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  • Rams Inside Slant

    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 Aug. 6 and a scrimmage Aug. 7. The Rams break camp on Aug. 20.

    NOTES, QUOTES

    —Starting middle linebacker Robert Thomas was "exceptional" against the Bears Aug. 12, according to coach Mike Martz.

    Asked what stood out about Thomas' game, Martz said, "I think that the leadership on the field, the calls, and just taking charge of the entire defense to begin with, before the ball is even snapped. Everything was impeccable, there wasn't any wasted motion. He tried to do everything exactly the way Joe (linebackers coach JoeVitt) has coached him to do it. Once the ball is committed he's there, great coverage. I think his was probably the best performance of the entire team."

    —OG Chris Dishman lost about eight pounds in his first week with the team, but still has a long way to go to get down to his approximate normal playing weight of 339. Dishman weighed 375 after signing with the Rams. He had considered himself retired when May rolled around and he wasn't with a team. Dishman played for the Cardinals last season. But coach Mike Martz convinced him to play.

    "He did not want to come back and play for a team he just felt like didn't have a chance to contend," Martz said. "He's got great passion for this game; he sounds like a coach when you talk to him. It's going to take him a little while to get some of that weight off and get into playing shape again.

    "Our players and Larry (defensive coordinator Larry Marmie) gave him such a strong endorsement, from a character standpoint, as a professional, how he prepares to play and all those things. We felt like if we could just get him into this environment that he'd have some success. He's a good addition for us."

    Marmie was an assistant coach at Arizona last year.

    —Since Mike Martz took over as coach of the Rams in 2000, the team is 6-12 in exhibition games and the loss to the Bears was their eighth in the last nine games.

    —The Rams have 11 days between the game against the Bears and the Aug. 23 game against Kansas City. However, that game begins a stretch where they play three games in 11 days, including games on Monday the 23rd and Friday the 27th.

    "This gives us a terrific chance now where we can give the (first team) a little more reps, and get into things that you will be doing during the season, which we have stayed away from," Martz said. "As weeks go by, these young players are going to have less of a chance to make this team. This was the biggest opportunity they will have with the playing time and get noticed."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "He was outstanding, probably really should have been nine for nine. He had complete control of everything. Very poised, as you would expect, a guy with his experience and success, and not just a veteran, a guy with a great deal of success is a veteran, that's the difference. He has bought into what we do whole-heartedly. He's allowed himself to reinvent himself in this system, which is very hard for a veteran to do, who's had success doing it in another way. For him to buy into everything, and try and do it just the way we want him to do, is truly remarkable. It's hard to find a quarterback who's played in the league for at least 10 years that will come in and buy into what you do completely, and not have his own take on things." - Coach Mike Martz on QB Chris Chandler.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    BATTLE OF THE WEEK: De Juan Groce vs. Kevin Garrett for nickel CB shot, if Aeneas Williams stays at safety in that defense. Both Groce and Garrett have had strong camps, and Martz singled out Groce for his play against the Bears. Garrett was outstanding on special teams.

    OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Bernard Holsey vs. Brian Howard for third DT: Holsey is finally on the field after missing time recovering from offseason quad surgery. Howard, an undrafted free agent, is a somewhat undersized, but high-motor player that is vying for time especially after the broken foot suffered by Jimmy Kennedy.

    PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Shaun McDonald. A fourth-round pick in 2003, McDonald was injured in the season opener and did little the rest of the season. He has added weight to his smallish frame and has been consistent throughout training camp. Then, against the Bears, he caught five passed for 78 yards, including a nifty 40-yard catch and run. He also returned punts, and had a 65-yard return for what would have been a touchdown, but it was called back because of an illegal block in the back.

    ROOKIE REPORT: RB Steve Jackson (1st round) is finding his legs, running hard and showing skills as a blocker and receiver. ... DE Anthony Hargrove (3rd) worked his way back on the field after missing a few days with a knee injury. ... KB Brandon Chillar (4th) has fallen behind other backup linebackers that had the benefit of the entire offseason program. ... S Jason Shivers (5th) is still learning, but loves to hit and should have an impact on special teams. ... C Larry Turner (7th) is improving by the day and has coaches actually believing he could contribute of needed this season.

    INJURY REPORT: RB Lamar Gordon under surgery Aug. 10 to remove a bone chip from his ankle and was to be sidelined for four weeks. ... RB Arlen Harris suffered a concussion against the Bears Aug. 12, but was not expected to miss any practice time. ... LB Pisa Tinoisamoa sprained an ankle against the Bears, and could have returned had it been a regular season game. ... WR Kevin Curtis will be limited somewhat in practice because of shin splints.

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  • Nick
    Rams Inside Slant
    by Nick
    Rams Inside Slant

    Last season, the Rams' defense was one of the worst in the NFL with 15 takeaways. The year before the Rams led the NFL with 46 takeaways. There was an omen for what happened last season when they had just one takeaway in four preseason games.
    That changed in the preseason opener against the Bears, when the defense had three takeaways. The stage was set on the first play from scrimmage when new linebacker Chris Claiborne batted down a pass from quarterback Rex Grossman.

    In the first quarter, the Bears gained just 25 yards and had one first down.

    "I felt like during this game the defense was ahead of us," coach Mike Martz said. "I was excited and anxious to see them play. Twenty-five yards and one first down, that's pretty dramatic. I'm very pleased with that defense. I think the (new) linebackers made a significant difference."

    But Martz still had some words of caution. "We've played one quarter of football with the '1s,'" he said. "I mean, what can you say? But I'm happy with it. Who knows where it's going to go from here, but it's a good start. That's it."

    Said second-year defensive end Anthony Hargrove, "We're trying to come out this year and show that we've improved on defense. And as you can see, the first half we were real stout. And then our defense was in position to win the game for us (at the end), and that's what they did."

    Noting the turnovers, linebacker Dexter Coakley said, "Defensively we went out there and swarmed the ball. The first unit got out there pretty good (and) the second unit came in and played pretty solid. There's some things to clean up. It was a good first start."

    "There's been a lot more stressing of takeaways, just because our turnover ratio was low last year," cornerback DeJuan Groce said. "We've just been working on it in practice."

    Groce started at cornerback with Jerametrius Butler out with a knee injury, while rookies safeties Jerome Carter and Oshiomogho Atogwe also started. Carter has been a starter since camp opened at strong safety. Atogwe started because Adam Archuleta was held out since he is recovering from a back injury. Archuleta is expected to play this week against San Diego.

    Groce recovered a fumble, Atogwe intercepted the final pass of the game and cornerback Corey Ivy also contributed an interception.

    NOTES, QUOTES

    —Rookie left guard Claude Terrell started and played the entire game in the team's preseason opener against the Bears. A fourth-round pick, Terrell was installed as the starter early in training camp and has done nothing to lose the job since.

    Asked about playing Terrell so much, coach Mike Martz said, "We want Claude to play. He's gonna have to get used to playing at this level. He needs to go out and...
    -08-15-2005, 02:21 PM
  • RamWraith
    USA Today's Inside Slant
    by RamWraith
    Rams coach Mike Martz issued an apology for sometimes questioning the toughness of running back Lamar Gordon, who underwent surgery Aug. 10 to remove a bone chip from his ankle. Other coaches had also questioned Gordon's ability to play with pain, considering he had complained of ankle problems since joining the Rams in 2002.

    Said Martz, "He has had that for as long as we have had him. The thing that's remarkable about him, is that I didn't know how tough he was. I'm embarrassed and ashamed of my attitude towards it. When a guy is (complaining of pain), you've just got to trust what he's telling you. And this is one of the times in my career, I feel humiliated and feel stupid. I owe him an apology, because he certainly is very tough. We MRIed it. We did X-rays. They did every diagnostic test they could and finally there was a little irregularity in there. You couldn't see it, but because of the consistent complaint, just to look at it. I owe him an apology because he is very tough.

    "We just didn't know because there wasn't any swelling. When there is no swelling in the ankle and you have a lot of pain, we were wondering what was wrong. You know he has character and he is a tough kid. He's so talented. Look at what he has done on that bad ankle. We all got excited about him with the bad ankle. He might be pretty good without the bad ankle, don't you think?"

    Gordon said the frustration was always building and he knew coaches were questioning him.

    "We did all these tests, and they didn't find anything," Gordon said. "So I'm really thinking, 'I'm making this up myself.' It really flared up as camp went on. I was watching myself on film (of practice), and I was looking terrible. I was hurting so bad, I knew something was wrong. I couldn't even take it any more."

    This was one of those cases where the player was grateful an injury was found.

    "I'm just excited to go through the surgery process, get this healed up, and move on and play some ball," Gordon said.

    He was walking around camp with a boot, and was already feeling better.

    "I can pretty much walk around without it, but they're worried about my ankle swelling up, and splitting the stitches," Gordon said. "Because there's no pain when I walk."

    After the surgery Aug. 10, it was said Gordon would be out four weeks. That would project to Sept. 7, five days before the team's season opener against Arizona.

    He hopes to be ready for the opener, but knows he has to be patient.

    "I'm going to push myself, but at the same time, it's still surgery," he said. "You've got to let the body heal from it. It was nothing like reconstructive surgery or anything. So that's not the problem. Everything in there, I think, is fine. It's just actually the cut, and the muscle they had...
    -08-23-2004, 06:34 AM
  • 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
  • RamWraith
    Tuesday Notebook
    by RamWraith
    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,...
    -08-12-2004, 04:42 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,...
    -08-20-2004, 11:19 PM
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