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WRs Face Intense Battle for Roster Spots

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  • WRs Face Intense Battle for Roster Spots

    WRs Face Intense Battle for Roster Spots
    Monday, August 2, 2004

    Staff Writer

    Battles for roster spots are perhaps the biggest staple of training camp life. Every year young hopefuls eye the spots of grizzled veterans with dreams of stardom on their mind.

    Rewind one year to Macomb, Ill., the summer home of the St. Louis Rams and the battles were numerous. There was the jockeying for the quarterback job, among others, but none of the competitions was as heated as the one at wide receiver. By the end of camp, six receivers had emerged at the head of the class.

    It comes as somewhat of a surprise, then, that this year there seems to be a solid wall around the chosen six, a wall that will be difficult for any of the ambitious youngsters to break through.

    Kevin Curtis , one of the six who appears safe in his position, said the receiving corps looks great in the first week of camp.

    “We are pretty solid for receiver,” Curtis said. “Obviously you have Ike (Bruce) and Torry (Holt) and Dane (Looker) that did their thing last year, but we also have me, Mike Furrey and Shaun (McDonald).

    “I feel like all of us can contribute.”

    At the top of the depth chart is one of the league’s best receiving duos. Isaac Bruce has established himself as “Mr. St. Louis Ram.” He is the only player who has been with the team since it moved to St. Louis and has posted some of the most astonishing numbers for any receiver, ever. Bruce enters 2004 with career totals of 688 catches, 10,461 yards and 68 touchdown, one of just 15 players to hold team records in all three categories.

    Holt officially made “the leap” in 2003. The leap doesn’t refer to one of Holt’s acrobatic catches in traffic, but rather his move from Pro Bowl receiver to one of the league’s elite wideouts with Bruce. Holt led the league with 117 catches and 1,696 yards and was second in touchdowns with 12. Holt’s breakthrough was expected, but the timing of it was surprising because of the changing situation at quarterback.

    A year ago, the picture was muddled after the Holt and Bruce combination. When the season ended, though, it was clear where everyone sat. Looker , who worked his way from the practice squad and through stops in NFL Europe to make the roster in training camp and moved into the vacant No. 3 spot. Looker provided a valuable set of hands and admirably replaced the departed Ricky Proehl as a go-to-guy in third-down situations.

    “I think once you get playing time and have all that success, you don’t want to give that up,” Looker said. “I want to be the third receiver this year and I expect to be when this is all said and done.”

    The Rams’ other pleasant surprise was the unknown and little-used Furrey. Furrey took a path similar to Looker, making his name in the Arena Football League before St. Louis signed him. Furrey finished with 20 catches for 189 yards and proved valuable as a kick returner. He figures into the mix in both roles again this season.

    Furrey readily admits that it wasn’t so long ago he was in a similar position to the young receiver trying to catch on.

    “Being in their shoes is hard, it is tough,” Furrey said. “Obviously nobody knows who you are reps are real limited. It’s tough.

    “It’s something I would never want to do again, but I am still trying to grow and trying to get better.”

    Although their roster spots might be relatively safe, that doesn’t mean that second-year receivers Curtis and McDonald don’t have something to prove. Both players impressed the coaches and fans in 2003’s training camp with blazing speed and sure hands. Curtis and McDonald seemed destined to make an impact right away, but then the injuries started piling up.

    Curtis broke his leg in the preseason and didn’t return until the Rams’ sixth game against Green Bay. Curtis never made it back to full strength and had little impact. After some rigorous training to get back in shape, Curtis appears ready to make a difference.

    He showed the quickness and catching ability that made him a top prospect entering 2003. He grabbed three touchdown passes during Sunday morning’s practice, including a pair of acrobatic catches in the corner of the end zone.

    Curtis said he isn’t quite 100 percent, but he feels better on the field than he did at any time last season and is eager to show what he can do.

    “I didn’t really get a chance to prove myself last year with the injury,” Curtis said. “I think coming in last year and being drafted I definitely feel like I have to show these guys I can play.”

    Curtis wasn’t the only rookie receiver who battled injury problems in 2003. McDonald battled a left thumb injury for most of the season and saw limited action. Like Curtis, he appears healthy and has had some strong practices in the first week.

    As for the guys trying to steal a roster spot, Michael Coleman, who spent time on the practice squad, joins a group that includes Kelvin Kight, Brian Sump and Derek McCoy hoping to unseat one of the six.

    With quarterback Marc Bulger in control full-time, an offensive line that returns intact, and all six receivers with another year in coach Mike Martz’s wide-open passing attack, the St. Louis offense could improve on its 2003 ranking of third in the league in passing offense. From 1999-2001, the Rams' led the league in passing offense, and could retain the top spot once again with one the league's most talented and deepest receiving corps.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • RamWraith
    Simply put, the Rams wide receivers get it
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Aug. 29 2004

    While injury and personnel questions have swirled around almost every other
    position on the Rams roster, all is calm at wide receiver.

    The quarterbacks throw the football, the wide receivers run and get it. It's
    that simple for what is shaping up as one of the league's deepest receiving

    "All of them can line up, and all of them can play," wide receivers coach Henry
    Ellard said. "It's a neat situation to have guys that have the kind of talent
    they have."

    Receivers Kelvin Kight, Derek McCoy, Brian Sump and Michael Coleman were cut by
    the Rams over the past three weeks. They never really had a chance.

    Not with Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Dane Looker, Kevin Curtis, Mike Furrey and
    Shaun McDonald on the roster. Three games into the exhibition season, they're
    the only wide receivers who have caught a pass for the Rams. And barring
    injury, it'll be the same way in the regular season.

    Quarterback Chris Chandler, entering his 17th NFL season, calls the Rams' depth
    of talent at wide receiver "as good as I've ever seen. Starting with the two
    big guys, and then from there on, you look at everyone else we have: Mac,
    Furrey, Kevin. Dane is as solid as they come inside."

    The two "big guys," of course, are Bruce and Holt. They have formed one of the
    league's better wide receiver tandems over the past five seasons.

    "Isaac's age-defying," Looker said. "I don't know how he does it. I guess he's
    in his 30s, but he still plays like he's 22 or 23. So I'm not sure if he'll
    ever get too old to play this game. He's in phenomenal shape. But he works at
    it. He's always in the weight room working out extra, and stretching, and
    working on his flexibility.

    "And Torry's just out there with so much energy, and I think that's what fuels
    him. Torry's out there having fun with the game, and he stays young that way,

    Bruce, who turns 32 in November, has looked particularly frisky this preseason.
    Holt, 28, showed what he brings to the table with a seven-catch, 143-yard
    performance Friday against Washington.
    But at the risk of taking them for granted, Bruce and Holt are givens. What
    could set this receiving corps apart is the development of the guys behind
    them: Looker, Curtis, McDonald, and Furrey.

    "There's not too many teams in the league that have as much depth as we do
    right now," Looker said. "We can plug guys in about any position and we're
    ready to go.

    "You have Kevin with a lot of speed. Shaun, with his quickness and his...
    -08-30-2004, 07:45 AM
  • RamWraith
    Curtis ready for bigger things in St. Louis
    by RamWraith
    By Len Pasquarelli

    Maybe because Kevin Curtis was originally a walk-on at Utah State, where it took two years before coach Mike Dennehy finally granted him a scholarship, the speedy wide receiver never thought much about a career in professional football.

    So when a representative from the sports information office queried him about his career goals in 2000 as part of the standard player questionnaire, Curtis briefly hearkened back to his boyhood ambition in delivering what he assumed would be a forgettable reply.

    Problem is, Curtis' supposed throwaway answer has yet to be thrown away, except by him.

    Five years later, apparently with no one having thought about updating the "personal" section of his biography, the St. Louis Rams media guide still suggests Curtis "hopes to one day become a firefighter." The truth is, though, that the Rams' third-year wide receiver thinks a lot more these days about torching NFL secondaries than about extinguishing house fires.

    "The whole fireman thing, well, it just popped into my head," explained Curtis of the media-guide notation that followed him from college into the NFL. "I mean, here I was, just a walk-on, barely on the team and not much thinking about playing football after college. So 'fireman,' which I think is a really [admirable] job, seemed just as good an answer as any at the time. And somehow, I don't know, it just stuck with me."
    In the final three games of his 2004 season, however, NFL cornerbacks could barely stick with Curtis at all. Which helps explain why, looking to the 2005 season, Curtis, a third-round choice in 2003, figures to be climbing the St. Louis depth chart instead of a four-story extension ladder.

    And why the Rams, who have struggled at the No. 3 wide receiver spot since the quicksilver Az-Zahir Hakim departed as a free agent following the '01 season, might finally have located a viable playmaker to fill that key role.

    In terms of raw numbers, the various successors to Hakim, who averaged 37 catches, 508 yards and four touchdowns in four seasons in the wide-open St. Louis offense, have measured up. In order, Ricky Proehl (2002), Dane Looker (2003) and Shaun McDonald (2004), averaged 42.3 receptions, 485 yards and 3.3 touchdowns over the past three campaigns. But none of the three – McDonald and Looker remain with the Rams, and Proehl is now with Carolina – has the kind of big-play explosiveness Curtis demonstrated at the end of last season.

    In the regular-season finale against the New York Jets, a postseason wild-card victory at Seattle and then a defeat at Atlanta in the division round, Curtis totaled 17 receptions for 335 yards and one score. Curtis had at least one reception of 34 yards or more in each of those contests. In fact, in each of his final four appearances of 2004, he had...
    -06-28-2005, 06:00 AM
  • RamDez
    Curtis excels in place of injured Bruce
    by RamDez
    Curtis excels in place of injured Bruce
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Jan. 16 2005

    ATLANTA - Second-year wide receiver Kevin Curtis, who played in only four games
    in an injury-plagued rookie year and didn't catch his first pass this season
    until the third game, was thrust into the NFL playoff spotlight Saturday night.

    Veteran Isaac Bruce was a late scratch for the Rams' NFC semifinal game against
    the Atlanta Falcons. Curtis started in his place, and he was the team's leading
    receiver in a 47-17 loss. He had seven receptions for 128 yards and a

    Curtis' impact was felt early. On the Rams' fifth play, quarterback Marc Bulger
    found Curtis on the right side, and his sprint to the end zone completed a
    57-yard scoring play that made it 7-7.

    Despite his third big game in a row, Curtis took little solace after the Rams'
    season came to a crushing conclusion.

    "It doesn't really take the place of losing a big football game," he said.
    "It's not the way you want it to end."

    Bruce had been bothered by a hip injury late in the regular season, and he
    suffered what originally was described as a groin pull last weekend in the
    Rams' 27-20 first-round victory in Seattle. Coach Mike Martz later described it
    as a stomach-muscle problem.

    Bruce declined to speak with reporters after Saturday night's defeat. But
    according to a Rams official, Bruce tested the injury a couple of hours before
    kickoff at the Georgia Dome and deemed it too sore to play.

    Curtis acknowledged that sliding into Bruce's spot carried stress.

    "Oh, yeah, it's a lot of pressure," Curtis said. "Obviously, you never want
    Isaac out of a game; it hurts. I just tried to go in and be a decent
    replacement for him."

    With Curtis lining up opposite Torry Holt with the first unit, Shaun McDonald
    and Dane Looker moved into the Nos. 3 and 4 wideout slots. McDonald had four
    catches for 37 yards, and Looker, who hadn't seen much action other than on
    special teams, latched onto three passes for 38 yards. Holt had two catches for
    42 yards.

    "It is nice to get back in the lineup and catch a couple of balls," Looker
    said. "But it's awful when you lose. ... All week in practice we knew that
    Isaac was questionable; he didn't take many reps in practice. You know
    something's really wrong with him when he doesn't play, because he's as
    competitive a guy as I've ever seen and he's as tough a football player as I've
    ever seen."

    While emphasizing that losing Bruce was a blow, Bulger said: "But that's the
    nature of the beast. It happens, and you have to move on from it." ...
    -01-16-2005, 04:47 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams wide receiver loves his role
    by RamWraith
    By Justin Walker, Marion Daily Republican, [email protected]
    Published: Thursday, December 7, 2006

    MARION — The exploits of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are well known around the NFL. They've been the marquee players for the St. Louis Rams for a few years now, and they're both wide receivers.

    So the average NFL fan might not know about Kevin Curtis, the Rams' other wide receiver.

    "Yeah, I'm the other guy," Curtis acknowledged Tuesday during a stop in Marion to promote Alltel Wireless to the region.

    "I love it. I love the role," Curtis said. "It's quite an honor. Those guys are awesome and especially being a wide receiver, coming into the league it's been great to learn from the best. I have no problem with it."

    Holt, an eight-year veteran, has caught eight touchdowns and 910 yards this season, while Bruce, in his 13th season, has hauled in 764 yards and two scores.

    Curtis, while his numbers are down from a year ago, has still had a fine season with 345 yards and four touchdowns through 12 games while assuming the "other guy" role.

    "I don't necessarily want to be the other guy my whole career, but it's been a great learning experience for me," Curtis said.

    It's also allowed Curtis, primarily a third-down receiver, to take on single coverage when quarterback Marc Bulger is looking his way.

    "There are times where Torry or Isaac will draw some double teams and it will give me some favorable matchups to get me the ball," Curtis said. "Coming in every other down or every three downs, you might not get as many opportunities, so if my number is called, I definitely get excited about the opportunity."

    Curtis is in his fourth NFL season, all with St. Louis, after coming out of Utah State. At 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, he's not menacing by any stretch. But he was clocked as the fastest member of the Rams last season and caught 60 passes in Mike Martz's final season.

    Now under new coach Scott Lineham, the Rams are 5-7 heading into Monday's big matchup with the Chicago Bears (10-2) at the Edward Jones Dome. Curtis said the team has been looking forward to this week's matchup, while taking one game at a time along the way.

    "We've lost a couple of close games that were tough to lose but obviously we can't change that now and we're just looking ahead to the future and hopefully we can pull off a big win Monday night," Curtis said. "You try to take each game a week at a time, but now that it's Chicago week, we definitely have our work cut out for us. That's a good football team. I can't think of a better way to feel better about the struggles we've been having than to knock off the Bears."
    -12-07-2006, 07:38 PM
  • HUbison
    Curtis, McDonald Make Rams More Dangerous
    by HUbison
    Curtis, McDonald Make Rams More Dangerous

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Ever since the 1999 Rams emerged on the scene as the “Greatest Show on Turf,” they have been known for their two outstanding receivers.

    The combination of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt might be one of the best the league has ever seen over a five-year span, but the dynamic duo might be on its way to becoming the NFL’s most explosive barbershop quartet.

    Ask anyone around Rams Park these days the biggest reason for optimism heading into this season and the answer will invariably involve the myriad possibilities of the offense. Those possibilities might not be so endless were it not for the emergence and development of the perfect compliments to the St. Louis version of Batman and Robin.

    Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald didn’t just arrive on the scene last season; they ran through it like world-class sprinters hopped up on Red Bull. Ask the Seattle Seahawks what they remember about their first meeting with the Rams last season and Nos. 83 and 84 will probably be mentioned followed by a slew of words that aren’t suitable for print.

    “I am real excited about the receivers, Kevin (Curtis), (Shaun) McDonald, everybody,” coach Mike Martz said. “It brings back a lot of memories from some of the guys we had in the past. They are just playing now. That’s when it’s fun is when you can come out here and do something and they know exactly what to do. You just start moving guys around in stuff we haven’t done in a while. You give them some creativity in their shifts and their moves and they are just like robots. They line up in man to man coverage and have different ways on a particular route to beat a guy.”

    In fact, the memories came rushing back to Martz so quickly that he goofed up on one of the opening days of training camp, asking “Trent” to take the team out of the huddle. Of course, by Trent he was referring to Trent Green, but he was actually talking to quarterback Marc Bulger.

    Excuse Martz if he is having flashbacks to the days when Az-zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl flanked Bruce and Holt in catching passes from an accurate quarterback with a quick release. Substitute Curtis and McDonald for Hakim and Proehl and Bulger for Green and the ingredients are in place for an offensive tour de force in St. Louis.

    The Rams spent the better part of a year waiting for Curtis and McDonald to get with the system. Unfortunately, both suffered through miserable, injury-plagued rookie seasons.

    Curtis played in four games in 2003, missing the first five games of the season with a broken fibula. McDonald played in eight games, but suffered a thumb injury that kept him out for four weeks. Those injuries didn’t necessarily keep Curtis and McDonald out for the whole season, but they might as well have.

    The injuries even slowed down Curtis...
    -08-02-2005, 11:00 AM