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  • Tuesday Notebook

    By NICK WAGONER
    Staff Writer

    When the Chicago Bears came to Macomb for a series of practices capped off by a scrimmage this past week, everyone assumed it was simply a matter of Rams’ coach Mike Martz calling Bears’ coach Lovie Smith and asking.

    That assumption would be wrong. Sure, Martz did ask Smith to come to Western Illinois University, but there is another reason for the added workouts with the neighbors to the north and John Oswald is his name.

    Oswald is in his third decade with the team and the Vice President of Operations since 1992. Every time the Rams go on a road trip, Oswald makes it happen. When the team moves its entire organization to training camp, Oswald makes it work.

    It was no different this past week, when Oswald brought the Bears and Rams together in Thompson Hall for three days seamlessly. Martz was one of the first to credit Oswald for his efforts. “Let me just say this,” Martz said. “John Oswald really orchestrates this whole thing. He is the one that does all of this. By golly, he does a fantastic job.”

    Oswald helped put together the scrimmage with Tennessee in 2000, so he had some experience doing it, but there were a few new wrinkles this year. The setup was similar in that the Titans and Bears were put in Western Illinois’ locker room, training room and equipment room.

    The biggest difference, though, was a change made in Thompson Hall. In 2000, there was no cafeteria for the teams to share, so they ate on the 18th floor. Since then, Western Illinois has put in a new cafeteria that has more than enough room for two football teams and their staff.

    Oswald said he can’t take all of the credit for the planning. “We started from when they check in to when they check out, what exactly is their schedule going to be like,” Oswald said. “We go through it piece by piece and then we incorporate the university here which is very helpful. “There were a wide range of people that really assisted with the scrimmage itself.”

    The university provided the teams with security, transport vans and set up meeting rooms. Like with any meeting involving that many people, Oswald said there were a few hiccups along the way and there will be a meeting to evaluate those mistakes so the problems can be corrected in future scrimmages.

    Oswald said he is always on the lookout for another scrimmage opportunity, so he can do his part to help break up the monotony of camp. “Overall it went off without a hitch,” Oswald said. “I give all the credit to the university and the city of Macomb.”

    Those two entities deserve credit for helping, but, as Martz said, without Oswald in a leadership role, it would have been difficult.

    ROSTER MOVE: Offensive guard Jason Lenzmeier arrived to give the Rams another body on their thinning offensive line. Lenzmeier got word of the opportunity while in Boise, Idaho.

    After flying in to Peoria, Lenzmeier rode into Macomb and arrived in time for practice without eating lunch.

    The 6-foot-4, 300-pound undrafted free agent was released by San Diego about a month ago and spent most of that time working out and hoping for another shot. Injuries to Kyle Turley, Dave Wohlabaugh and Jeremy Phillips made the signing necessary.

    Lenzmeier said it is tough to enter a situation two weeks late, but there might be an opening because of the attrition on the line.

    “I’m definitely not at an advantage,” Lenzmeier said. “I don’t know the playbook yet. It’s going to take some time. There is definitely an opportunity so hopefully I can take advantage of it.”

    DAILY INJURY CHECK: Linebackers Brandon Chillar and Brandon Spoon returned to action for the first time in about a week. Chillar had struggled with a shoulder injury and Spoon had hamstring problems.

    Robert Cromartie and Cameron Cleeland missed practice again with hamstring problems. Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy had surgery on his broken foot. Running back Lamar Gordon had surgery on his ankle in St. Louis
    Martz said Gordon’s surgery went well.

    “There was an abnormality in there,” Martz said. “We figured out what it was… which was a great relief to all of us and Lamar. We’ll expect him back in about four weeks.”

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  • RamDez
    Injury prevents Coady from defending his job
    by RamDez
    Injury prevents Coady from defending his job
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    08/07/2004




    MACOMB, Ill. - It's been a tough few months for Rams safety Rich Coady.

    First, the team selected a safety, Jason Shivers of Arizona State, in the fifth round of the draft. Then, veteran safeties Justin Lucas and Tom Knight were signed as free agents. Worst of all, training camp had barely begun when Coady was sidelined by back spasms.

    "I've never had a lower-back problem before," said Coady, who had to walk nearly doubled over for several days. "I felt like I was about 90 years old." Even more painful has been standing by while others compete for his job.

    "They tell you when you come into this league that every year, they're trying to replace you," said Coady, 28. "So you've just got to go out there and try to make yourself irreplaceable, and that's what camp's for. And when you're not able to do it because of injury, it's frustrating."

    Coady has spent four of his five NFL seasons with the Rams - he played for Tennessee in 2002, then was reacquired in a trade last Aug. 31. For much of last season, Coady served as the Rams' No. 3 safety, behind starters Aeneas Williams and Adam Archuleta. He also was a valuable special-teams performer.

    Coady is easing back into action, taking part in a limited number of drills. "I'm feeling pretty good," he reported Friday after the Rams and Chicago Bears practiced together. The teams will scrimmage at 10:30 a.m. today at Western Illinois University's Hanson Field.

    Where's Kyle?

    Coach Mike Martz had nothing new to report about offensive tackle Kyle Turley's back injury, mainly because Martz hasn't been able to track him down. Martz said Turley hadn't returned his phone messages.

    "I wouldn't have any idea where he is or what's happened," Martz said. "I've called him four times and have not heard back from him. I just don't know."

    Turley had offseason surgery for a herniated disc in March, and pain reoccurred early in camp. He left Sunday for an examination in St. Louis and also was expected to get evaluations in Los Angeles and Birmingham, Ala. Turley has expressed concern that his career could be in jeopardy.

    Fighting or fun?

    The last play of Friday morning's combined workout ended with a bang. Rams linebacker Tommy Polley and Bears fullback Bryan Johnson tangled, and soon some 150 football players were involved in a scrum, with a gaggle of coaches trying to pull them apart. No damage was done.

    "What most people don't realize is, when we get in there close, most guys are laughing, because that's fun," Rams defensive end Tyoka Jackson said. "It's like a bunch of kids just pushing on each other. Nobody can really get hurt. We've got
    ...
    -08-07-2004, 12:55 PM
  • RamWraith
    Easy does it, Martz says, for practice at WU
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Aug. 05 2005

    It was billed as a scrimmage when the Rams' training camp schedule was
    announced in mid-June. But that's not what will take place at 7 tonight when
    the Rams gather at Francis Field on the campus of Washington University.

    "It's not a scrimmage," coach Mike Martz said Friday. "There's no tackling.
    We're not charging any money for it. It's just practice. It's kind of like what
    happened out here today."

    Well, not exactly, but for fans who attended night practices at Hanson Field in
    Macomb when the Rams trained at Western Illinois University, it will look very
    familiar.

    During 11-on-11 "team" periods, the Rams will have coaches in the press box,
    headsets working and players standing on the sideline when not participating in
    a play. Substitutions will come on and off the field as they would in a game.

    "It's kind of like a (game day) dress rehearsal," Martz said.

    With limited contact.

    "It's not a competitive thing at all," Martz said. "We're going to do 48 plays
    and the kicking game and some seven-on-seven (drills)."

    With the Rams' preseason opener against Chicago just six days away, Martz also
    wanted to work at night; hence, the decision to work at Francis Field. (The
    Rams Park outdoor practice fields aren't lighted.)

    Admission is free at Francis Field, which seats 3,300. Parking is free, with
    spectators encouraged to park on the east end of campus near Skinker Boulevard.
    No video cameras, coolers or alcohol will be allowed. Concession stands will be
    open in the stadium.

    Spectators are asked to bring new school supplies to benefit the St. Louis
    Public Schools; they will be collected as fans enter the stadium.

    Normally, this is the time at training camp when the Rams scrimmage against
    another team. In six of the Rams' first 10 years in St. Louis, they have
    practiced and scrimmaged against another team:

    Last year, it was the Chicago Bears in Macomb.

    In 2000, the Tennessee Titans worked against the Rams in Macomb.

    In 1997, 1998, and 1999, the Rams worked with the Indianapolis Colts
    on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign.

    In 1996, the Rams worked against the Bears in Platteville, Wis.

    As he enters his sixth year as head coach, Martz says he no longer is
    interested in joint practices and scrimmages with another club.

    "I just don't want to do it anymore," Martz said. "It's just not worth it. It's
    a fight to keep your guys healthy, and then you throw them in that environment; ...
    -08-06-2005, 04:15 AM
  • Nick
    Rams Inside Slant
    by Nick
    Inside Slant

    He might have been briefly in coach Mike Martz's doghouse before training camp started, but running back Steven Jackson has done everything in his power to win back the coach's good graces in training camp.

    Martz had said Jackson was out of shape, didn't know the offense and wasn't in attendance at a precamp the team had before leaving for training camp. Jackson was unsigned at the time, but quickly signed a five-year contract and got to work.

    He would routinely stay after practice getting pointers from running back Marshall Faulk, and was showing all the attributes the Rams believed he had when they traded up to pick him in the first round of April's draft.

    In a scrimmage against the Bears Aug. 7, he showed good hands and pass-catching ability on a 22-yard play. Then, in the first exhibition game last Thursday, also against the Bears, Jackson rushed 15 times for 73 yards and added four receptions for 18 yards.

    One reason given for the Cowboys passing on Jackson is that he had arthroscopic knee surgery in the offseason. Martz acknowledged his knee is still not 100 percent.

    "His leg, where he had his scope, is not quite as strong as it used to be," Martz said. "You can see that. He favors it a little bit."

    Still, most important, is that he did a solid job picking up blitzes. Martz wasn't upset that the Bears blitzed in such an early game because it gave the offense an opportunity to work against it.

    Said Martz of Jackson, "Offensively, Steven is learning the offense, he's getting better. He still doesn't have the leg strength back yet that he will have eventually. He's still learning our offense, but he did a terrific job in pass blocking, which for a rookie, is a big challenge. He did a great job in recognizing blitzes and getting over. Fortunately, they did blitz us, and that's good for us, because with him back there, he has to get tested before the season starts."

    Asked about Jackson's prior experience in that phase of the game, Martz said, "He was tuned in and that's what's impressive about him. I was very impressed with that. That's very important. I'm pleased with him in his progress. I really am. He still has a long way to go. He's very talented. He's a little bit of a misguided missile right now. The hardest thing about a running back is, he's still not familiar with the angles we are trying to block and the anticipation, and setting guys up. He doesn't know this running game like he will. There's a lot to be said for that. It's just like a quarterback coming in and not knowing where the receivers are. You can kind of guess, but it affects you a little bit."

    CAMP CALENDAR: Camp opened at Macomb, Ill., July 27, with the first practice the following day. The Chicago Bears traveled to Macomb for an afternoon practice Aug. 5, two practices...
    -08-16-2004, 09:47 PM
  • RamDez
    Rams' Martz calls Bears' hamstring epidemic just a 'bad run'
    by RamDez
    Rams' Martz calls Bears' hamstring epidemic just a 'bad run'





    August 7, 2004

    BY BRAD BIGGS STAFF REPORTER

    MACOMB, Ill. -- Mike Martz angrily has defended his friend Lovie Smith for the outbreak of hamstring fever that has surrounded the training camp of the first-year Bears coach.

    What has been missed is that no one has called Smith's practices too grueling. Instead, it has been questioned whether the major weight loss emphasis, combined with the increased running, has led to some of the problems.

    ''For crying out loud,'' Martz railed. ''That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I guess all these people who write that must be medical doctors. You think? You've got to be kidding me. I mean, this is just a bad run. Maybe they're not used to practicing that hard. Who knows? I know we've been through it. We've had six, seven, eight guys [sidelined with pulled hamstrings].''

    Running back Adrian Peterson sat out of both practices Friday as his hamstring tightened up. According to Smith, wide receiver Justin Gage and reserve safety Bobby Gray will be back from their hamstring injuries this week and should be ready for the exhibition opener Thursday in St. Louis.



    FILLING IN: With Peterson and Anthony Thomas (ribs) out and Dwone Hicks gone from the team, fullback Jason McKie has stepped in and worked as a halfback. What is most interesting is that he was chosen over Rabih Abdullah, who had a failed experiment as a third-down back last season.

    ''I'm just helping out right now,'' he said. ''But I'll do whatever they need me to be.''

    McKie never has been a true halfback, having been the fullback in a Wing-T offense at Gulf Breeze (Fla.) High. He did carry the ball in short-yardage situations at Temple. Even more telling, however, is that he has been used on special teams as the off-side returner. The 5-11, 240-pounder has good speed but isn't elusive by any means.

    ''The way our returns are designed, we're straight ahead,'' special-teams coach Dave Toub said. ''We want to catch the ball and get up the field right away. That kind of fits his running style.''

    Toub said rookie Bernard Berrian has a ''good shot'' at replacing Jerry Azumah as the main kick returner. Ahmad Merritt and Nate Vasher are also in the mix.



    BAD OMEN: If the afternoon practice Friday was a sign of things to come, the Bears' offense is going to have a real struggle with the Rams' defense in the scrimmage this morning. Neither the first nor second team could pick up a first down in the two-minute drill, with offensive coordinator Terry Shea calling a run on first down both times. The Rams seemed to make twice as many big plays as the Bears.



    NO WRONG: Smith did not think anything was wrong with allowing Azumah to practice in
    ...
    -08-07-2004, 12:57 PM
  • 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,...
    -08-20-2004, 11:19 PM
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