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With minor renovations, Rams begin to build

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  • With minor renovations, Rams begin to build

    With minor renovations, Rams begin to build
    By Jim Thomas

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - The foundation was laid a couple of months ago, during minicamps and the lighter practices known as OTAs, or organized team activity.

    But with Wednesday's start of training camp, veteran safety Aeneas Williams provided this construction update: "We're now putting in the 2-by-4s, and starting to build a sturdy house."

    Some of the outward swagger of past Rams teams is gone. But with a 61-27 record over the past five seasons - including four playoff berths, three division titles and two Super Bowl appearances - expectations remain high.

    "In my opinion, this is as good a team as I've been on in my career - in terms of talent," defensive captain Tyoka Jackson said. "Now, the experience level is not what it was in 2001 (the Rams' most recent Super Bowl squad). But talent-wise, no question it's there."

    By season's end, the Rams expect to build a mansion, not a shack. And coach Mike Martz already is tinkering with the blueprint. Most notable on Wednesday was the sight of Arlen Harris working almost exclusively at halfback.

    "We think that's what he is, really," Martz said.

    But what about those plans to switch Harris to fullback?

    "We want him to learn fullback, because ultimately during the season, we'd like to use him as such - with he and Marshall (Faulk) in the backfield, just as another alternative in various personnel groupings," Martz said. "And if you teach him (fullback), in the event that something would happen to Joey Goodspeed, we know that he can go in there and survive and do well. But first and foremost we kind of look at him as a halfback."

    This is true even though Harris reported at 226 pounds, about 15 pounds heavier than his playing weight as a rookie last season. An offseason of weight training and conditioning has made Harris faster, even in his bulked-up form.

    "He really got our attention because he's got some real live ability in terms of reading and cutting and breaking tackles and all those things," Martz said.

    The Rams also have moved defensive end Nick Burley to tight end.

    The Rams' 10th training camp since the move to St. Louis began bright and early Wednesday. Martz has moved up the starting time of morning workouts to 8 a.m. - an hour earlier than past camps.

    "I'd rather be sleeping," wide receiver Torry Holt joked. "But if that's what Coach (Martz) feels is going to make us a better football team and get us through training camp ... we've just got to do it."

    At least no one could complain about the weather. It was resort weather - so much so that Martz came out for the start of the afternoon practice wearing a sweatshirt, attire not normally associated with Macomb in late July.

    There was one first-day casualty on the practice field. Offensive lineman Peter Heyer, a native of Colgone, Germany, headed to the trainer's tent after only a couple of turns at the blocking sled Wednesday morning.

    He experienced some breathing difficulty and was sent back to St. Louis in the afternoon for tests. Team officials weren't overly concerned, but Heyer will be checked for asthma-related problems. He's with the Rams as part of a new program placing an NFL Europe player not from the U.S. on each NFL team's practice squad.

    Center Dave Wohlabaugh, who's recovering from offseason hip surgery, sat out the morning practice and did very limited work in the afternoon. Running back Marshall Faulk did light individual work in both the morning and afternoon. He took only a couple of repetitions during "team" periods in the afternoon - during a 9-on-7 running drill.

    Offensive tackle Orlando Pace, embroiled in another contract impasse, was a no-show as expected.

    All things considered, it was an efficient, businesslike start to Martz's fifth camp as head coach.

    "The effort's terrific," Martz said, summing up Day 1. "But as we all know, effort's not enough, so we've got to do things right. And that's what we're here for."

    Things were so businesslike that the absence of Kurt Warner in Macomb for the first time in seven years barely created a blip. Warner, of course, is now a New York Giant.

    "To be honest with you, I wasn't even thinking about No. 13," Holt said. "He wasn't even in my thoughts. No disrespect to Kurt Warner. I think he's done a tremendous job for this football team and for this organization. God bless, Kurt. But that's behind us."

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    The Journey Begins: Rams camp opens
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    MACOMB, Ill. - Armed with air mattresses, extra pillows and assorted creature comforts, Rams players arrived for training camp Tuesday with a mixture of dread and delight.

    Dread for the regimen of two-a-days that begins anew this morning on the practice fields of Western Illinois University. Delight in the renewal of friendships and the anticipation of the season that lies ahead.

    "Camp is camp," linebacker Robert Thomas said. "It's the toughest thing you go through during the football season. You'd rather be at home, rather be in your own bed. But it brings us together as a team, through something that you've got to fight through together."

    "It's time," said Arlen Harris, who will try to make the switch from tailback to fullback this season. "Sitting at home, you can only work out so much. So I was ready to go."

    Harris spent part of his summer in the tropics of Aruba. Thomas went boating on Lake of the Ozarks. Defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson hopped into the family truck with his wife, daughter and niece, and headed for Christmas, Indiana.

    "It's an area where it's Christmas every day of the year," Jackson said. "We stayed at the Santa Claus Inn."

    But as of Tuesday night, the residence for 80 Rams players is the Thompson Hall dormitory, known for its frigid air conditioning and lumpy mattresses.

    "Probably the worst thing about staying up here is the beds that we have to sleep in," long snapper Chris Massey said. "Too short, too narrow, not too comfy."

    Massey made the drive from St. Louis with 67.

    "They closed some exit I usually take on 67, so that made us go nine extra miles," Gordon said. "We took out that map. But we figured it out."

    Safety Adam Archuleta made a fashion statement as he lugged his things into Thompson - he was sporting a blue and white headband.

    "I just felt like rockin' a headband today," Archuleta said, somewhat defensively.

    The Rams open practice this morning with all seven draft picks signed and on the field. Only franchise player Orlando Pace, in the midst of another contract stalemate, will be missing in action.

    "We've got an Orlando watch out - out there on the highway," coach Mike Martz joked. "When 'Big O' gets here, we'll love him to death. I understand what he's going through. I really do. It's hard for coaches. But it is what it is. We're not going to change it. Why worry about it?"

    Center Dave Wohlabaugh, still feeling the effects of offseason hip surgery, will be the player most limited in practice.

    "I think we have to be very careful with him," Martz said. "We will piecemeal...
    -07-28-2004, 06:34 AM
  • RamDez
    Rams Head Home
    by RamDez
    Rams Head Home
    Friday, August 20, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    With the quickness of a Marshall Faulk cutback, coach Mike Martz ended the Rams’ 2004 training camp about 5:15 Thursday evening. Martz cited a major storm brewing in the Macomb area as the reason for the abrupt end.
    “I told them to get out of here tonight,” Martz said. “I don’t want them driving home in the rain in the morning. We wouldn’t get anything out of a morning practice here, anyway.”

    The players and coaching staff will leave for St. Louis on Thursday night and probably have a practice Friday afternoon at Rams Park. The end of camp signals the next step in the drive toward the regular season. St. Louis will play cross-state rival Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium on Monday night.

    The regular season kicks off Sept. 12 against Arizona at the Edward Jones Dome. Martz said he is more than satisfied with the work the team put in at camp. “We had a heck of a camp up here,” Martz said. “The injury list is minimal compared to what it’s been in past years. I’m pleased with where we are.”

    WOHLABAUGH GONE: It was a disappointing ending for center Dave Wohlabaugh, who spent 2003 starting in the middle of the Rams’ offensive line.

    St. Louis cut ties with its injured center Wednesday night. Wohlabaugh had surgery on his hip in March and was not expected back for at least three or four months.

    Wohlabaugh had not practiced with the team during this training camp and was likely going to miss the entire season. He recently traveled to Ohio to have the hip check out again, but the results were not positive that Wohlabaugh would play again this year or any other.

    With his tenure in St. Louis ending, so too, might his career. Wohlabaugh signed with the Rams on Feb. 28, 2003. Wohlabaugh was entering his 10th season in the league. Andy McCollum, who started at left guard for the Rams last season, moved back to center at the beginning of camp.

    McCollum said he feels comfortable playing his original position again, but he is sorry to see his friend and linemate struggle with injuries. “It’s just unfortunate, the injury that Dave had,” McCollum said. “He’s only been here a year, but I consider him a friend of mine.”

    TIGHT COMPETITION: Brandon Manumaleuna seems to be the only tight end that has wrapped up his position, though a return from hamstring problems by Cameron Cleeland could bring the competition into focus. Manumaleuna looks like he is in better shape, showing better burst off the ball and making some difficult catches in traffic.

    Martz said Manumaleuna’s offseason efforts are paying off handsomely. “Brandon has come a long way,” Martz said. “First of all, he has lost a lot of weight. He’s done a terrific job, in terms of being a receiver and a significant blocker. The thing about him is that he has been consistently excellent,...
    -08-21-2004, 12:19 AM
  • Nick
    Rams' progress leads Martz to skip a practice session - PD
    by Nick
    Rams' progress leads Martz to skip a practice session
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Jun. 07 2005

    Rams coach Mike Martz might have surprised himself more than anyone when he
    canceled practice Saturday afternoon. That move eliminated about 20 percent of
    the team's time on Rams Park fields for the three-day minicamp, something any
    NFL coach would be reluctant to do.

    But Martz was so happy with the progress he'd seen in the first three workouts,
    he felt comfortable giving his troops the afternoon off after a tough 2
    1/2-hour morning session in 90-degree heat. "To take a practice and not use it
    indicates you're pretty pleased," he explained.

    Martz's degree of satisfaction remained high after a two-hour practice wrapped
    up minicamp Sunday afternoon. "We're way ahead of the curve from where we've
    been in the past," he said. "Ninety-five percent of the squad has been here
    most of the time (for offseason workouts), which is highly unusual for any
    organization. They're prepared.

    "I can honestly say that I am pleased with the progress everywhere, which is
    probably a first."

    These aspects stood out:

    * The level of competition was considerably higher than last summer.
    "Absolutely. You can see it out there," third-year linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa
    said. "Whether it's the first or the second team, guys are flying around, even
    the third-team guys when they get out there. They're ready to compete."

    * The quality of the depth at several positions runs deeper. "That's
    the one thing on every squad that you try to have," Martz said. "If you're
    strong at the bottom of your roster with young players, then it's going to put
    a lot of pressure on the stars that you have. That makes you better."

    * The defense, which a year ago was getting its first exposure to
    new coordinator Larry Marmie, was perhaps the most impressive unit during
    minicamp, even though at least five new faces were manning first-team spots.
    "Everybody looked real good; there's a lot of competition," defensive end
    Leonard Little said.

    Martz was particularly enthused about the play of the cornerbacks, even though
    first-teamer Travis Fisher missed the last two practices because of a hip
    injury. "It was outstanding," Martz said. "We had the corners make more plays
    in these practices than we've had since all the time I've been here in
    practice. So that showed up real big, in my opinion."

    * The special teams, under the direction of first-year coach Bob
    Ligashesky, will work often, and hard. "I think the difference...
    -06-08-2005, 02:12 AM
  • RamDez
    First Day of 2004 Campaign In the Books
    by RamDez
    First Day of 2004 Campaign In the Books
    Wednesday, July 28, 2004

    Staff Writer

    Adjusting to life in the NFL can be difficult for any rookie. There are possible pitfalls at every corner, from managing their newfound riches to setting the alarm correctly.

    Such is life for Rams’ tailback Steven Jackson. All of those worries were certainly on his mind the past few days. Jackson signed a five-year contract Sunday and arrived at camp via the rookie bus on Tuesday. All of those other worries went away today, as St. Louis held its first two practices of training camp.

    The Rams kicked off their first practice at 8:10 a.m., finishing at about 10:30. The afternoon session started at 4 and ended about 5:30. Head coach Mike Martz said he was pleased with the tempo of the practices, but there isn’t much evaluation that can be done after one day.

    “We have a long ways to go,” Martz said. “The effort was terrific, but as we all know, effort isn’t enough. After the first day, there isn’t a whole lot to tell you. Their heads will be swimming here (in) another three days.”

    Jackson had no problems waking up in time for the morning practice. He showed up on time and stretched with the rest of the team. The thing that caught his attention, however, was what could be the most difficult adjustment for a rookie to make, the speed of the game.

    It can be easy for a young player to grow accustomed to dominating slower and less talented players. Jackson knows all about that, for the former Oregon State star dominated the Pacific 10 Conference. Jackson led the conference with 1,545 rushing yards and 2,015 total yards.

    It didn’t take long for Jackson to realize that things won’t be so easy at the game’s highest level.

    “It’s definitely faster,” Jackson said. “Right now, it’s fast and it will just take a little time to get used to.”

    By most accounts, the first day of camp was like any other. The Rams went through the usual run of drills, ranging from the one-on-one battles between offensive and defensive linemen to 11-on-11 exercises.

    Martz said the team starts most camps by getting reacquainted with the basics of the playbooks and techniques. The only real change from past seasons was the setup of the practice schedule. Martz said the idea for the additional time between practices came from some of the veteran players.

    “I just want to try it,” Martz said. “If we don’t like it, we will change it back.”

    While Jackson was busy adjusting to the speed and pace of the players and practices, a veteran was sinking his teeth into the beginning of one of his favorite times of the year. Safety Aeneas Williams, who is entering his 15th season, said he enjoys the time he spends at training camp.

    “If you don’t focus on so much the tedious and monotony of it, it’s enjoyable...
    -07-29-2004, 11:57 AM
  • RamDez
    Rams find Camp Macomb was much cooler than usual
    by RamDez
    Rams find Camp Macomb was much cooler than usual
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Aug. 21 2004

    For the Rams, Camp Macomb '04 is best summed up by one lingering snapshot. It
    was Thursday morning, on what turned out to be the last day of camp for the
    team at Western Illinois University.

    And there, doing his thing in the Rams secondary, was No. 35, Aeneas Williams .
    . . in sweatpants!

    Think about that for a moment. Training camp. Mid-August. Midwest. Sweatpants.

    So much for the dog days of August. In their 10 summers since the move to St.
    Louis, this has been the Rams' coolest training camp.

    "By far," head trainer Jim Anderson said. "I think we had maybe two (hot) days.
    We had that one Friday that was kind of in the low 90s and pretty humid a
    couple of weeks ago."

    And a couple of days where the temperature may have reached the mid-80s. But
    that was about it.

    "In past summers, it's been upper 90s and even up in the 100s on a few days. We
    just didn't have anything near that this year. Other than those (few) days, you
    couldn't have asked for a better camp."

    Gone are the days when tight end Troy Drayton collapsed in the dinner line
    because of dehydration. When offensive tackle Ryan Tucker sweated off 10 to 12
    pounds per practice. Or when Anderson's training staff would work overtime
    after practice administering IVs to restore fluids.

    "There were times when we'd do 10-12 IVs after a practice on a hot day,"
    Anderson said. "We didn't do one IV this year - not one. That's just pretty
    much unheard of for this part of the country."

    The weather, says middle linebacker Robert Thomas, "has just been a blessing."

    Some days, the Macomb weather was almost too cool, according to wide receiver
    Torry Holt.

    "It's kind of tough in the afternoons when it's cool like that," Holt said. "It
    takes a minute for the muscles to get going, and strains and different things
    like that can happen."

    Despite the resort weather, Camp Macomb '04 was hardly a, pardon the
    expression, country club.

    On that same cool morning last Thursday, defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson was
    dripping sweat when he spoke to reporters after practice. "Well, with Bill
    Kollar, he's going to find a way to get you wet," Jackson said. "That's not an

    Kollar is the Rams' defensive line coach.

    "Camp is still rough no matter where it is," Jackson said. "But the weather can
    make it either extra rough, or tolerable. So this year, it was pretty tolerable
    with the weather."

    -08-22-2004, 01:06 AM