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  • Rams Inside Slant

    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 as an undrafted free agent in 2003, and was released on Aug. 27. He ended the 2004 Arena Football season on the Los Angeles Avengers reserve list, and did not have any stats during the season. Sump is 5-11, 185, and could challenge for a job as a kick returner. In his college career at the Colorado College of Mines, Sump returned five kickoffs for touchdowns and one punt for a touchdown.

    For his career, he averaged 29.4 yards on 81 kickoff returns and 14.3 yards on 47 punt returns. In 2001, he tied an NCAA record with four kickoff returns for touchdowns. As receiver, in his final two seasons in college, Sump combined for 105 receptions for 2,024 yards (19.3-yard average) and 19 touchdowns.

    —The Rams waited patiently since June 3 after putting in a waiver claim for defensive tackle Marcus Bell, who had been placed on waivers two days before by the Arizona Cardinals.

    Through last Thursday (June 10), no other teams had put in a claim. But that changed the following day, the deadline for claims. Five teams claimed Bell, and he was awarded to the Detroit Lions by virtue of them having the worst 2003 record of any of the claiming teams.

    The four other teams that claimed Bell were Houston, Jacksonville, Miami and San Francisco. All had priority over the Rams.

    The Rams will likely continue looking for more defensive tackle depth, especially after placing rookie Jeff Ruffin on waivers. It's possible the Rams could take another look at Rick Lyle, who visited Rams Park in May.

    Lyle could provide depth a tackle and end, mainly against the run.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "You had to come out and kind of set the tone for the rest of the season, for myself personally. Going hard, doing the right things, make sure you know your assignments and show the coaches you're not only working hard, but you're willing to go after it, too." - Guard Andy King on the improvement he believes he's shown during the offseason.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    The Rams contracts signed in the last week by tight end Cam Cleeland and safety Justin Lucas are for the league minimum base salary of $535,000 for players with 4-to-6 accrued seasons. Cleeland has played six seasons in the NFL, while Lucas has played four.

    Lucas did not receive a signing bonus and will count $455,000 against the Rams' salary cap. Cleeland also was not paid a signing bonus, but he received a $25,000 roster bonus, payable if he's on the opening-day roster. That makes his current cap figure $480,000, but if he were released before the season opener, nothing would count against the cap.

    —The Rams signed a punter to compete with Sean Landeta in training camp or at least allow Landeta to rest his leg. Jesse Nicassio, who punted the last two seasons at Eastern Washington University after two years at Citrus Community College in California, is the new punter. The 6-1, 190-pound Nicassio punted 65 times last season for a 44.4-yard average and dropped 12 punts inside the 20-yard line.

    FRANCHISE PLAYER: OT Orlando Pace (tendered at $7.021M).

    UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): QB Scott Covington; S Jason Sehorn; CB Fred Weary.

    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

    EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

    PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: QB Marc Bulger; CB Jerametrius Butler; TE Cam Cleeland; S Rich Coady; C Andy Eby; DE Bryce Fisher; P Sean Landeta; WR Dane Looker; LB Jeremy Loyd; TE Brandon Manumaleuna; OG Adam Timmerman.

    PLAYERS ACQUIRED: QB Chris Chandler; S Justin Lucas; DE Sean Moran.

    PLAYERS LOST: LB Jamie Duncan; S Kim Herring; OG David Loverne; OL John St. Clair; QB Kurt Warner; DE Grant Wistrom; DT Brian Young.

    DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED: S Jason Shivers.

    MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

Related Topics

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  • RamDez
    Rams Inside Slant
    by RamDez
    Tight end Cam Cleeland will be back in training camp with the Rams after agreeing to a one-year contract last week. But it will be a player with a different perspective after Cleeland tried valiantly to save the life of a 22-year-old man May 23. Cleeland was driving in Mount Vernon, Wash., about 70 miles north of Seattle, when he came upon a burning car that had struck a tree. Inside was Timothy Roth. Cleeland attempted to put out the blaze with an extinguisher and also removed the air bag from Roth's face. In the process, Cleeland suffered burns on his hands.

    Roth died the next day, and Cleeland has not wanted to talk publicly about his attempted heroics.

    Rams media assistant Artis Twyman said Cleeland did not want to be interviewed.

    "Cam was really shaken up about it when I talked to him," Twyman said. "I tried to talk to him but I could tell he didn't want to talk about it too much or go in depth, out of respect for the family.

    "He said it's something you really don't want to experience in life. It must have been really bad; I could hear him getting choked up."

    Cleeland joined the Rams last season and caught 10 passes for 145 yards with no touchdowns. The Rams had been offering him a one-year contract throughout the offseason, but Cleeland wanted to see what other teams might be interested.

    The Rams hope he can contribute more after spending one season becoming comfortable with the team's offense.

    NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

    —The Larry Marmie Arizona connection is resulting in some new players that will compete for roster spots in training camp.

    Marmie, the Rams' new defensive coordinator, had been with the Cardinals since 1996 before being fired with the entire staff following the 2003 season.

    After the Rams cleared about $4.5 million in salary-cap space with the release of quarterback Kurt Warner, they signed safety Justin Lucas and made a waiver claim on defensive tackle Marcus Bell. Both were released by the Cardinals on June 1. Lucas could be signed quickly because as a vested veteran, his contract was immediately terminated. Players with Bell's status, who have fewer than four accrued seasons, must go through waivers for 10 days.

    The Rams' starting safeties are Aeneas Williams (free) and Adam Archuleta (strong), but Williams usually moves into the slot in the nickel defense. Those competing for backup safety jobs are Rich Coady, Shane Walton, rookie Jason Shivers and Lucas.

    At defensive tackle, the Rams also need depth behind Damione Lewis, Ryan Pickett and Jimmy Kennedy. Undrafted free agent Brian Howard will also challenge for a backup job.

    —The Rams essentially traded scouts with the Philadelphia Eagles, and Marmie (along with coach Mike Martz) had a hand in that, too. Shortly after the draft, college scout Ryan Grigson...
    -06-07-2004, 02:58 PM
  • RamWraith
    Inside Slant
    by RamWraith
    From USA Today

    Tight end Cam Cleeland will be back in training camp with the Rams after agreeing to a one-year contract last week. But it will be a player with a different perspective after Cleeland tried valiantly to save the life of a 22-year-old man May 23.

    Cleeland was driving in Mount Vernon, Wash., about 70 miles north of Seattle, when he came upon a burning car that had struck a tree. Inside was Timothy Roth. Cleeland attempted to put out the blaze with an extinguisher and also removed the air bag from Roth's face. In the process, Cleeland suffered burns on his hands.

    Roth died the next day, and Cleeland has not wanted to talk publicly about his attempted heroics.

    Rams media assistant Artis Twyman said Cleeland did not want to be interviewed.

    "Cam was really shaken up about it when I talked to him," Twyman said. "I tried to talk to him but I could tell he didn't want to talk about it too much or go in depth, out of respect for the family.

    "He said it's something you really don't want to experience in life. It must have been really bad; I could hear him getting choked up."

    Cleeland joined the Rams last season and caught 10 passes for 145 yards with no touchdowns. The Rams had been offering him a one-year contract throughout the offseason, but Cleeland wanted to see what other teams might be interested.

    The Rams hope he can contribute more after spending one season becoming comfortable with the team's offense.

    NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

    —The Larry Marmie Arizona connection is resulting in some new players that will compete for roster spots in training camp.

    Marmie, the Rams' new defensive coordinator, had been with the Cardinals since 1996 before being fired with the entire staff following the 2003 season.

    After the Rams cleared about $4.5 million in salary-cap space with the release of quarterback Kurt Warner, they signed safety Justin Lucas and made a waiver claim on defensive tackle. Both were released by the Cardinals on June 1. Lucas could be signed quickly because as a vested veteran, his contract was immediately terminated. Players with Bell's status, who have fewer than four accrued seasons, must go through waivers for 10 days.

    The Rams' starting safeties are Aeneas Williams (free) and Adam Archuleta (strong), but Williams usually moves into the slot in the nickel defense. Those competing for backup safety jobs are Rich Coady, Shane Walton, rookie Jason Shivers and Lucas.

    At defensive tackle, the Rams also need depth behind Damione Lewis, Ryan Pickett and Jimmy Kennedy. Undrafted free agent Brian Howard will also challenge for a backup job.

    —The Rams essentially traded scouts with the Philadelphia Eagles, and Marmie (along with coach Mike Martz) had a hand in that, too. Shortly after the draft,...
    -06-07-2004, 07:46 AM
  • 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
  • RamDez
    Inside Slant
    by RamDez
    Things are different for Dane Looker as training camp approaches.

    Once hailed as "Little Ricky" because of his style of play is similar to former Rams receiver Ricky Proehl, Looker accepts the compliments, but wants to be his own man.

    That was tough for a while, as he struggled to make an NFL roster. He was an undrafted free agent in the Rams' 2000 training camp, and was opening some eyes when he was surprisingly traded to the Patriots on Aug. 7 that year.

    He made New England's roster, but ended the season on injured reserve and was then released on July 31 because of a hamstring injury. Looker was right back with the Rams for three weeks, but he wasn't healthy enough to make an impact. Out of football for the rest of the year, he re-signed with the Rams in February and excelled in NFL Europe, but the numbers game caught up to him again.

    Released on Sept. 2, he spent most of the season on the practice squad until being added to the active roster for the final three games of the season.

    Last year turned out to be his coming-out party. Making the roster also resulted in him being the holder for kicker Jeff Wilkins. Wilkins wanted him all along after the departure of, you guessed it, Proehl, but there was no guarantee Looker would make the roster.

    He helped Wilkins tie a league record with 39 field goals and offensively was third on the team with 47 receptions for 495 yards and three touchdowns. More important, 27 of his catches, including 18 on third down, were first-down plays.

    Despite his success, Looker takes nothing for granted.

    "We've got some good receivers on this team, so I'm going to have to improve on what I did last year and play better," he said. "Nothing's a guarantee."

    Coach Mike Martz loves his work ethic and competitiveness.

    "Dane was terrific last year, and looking at him out here, he just picked up where he left off," Martz said during the offseason.

    NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

    —The Rams report to training camp in Macomb, Ill., on July 27 with the first practice scheduled for the next day. They will be in camp until Aug. 20, three days before a Monday night game in Kansas City.

    The Chicago Bears, coached by former Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, will visit Rams camp for three days from Aug. 5-7. There will be one practice the first day, two the second and then a scrimmage on Aug. 7.

    Said coach Mike Martz, "Having a scrimmage there at the stadium on Saturday morning makes it exciting for everybody. It gives us a chance to look at a lot of our young players under competitive situations, and the same for the Bears. The most important aspect of it is after seven or eight days (of camp), you get a chance to look at your players in a different environment against other...
    -07-19-2004, 01:08 PM
  • RamWraith
    Inside Slant
    by RamWraith
    When training camp opened, the biggest question facing the Rams was how they would get through training camp with an unsettled situation on the offensive line, given the unknown status of tackles Kyle Turley and Orlando Pace and center Dave Wohlabaugh.

    Turley was recovering from offseason back surgery, while Wohlabaugh had surgery on his hip in the offseason. The Rams knew Pace would likely not be in camp as the team's unsigned franchise player, so how the line would be deployed because of the Turley and Wohlabaugh injuries was an issue.

    It turned out to be even bigger than expected when Wohlabaugh never made it onto the field and was released and Turley aggravated his back during the first few days of camp. Turley was placed on injured reserve in the cutdown to 65 players.

    Those factors resulted in frequent shuffling on the line in camp. Andy King began as the left guard, but lost that job after the first exhibition game and was replaced by Chris Dishman. Dishman had decided to retire before coach Mike Martz convinced him to sign, and he reported at 375 pounds.

    Grant Williams, who would be the right tackle as Turley's replacement, was forced to play on the left side throughout most of camp because of Pace's absence. Scott Tercero got a lot of work at tackle, even though most in the organization believe his best position is guard. Greg Randall, who was with the Texans last season, was signed when it became apparent Turley wouldn't be available.

    Guard Tom Nutten, who played for the Rams during their Super Bowl seasons, but left for the Jets last year and then retired, was brought back a few days before the third exhibition game against Washington and injured his toe on his second play.

    That's the type of summer it's been for a team that has deep offensive talent, but knows it could go for naught if the line doesn't come together.

    Complicating things even more was Pace's decision to stay away for the entire preseason. Last year, as the franchise player, he reported and signed 12 days before the season opener and was able to play in the exhibition finale.

    Not this time. Pace remained unsigned when the Rams played the Raiders Sept. 2, and for the first time, Martz voiced frustration with the situation.

    Asked about Pace not being with the team, Martz said, "To be honest with you I don't think about it. This is our football team right now, I would just assume he's not coming in. That's his decision, and we're moving on.

    "You can't let one player, no matter how good he is, or how good of a person he is, hold a team hostage waiting for him to come in. We have to move on, and get ready for Sept. 12th."

    For line coach John Matsko, he has to get this group ready.

    "Each year's different," Matsko said. "The challenge this year was to bring a bunch of guys...
    -09-02-2004, 12:34 PM
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