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Newcomer Newson Makes Move

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  • Newcomer Newson Makes Move

    It would be easy for Tony Newson to get complacent. After spending a little more than a year out of football altogether, he practiced with the first-team defense at strongside linebacker for St. Louis on Sunday.

    He could now rest on his laurels and enjoy the fact that he seems to have locked up a roster spot with a legitimate chance at cracking the starting lineup. Newson, of course, won’t do that. He doesn’t know the easy way out because he has never had it easy.

    The 6-foot-1, 247-pound linebacker entered training camp simply hoping to make the roster, perhaps by way of special teams. “Coming to camp, I had to prove myself,” Newson said. “It was trying to establish yourself and let everybody know that you are accountable for what you do.”

    For the time being, Newson appears to have shown that he is capable. Coming out of Utah State in 2002, Newson signed with Kansas City as an undrafted free agent. He was on the practice squad before moving on to the Chiefs for the final four games of the season.

    In 2003, Newson entered training camp with hopes of improving and perhaps playing more. Those hopes were dashed when he fractured his sternum early in training camp. The Chiefs cut him before the season started and Newson went to work in the real world.

    He spent time working many jobs and rehabilitating from the injury. He worked with emergency medical technicians, telemarketing and as a business representative. Newson said time spent in the “real” world helped him appreciate his opportunities in football. “Anytime you’re out for an entire year, a lot goes through your mind,” Newson said. “Of course, you are a lot more hungry than you were before.”

    Newson signed with the Rams on March 15. It didn’t hurt Newson’s cause that Joe Vitt, the only linebackers coach he has had, moved from Kansas City to St. Louis in the offseason. Newson was familiar with Vitt’s terminology and infectious enthusiasm for the game, making the adjustment that much easier. “I’m more comfortable with him and his teaching methods,” Newson said. “It helps a lot.”

    In his pursuit of the starting job, Newson moved past Tommy Polley, who had started for the better part of the past three years. Polley has been one of the teams’ top tacklers in that time, finishing second on the team in stops last season with 115.

    Coach Mike Martz said competition is a big part of training camp and the move is by no means permanent.
    “This happens all the time in camp,” Martz said. “We are trying different combinations and seeing what the best combination is. “We haven’t settled on our final three yet by any stretch of the imagination.”

    While Newson isn’t sure that he will remain with the top unit, he is sure that it is where he wants to be. Polley will almost certainly respond to the move with an intense finish to his camp. If anything is for sure in the NFL, it’s that nothing is guaranteed. Nobody knows that better than Tony Newson.

    MORE MOVEMENT: Linebacker isn’t the only position where adjustments were made. Scott Tercero, who performed well at right tackle in the Rams’ first preseason game, moved to left guard and replaced Andy King. King started at the spot against the Bears.

    Tercero played guard at California and practiced there most of last season, making the move easier for him. He said he doesn’t know how long he will stay at guard, but is trying to prepare for anything. “I played guard in college, so I think I feel a little bit more comfortable at it, but I need to be comfortable at every position,” Tercero said. “I’m trying to get just as comfortable at tackle as I am at guard.” Martz said he is confident in Tercero’s ability to adjust to the changes.
    “I was really, really shocked by how well he’s gone back inside and handled it,” Martz said. “Guys like that can go in there and continue to focus and stay at a high level like he’s done at a different or new position is remarkable.”

    Tercero’s switch left a vacant spot at right tackle. Greg Randall, who signed with the team toward the beginning of camp, moved up to the first unit in Tercero’s spot. The line, which has been depleted by injuries to Kyle Turley and Dave Wohlabaugh and the absence of Orlando Pace, now features Tercero, Randall and Grant Williams alongside veteran starters Adam Timmerman and Andy McCollum.

    INJURY CHECK: Steven Jackson sat out the afternoon workout with pain in his right knee. Martz said the injury for Jackson is from a past problem with the knee combined with the number of repetitions he’s taken. Kevin Curtis missed practices for the second straight day with shin splints. Cameron Cleeland and Robert Cromartie appeared closer to recovering from hamstring injuries, for they ran sprints and looked more active than they have in weeks. Erik Jensen (knee) also sat out again.

    GORDON RETURNS: Running back Lamar Gordon returned to Macomb after surgery on his ankle that repaired a chip that had bothered him for most of his young career. Gordon had a solid start to his career before the injury, but the possibility of what he could do with total health excites Martz.

    Martz said he felt bad about past criticisms of Gordon’s toughness and credited Gordon for his toughness to play through the nagging injuries. “I’m excited,” Martz said. “Look back at what he’s done with that bad ankle, we all got excited about him with that bad ankle. He might be pretty good without the bad ankle.”

Related Topics


  • 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 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
  • RamDez
    Nütten Returns to Rams
    by RamDez
    Nütten Returns to Rams
    Friday, August 20, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Tom Nütten spent the better part of the past year coaching tight ends for the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe. It came as little surprise, then, when Nütten arrived at Rams Park on Friday afternoon looking like his players.

    After five years with the Rams, where he started at left guard in both of St. Louis’ Super Bowl appearances, Nütten signed with the New York Jets in the 2003 offseason. Nütten battled many injuries during training camp and retired on Aug. 14.

    Nütten, who was born in Toledo, Ohio, but grew up in Quebec, signed on with the Centurions, a new franchise in NFL Europe, in March. Nütten was one of a few former Rams taking part in a new program between NFL Europe and the NFL that allows young coaches to gain valuable experience in the game and get a comprehensive evaluation of their abilities. Former Rams D’Marco Farr and Amp Lee also coaching in NFL Europe in 2004.

    Now two months after the NFL Europe season ended, Nütten signed a one-year deal with the team that gave him his start in the league. Nütten’s signing comes after a series of injuries and uncertainties along the offensive line has created opportunities.

    Nütten, who was living in Tampa, Fla., was preparing to teach at a football camp when he got the call from the Rams on Wednesday night. With Nütten’s recent injury problems, the team ran numerous medical checks, which Nütten passed.

    Nütten made sure to apologize to the kids ready to attend his camp, but he said he had to take advantage of a circumstance that was unique. “Hypothetically, people always ask ‘what would you do if a team calls you and wants you to come out of retirement,” Nütten said. “Obviously, I would say hell no, knowing it was a longshot that a team calls you anyway, especially your old team. If it were any of the other 32 teams, it would have been a real easy answer: no, no thank you, but these are the guys I bled with, the guys I sweated with. It’s an opportunity I didn’t want to let slip away.”

    Nütten comes back to St. Louis with plenty of experience under his belt, having started 56 games as a left guard. The biggest problem facing Nütten right now is the number of notches he is using on his belt.

    While most offensive linemen never lose their voracious appetites, Nütten actually lost between 20 and 25 pounds. His final listed playing weight was 304 pounds, but he estimated he is around 280 now. Nütten said he would attempt to add five to 10 pounds before the regular season begins Sept. 12 against Arizona.

    When it was suggested to Nütten that he could join Adam Timmerman and Andy McCollum, “The Doughnut Brothers,” Nütten wasted no time saying that he wants to add a different kind of weight. “I think they’re kind of jealous of my slim physique,” Nütten said. “I’m sure the jokes are going...
    -08-20-2004, 11:14 PM
  • RamWraith
    Inside Slant
    by RamWraith
    When training camp opened, the biggest question facing the Rams was how they would get through training camp with an unsettled situation on the offensive line, given the unknown status of tackles Kyle Turley and Orlando Pace and center Dave Wohlabaugh.

    Turley was recovering from offseason back surgery, while Wohlabaugh had surgery on his hip in the offseason. The Rams knew Pace would likely not be in camp as the team's unsigned franchise player, so how the line would be deployed because of the Turley and Wohlabaugh injuries was an issue.

    It turned out to be even bigger than expected when Wohlabaugh never made it onto the field and was released and Turley aggravated his back during the first few days of camp. Turley was placed on injured reserve in the cutdown to 65 players.

    Those factors resulted in frequent shuffling on the line in camp. Andy King began as the left guard, but lost that job after the first exhibition game and was replaced by Chris Dishman. Dishman had decided to retire before coach Mike Martz convinced him to sign, and he reported at 375 pounds.

    Grant Williams, who would be the right tackle as Turley's replacement, was forced to play on the left side throughout most of camp because of Pace's absence. Scott Tercero got a lot of work at tackle, even though most in the organization believe his best position is guard. Greg Randall, who was with the Texans last season, was signed when it became apparent Turley wouldn't be available.

    Guard Tom Nutten, who played for the Rams during their Super Bowl seasons, but left for the Jets last year and then retired, was brought back a few days before the third exhibition game against Washington and injured his toe on his second play.

    That's the type of summer it's been for a team that has deep offensive talent, but knows it could go for naught if the line doesn't come together.

    Complicating things even more was Pace's decision to stay away for the entire preseason. Last year, as the franchise player, he reported and signed 12 days before the season opener and was able to play in the exhibition finale.

    Not this time. Pace remained unsigned when the Rams played the Raiders Sept. 2, and for the first time, Martz voiced frustration with the situation.

    Asked about Pace not being with the team, Martz said, "To be honest with you I don't think about it. This is our football team right now, I would just assume he's not coming in. That's his decision, and we're moving on.

    "You can't let one player, no matter how good he is, or how good of a person he is, hold a team hostage waiting for him to come in. We have to move on, and get ready for Sept. 12th."

    For line coach John Matsko, he has to get this group ready.

    "Each year's different," Matsko said. "The challenge this year was to bring a bunch of guys...
    -09-02-2004, 11:34 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams make changes on depth chart--Polley demoted
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Rams linebacker Tommy Polley was happy last May at minicamp, but he was demoted to second string Sunday.
    (Chris Lee/P-D)

    MACOMB, Ill. - Who said exhibition games are meaningless?

    That wasn't the case Sunday for Tony Newson and Scott Tercero, and conversely, Tommy Polley and Andy King.

    In the Rams' first practice since Thursday's exhibition opener, against Chicago, Newson found himself with the starting unit at outside linebacker in the base defense. Polley was working with the second string.

    On the offensive line, Tercero worked with the first unit at left guard, with King moving from starting left guard to second-team right tackle.

    Newson said he was pulled aside by linebackers coach Joe Vitt about 20 minutes before Sunday's practice and told: "We're going to make a little change today."

    "That was a wrench thrown at the last minute," Newson said. "So it was quite a surprise."

    Newson played weakside linebacker for the rest of the Bears game after Pisa Tinoisamoa suffered a sprained ankle in the first quarter.

    "It gave me a chance to kind of earn a little bit of the coach's trust," Newson said. "So I thought I did pretty good."

    Apparently, so did Vitt, because on Sunday Newson was ahead of Polley at the strongside spot.

    Tercero was told of his switch by offensive line coach John Matsko in meetings before practice.

    "I was surprised at first, but I have more experience at guard," Tercero said. "So I feel a little bit more comfortable there."

    He started at right tackle against the Bears and played very well, but guard is his natural position from his college days at the University of California.

    With nearly a month remaining before the season opener, it may be premature to read too much into Sunday's depth-chart shuffling. Nonetheless, coaches don't make such changes on a whim. Even for one practice.

    So are these new job assignments permanent?

    "I have no idea. I really don't," Tercero said. "And I try not to read into that. Wherever they put me, I'll play as well as I can, and then we'll go from there."

    Newson said, "I'm not even going to speak on that right now. We'll see what happens tomorrow. Right now the wind is twirling."

    The biggest surprise would be if Newson held off Polley for the starting job.

    Polley, 26, has been a starting outside linebacker for the Rams since early in his rookie season of 2001. He was second on the team in tackles in '01 (with 119), and last season (with 115). Last season, Polley shared the team interception lead (four) with three other players.

    -08-16-2004, 05:16 AM