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  • Rams brace for Bear influx

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - As coach Mike Martz sees it, the arrival of the Chicago Bears here amounts to nothing more than "just practice."

    Just practice?

    For the 18,000 denizens of this west central Illinois town, nothing could be further from the truth. The Bears are in town for joint practices today and Friday with the Rams, with a scrimmage on Saturday.

    According to Macomb Mayor Mick Wisslead, this will be a bigger event than the Heritage Days festival in June.

    ... Bigger than the balloon rally in September.

    ... Bigger than a Western Illinois football homecoming weekend.

    "It's just super," Wisslead said. "This is going to be a great way that we can showcase Macomb, and we can showcase Western Illinois University."

    In fact, the general consensus among the locals is that the Bears' appearance is bigger even than "Super Bowl 34 1/2" - the joint practices and scrimmage between the Rams and the Tennessee Titans in 2000, just six months removed from Super Bowl XXXIV.

    Why? Because the Rams' opponent this time is 'Da Bears.'

    "Oh, my gosh. The draw for the fan base between St. Louis and Chicago is enormous here," said Kim Pierce, executive director of the Macomb Area Economic Development Corp. "So we're really expecting to see enormous crowds. The town's really geared up for it."

    Macomb is situated about three hours north of St. Louis and three hours south of Chicago. But let's face it, this is Illinois, not Missouri. And the Bears have been in business for 80 years; the Rams are embarking on just their 10th season in St. Louis.

    The Bears once were the dominant NFL team here, but the Rams have made inroads on the fan base during their nine seasons of summer training in Macomb.

    "Once you get into Macomb, it seems everything turns blue and gold," Rams defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "So I don't really know about how much Bear country it is around here. They may have the state, but we've got one little piece of it right here. And they're coming into our area."

    True, but don't be surprised if there are as many - or more - Bears fans than Rams fans around this weekend.

    According to Sean Kelly of the Western Illinois ticket office, which is handling ticket sales for Saturday's scrimmage, about 55 to 60 percent of ticket sales have been to Bears fans.

    "I would say this is more a Bears area," Kelly said. "There's a decent number of Rams fans here."

    As of midday Wednesday, nearly 12,000 tickets had been sold for the scrimmage at Hanson Field, home of Leathernecks football. About 200 reserved seats - at $15 a ticket - remained. Those tickets were returns from the Bears and Rams organizations.

    With basically all of the stadium seats sold out, the university began selling $10 general admission lawn tickets earlier this week. "We have about 2,000 (lawn) seats left," Kelly said.

    There will be no separate Rams and Bears sections at Hanson Field. Instead, fans from both teams will be mixed together in the stands.

    "Hopefully, no bad Cubs-Cardinals ties are still lingering here," Kelly said.

    Kelly said the ticket office has received requests from fans as far away as Texas, Arizona and California. Macomb's 600 hotel rooms have been sold out for quite some time, with fans booking rooms as far away as the Illinois towns of Galesburg and Quincy.

    The Bears, by the way, will be staying in the same Thompson Hall dormitory as the Rams. They will eat in the same dining hall, with slightly staggered starts for eating. Rams general manager Charley Armey has graciously agreed to move out of his first floor office and apartment at Thompson today to accommodate visiting NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

    As part of the Rams-Bears festivities, there will be live music and a beer tent at the town square tonight, Friday and Saturday. On Saturday night, more than 300 classic cars will be part of a car show on the square.

    Bolstered by the Bears' appearance, Pierce estimates that Rams camp will bring in more than $1 million in revenue to Macomb this summer.

    Of course, the last thing on Martz's mind is fan loyalties, economic impact or ticket sales. He just wants to get in some quality practice work.

    "The guys, after this amount of time in camp, they just need to line up against somebody different," Martz said. "It's a long haul through camp. It's a good change to see your guys against other people, and allow them to compete a little bit in practice."

    The operative words there being compete "a little bit."

    Things got out of hand four years ago when the Titans visited Macomb. After the first day of workouts, Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher chastised his team for getting "outplayed" by the Rams. Things got a lot more intense the next day, with Rams draft picks Trung Canidate and Kaulana Noa both suffering injuries.

    But with good friend and former Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith now coaching the Bears, Martz believes things won't get out of hand this time.

    "Knowing Lovie and how he'll approach this practice, it'll be like practicing against your own team," Martz said. "There won't be the fights and all that stuff that happens

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  • RamDez
    Getting ready for the Rams
    by RamDez
    Getting ready for the Rams

    Eagle News Editor

    Fred Adair remembers the summer of 1996. That was the first year the St. Louis Rams held their training camp in Macomb. At the time, Adair WIU's grounds maintenance foreman wondered if it might be the last.

    After the Macomb Area Economic Development Corporation (MAEDCO) invested $250,000 for the construction of two practice fields and the Rams decided on Macomb as their summer home that year, WIU's grounds department was left with about a month and a half, according to Adair, to prepare for the team's use of the fields. In this the ninth year the Rams will call Macomb home for just under a month, and field preparation is a spring-long undertaking, with demands one would expect from an NFL team.

    "The first year they were here we didn't have grass on the sidelines and we had to haul mulch in and put it along the sidelines," Adair said. "There was water everywhere. The sidelines weren't done so we hauled mulch for a week. The day before they came it rained like two inches; we wondered why we ever got into this."

    The hard work which, among many other duties, includes reseeding, fertilizing and aerating two practice fields once Western has finished using them in the spring has proved fruitful. Since that first year, hundreds of thousands of Rams devotees have visited Macomb to catch glimpses of such star players as Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt.

    Its quite an extensive process in terms of the preparation," said Larry Mortier, Western's vice president of advancement and public services assistant. "We have a number of areas on the campus that are involved on a planning committee that has been in place going on nine years that the Rams have trained here."

    In addition to Western's grounds department, several other areas on campus as well as within the city of Macomb contribute to what Mortier calls a "joint venture."

    "That coordination is extremely important to make it all happen in a very positive way and create the most productive environment for the Rams," Mortier said, adding that MAEDCO's contribution was crucial to bringing St. Louis to Macomb. "We have received some very positive comments about our ability to do that, and that has led to their return each year.

    We just saw this as an opportunity that should not be missed," said MAEDCO Executive Director Kim Pierce of her organization's contribution toward the practice fields. "The partnership between the university, the city, the county and MAEDCO was great. We all pulled it together. You see whats happened; this is our ninth year celebrating. Its been a great, great venture for us."

    While in Macomb this year from July 28 through Aug. 20, the Rams will make use of 10 floors...
    -06-30-2004, 03:38 PM
  • RamDez
    Rams, Bears scrimmage before preseason opener
    by RamDez
    Rams, Bears scrimmage before preseason opener

    Associated Press

    MACOMB, Ill. - After three days of joint practices, the St. Louis Rams outplayed the Chicago Bears during a scrimmage at Western Illinois University's Hanson Field Saturday.

    The Rams unofficially won the scrimmage 12-6, though no score was actually kept during the 90-minute workout.

    Both teams held out several starters. Quarterback Marc Bulger and running back Marshall Faulk did not see action for the Rams while linebacker Brian Urlacher, who is nursing a hamstring injury, and wide receiver Marty Booker and others sat out for the Bears.

    The scrimmage also provided a chance for new Chicago coach Lovie Smith to put his team up against the Rams, where he worked as defensive coordinator before taking the job with the Bears.

    Smith said after the scrimmage, "We know we have a long ways to go. We get a chance to play them again next week with hopes that we'll have a better team on the field playing against them."

    The Bears will visit the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis Thursday to take on the Rams in the preseason opener.

    The Rams went on offense first in the controlled scrimmage as former Bears quarterback Chris Chandler marched the Rams 70 yards in a drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by running back Arlen Harris.

    Bears starting quarterback Rex Grossman directed the first three series before backup Jonathan Quinn engineered the last two drives.

    Rams rookie quarterback Jeff Smoker hit Kevin Curtis for a 35-yard touchdown later in the scrimmage.

    Then Quinn guided the Bears to their only score when he connected with Gabe Reid on a 5-yard scoring toss.

    One of the biggest ovations of the morning came when former Western Illinois star Russ Michna took the field for a few plays with the Rams offense.

    Rams coach Mike Martz said Michna had two good passes. "Unfortunately, one of them was dropped. He's a good little player. He's not a camp arm. I'm excited that we have him."

    Michna is in the Rams camp as the fourth quarterback after signing with St. Louis as an undrafted free agent in June. Michna said after playing that he appreciated the crowd's response. "It's great to know that they still appreciate what you did for them."

    Martz said a scrimmage like the one against the Bears can provide a player an opportunity to show he deserves a spot on the roster. "We're not going to eliminate somebody because of what they've done in this scrimmage. What we can do is look a little harder at a guy," he said.

    Notes: Martz said the Rams will not practice Sunday to give his players a break. They will hold a workout Monday afternoon and a meeting Monday night in Macomb. Martz said, "We've had a terrific camp up here and they've worked...
    -08-08-2004, 12:55 AM
  • RamDez
    Bears, Rams scrimmage caps week
    by RamDez
    Bears, Rams scrimmage caps week

    August 7, 2004


    of the Journal Star

    MACOMB - Three days of joint workouts between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears come to a close this morning with a 10:30 a.m. scrimmage at Hanson Field.

    For both teams, the goal of today's scrimmage is to continue the progress that has been made from the first day of practice when camp opened.

    "We want to improve our team. We're not keeping score," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We came up here to have some good practices against a good team, and we're getting that type of work done."

    The Rams will use today's scrimmage to work in some of the younger players.

    "We're going to take a look at our inexperienced players," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "We're going to make sure that the younger players get some repetitions."

    Getting closer: It is rare in today's NFL that a team would take a flier on signing an injured player as a free agent while that player is still rehabbing from the injury.

    That's exactly what the Rams did during the offseason in signing defensive tackle Bernard Holsey, who started all 16 games last season for Washington. He had surgery in February to repair his injured quadricep.

    Holsey began working out on Friday and hopes to be able to play by the end of the preseason.

    "It's a little frustrating right now," Holsey said. "The guys are out there sweating, but I can only do a limited number of things."

    What wasn't frustrating was when the Rams called expressing interest even though he was injured.

    "That was amazing," Holsey said. "I wasn't expecting to hear from any teams until August. I appreciate that they called. I'm sure I would have had some more interest, but they called first."

    Said Martz: "He's played at a really I level. I've seen him play and our scouts really liked him."

    Holsey's return comes at a time when the Rams need some more depth after defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy suffered a broken foot during Thursday's afternoon workout. He is expected to miss three to four months.

    "He just put his foot on the ground, there was no contact or anything," Martz said. "Hopefully we'll get him back halfway through the season."

    Points of emphasis: Officials have been working with the Bears and Rams this week.

    They're going over some of the rule changes, as well as the rules that haven't changed but will be emphasized this season.

    The biggest point this year that will be enforced is not allowing defenders to intentionally contact receivers 5 yards past the line of scrimmage.

    -08-07-2004, 01:58 PM
  • txramsfan
    Bears make final offer to Benson
    by txramsfan

    LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) - Upset and frustrated that running back Cedric Benson is still a holdout and the only first-round draft pick without a contract agreement, the Chicago Bears have made their final offer to the No. 4 pick.

    "After missing all of training camp, we want to make it abundantly clear that the Chicago Bears have made their best and final offer to Cedric Benson," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said in a statement released by the team.

    "No dollars are left on the bargaining table and at this point the only contract discussions that will be entertained will be reflective of the considerable loss of value to the club created by the players' extended absence," the statement said.

    Benson's holdout reached its 26th day Thursday and the former Texas star has already missed two preseason games. The Bears' training camp at Bourbonnais, Ill., ended Wednesday.

    The Bears are back at their Halas Hall training facility and play again Saturday at Indianapolis. They have two exhibitions remaining after that before opening the regular season Sept. 11 at Washington.

    The Bears have been burned by holdouts from first-round running backs in the past, most notably Curtis Enis, who was drafted in 1998 and is who is no longer in the NFL after a disappointing injury-plagued career.

    "The Chicago Bears have always placed a premium on having our players in camp on time," Angelo said noting that two other first-rounders represented by Benson's agent, Eugene Parker, were in on time - quarterback Rex Grossman and defensive tackle Tommie Harris.

    "The failure to reach an agreement on a fair and reasonable contract has been a huge disappointment," Angelo said, encouraging Benson to end his holdout and report to camp.

    The Bears expected Benson, the fourth overall pick in the draft, to challenge incumbent Thomas Jones for playing time.

    "There is nothing new," Parker said Thursday evening, adding that he did not have a reaction to the Bears' statement.
    -08-19-2005, 09:16 AM
  • JellyOpal
    Bears at Rams Training Camp Update
    by JellyOpal
    They now have ticket information for the Rams/Bears scrimmage on WIU's Hansen Field, August 7, at, the press release at and additional information about Rams summer training camp in Macomb, IL at The tickets are only for the scrimmage on August 7. The practices on the 5th and 6th on the practice fields (and throughout camp) are free and so is parking on campus.

    If you only want to watch the Rams in practice, if you can manage their evening practice on Hansen Field, Wednesday, August 4, I highly recommend it. On top of a nice overview of practice, they usually give out an extra "treat" to spectators.

    This year's training camp will be a hoot with the Bears there, as well as educational. So many familiar faces gone, so many new names, faces and numbers to learn. I hope at least a few of you will be able to join me here in Macomb to watch the final team for the season form and to root our boys in blue and gold on to a successful season.
    -07-01-2004, 08:58 AM