.

    Much to the delight of Leathernecks...
    -08-19-2004, 05:41 AM
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