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  • Rams wide receiver hopes to bounce back

    Thumb injury set him back last year
    BY STEVE KORTE
    [email protected]

    MACOMB - St. Louis Rams wide receiver Shaun McDonald feels like he's starting over again in the NFL.

    "I'm basically a rookie again," McDonald said. "I didn't prove anything last year, so I didn't come in here with a spot waiting for me. I just have to come in here and show that I can contribute and I belong out there."

    McDonald was the first of the Rams' two fourth-round draft choice in 2003.

    The shifty receiver out of Arizona State was supposed to fill the role of offensive catalyst that the Rams had been missing since Az-Zahir Hakim signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Detroit Lions after the 2001 season.

    However, McDonald's rookie season was scuttled by a thumb injury suffered in the team's season opener against the New York Giants.

    He ended up playing in only seven of the team's final 15 games. He caught 10 passes for 62 yards and didn't return a punt or a kickoff as he was passed over on the depth chart by both Dane Looker and Mike Furrey.

    So now McDonald, 23, must re-establish him as a valuable commodity on both offense and special teams.

    That process started with him catching a team-high five passes for 78 yards in the Rams' 13-10 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears last Friday in the preseason opener for both teams.

    "No question he got my attention," Rams coach Mike Martz said of McDonald. "All six of those receivers (Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Looker, Furrey, Kevin Curtis and McDonald), I'm pleased with."

    McDonald also got the attention of the 65,000-plus fans at the Edward Jones Dome when he returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Bears.

    Unfortunately, the touchdown was negated by an illegal block above the waist on Rams rookie Dusty McGrorty. McDonald said he didn't notice the penalty flag right away.

    "About halfway through the celebration, I turned around ... it's football," McDonald said. "Those things happen. We're going to correct that, and during the season, we'll probably have a few punt returns for touchdowns."

    The Rams have returned only one punt for a touchdown -- Dre' Bly scampered 78 yards on a punt return against Arizona during the 2002 season -- over the past three seasons.

    The Rams have allowed nine returns for touchdowns over that span.

    The Rams' coverage units were victimized once again on Friday night as the Bears' Ahmad Merritt had an 87-yard return on the opening kickoff of overtime, setting up Paul Edinger's game-winning 35-yard field goal.

    McDonald said the players from both teams weren't too excited about going to overtime in a preseason game.

    "They wanted to win and we wanted to win, but we both kind of wanted it to be over," McDonald. "I had a conversation with a few of their guys right before the kickoff, and they are telling us to let them run it back. I was like, 'Just fumble and we'll pick it up and run it in.' I also told them they should have declined that clipping on the punt return."

    McDonald said he's going into the 2004 season with a now-or-never attitude. If he doesn't make his mark this season, he might never get another opportunity.

    "You don't get too many chances in the NFL, so it has to be this year," McDonald said

  • #2
    Re: Rams wide receiver hopes to bounce back

    Originally posted by RamWraith
    Thumb injury set him back last year
    BY STEVE KORTE

    "You don't get too many chances in the NFL, so it has to be this year," McDonald said
    Couldn't have a better approach if you were to ask me. What? You didn't, you say? One season to acclimate to a new system. The 2nd to put up or shut up. The Rams desperately need stability at the return positions and explosiveness at the 3rd WO. Hopefully a gem gets polished this year.

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    • RamDez
      Extra pounds are helping McDonald stay strong
      by RamDez
      Extra pounds are helping McDonald stay strong
      By Jim Thomas
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      08/08/2004





      MACOMB, Ill. - Last winter, wide receiver Shaun McDonald was asked to report to Rams Park on March 1 - a full month before the start of the team's offseason conditioning program.

      It shortened his offseason, but helped his career.

      "It definitely helped me," McDonald said. "I'm glad I did it."

      McDonald used the extra time to do a lot of weightlifting and running. By design, he put on 10 pounds - "ballooning" all the way up to ... 182 pounds. What a horse.

      By midseason in 2003, his rookie season, McDonald had dipped into the 160s.

      "I want to try to be over 175 the whole year," McDonald said.

      The better to take the pounding from defensive backs after receptions, or throw the occasional downfield block. Last training camp, with wide receivers going down with injuries all around him, McDonald kept going and got worn down.

      This year, he's still getting a lot of work in camp, but he seems to be handling it better. He has had a few drops on the practice field. But McDonald appears to have his quickness and lateral movement back - qualities that got the Rams excited about drafting him in the fourth round last year despite his small stature.

      "I've got all that back," McDonald said. "I think I'm just in better shape. I'm trying to stay healthy this year and make it through the season."

      McDonald also is mentally fresher this year.

      "Mentally, I'm not as tired because I'm not thinking as much," he said. "I'm a lot more confident, just knowing what I'm doing out there. I'm not thinking as much as last year - I'm just going out there and trying to perform."

      McDonald began the '03 season as the Rams' No. 3 wide receiver. He caught six passes for 46 yards in the season opener against the New York Giants but suffered a thumb injury in that game that sidelined him for the next four weeks. After the layoff, McDonald was unable to work his way back up the depth chart. He caught only four more passes the rest of the season, playing in only seven of the final 11 games of the regular season.

      This season, McDonald faces a tough chore trying to break into the rotation at wide receiver. However, early indications are that he will get a chance to earn the punt returner's job, which could get him on the field on game day.

      "If I get back there, it's going to be fun to get the ball in my hands and try to make things happen," McDonald said.

      Randall jumps right in

      Newly signed offensive tackle Greg Randall reported to camp in decent shape and has made a good impression on coach Mike Martz in his first practices with the team.

      "The
      ...
      -08-09-2004, 04:07 PM
    • RamDez
      McDonald makes his presence felt
      by RamDez
      McDonald makes his presence felt
      By Bill Coats
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      10/16/2004


      Although Sacramento Kings guard Mike Bibby, a former All-American at Arizona and the No. 2 overall selection in the 1998 NBA draft, is his cousin and confidant, Shaun McDonald figured out long ago that basketball wasn't his sport.

      "I quit in eighth grade," he explained. "I kind of knew I wasn't going to be too tall, so I had to give that dream up real fast."

      But McDonald is making a nice living as a professional athlete: He is in his second season as a wide receiver and punt returner with the Rams. Over the last two games, he has been a key factor in victories at San Francisco and Seattle.

      McDonald's first NFL touchdown reception, on a 6-yard pass from quarterback Marc Bulger, put the Rams up 14-0 in the first quarter against the ***** at Monster Park. Bibby attended the game, won by the Rams 24-14, but he missed the TD catch.

      "He got out of practice too late," McDonald said. "But it was great to see him."

      McDonald made three big plays Sunday, when the Rams rallied past the Seahawks 33-27 in overtime:

      His 24-yard catch, on a third-and-8 play, took the team to the 8-yard line. Bulger hit tight end Brandon Manumaleuna for a touchdown on the next play that cut Seattle's lead to 27-17 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

      Three plays later, McDonald lugged a punt 39 yards to the Seahawks 41-yard line. On the next snap, Bulger found wideout Kevin Curtis in the end zone, and it was 27-24 with 3:30 to go.

      On the first series after Jeff Wilkins' 36-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining forced overtime, Bulger spotted McDonald sprinting down the right size on a "hot" read in reaction to a Seahawks blitz. The pass hit McDonald on the fingertips, and the 52-yard TD ended the proceedings.

      "Any time the ball's in the air, I think it's mine, I think I'm going to get it no matter what," he said. "The whole time, I was thinking, 'touchdown.' .. As a competitor, you want the game on the line and you want to be able to contribute to the play that wins it."

      McDonald, a fourth-round draft pick last year, is listed at 5 feet 10, but he acknowledged that he's at least an inch shorter. He said he weighs 180 pounds -but probably only after a heavy meal.

      "My whole life, people have been saying I'm too small to play football," said McDonald, a Phoenix native. "So it's something I'm used to. It doesn't really bother me anymore. I think it's about how big you play, and not about your size."

      At Arizona State, McDonald's 2,993 receiving yards fell just 126 short of John Jefferson's school record. But largely because of a thumb injury that limited him to eight games, McDonald's impact last year as a rookie
      ...
      -10-17-2004, 11:37 AM
    • r8rh8rmike
      This Is Very Disturbing
      by r8rh8rmike
      Rams Fumble Away Opportunity
      Sunday, October 9, 2005

      By Nick Wagoner
      Senior Writer

      Almost a year ago to the day, Shaun McDonald got his first NFL opportunity to be the hero. He converted that opportunity into reality by catch a game-winning touchdown catch in St. Louis’ dramatic comeback win against Seattle.

      But Sunday, that memory washed away along with the Rams’ hopes of pulling off another come from behind win against those same Seahawks. McDonald fielded a punt from Tom Rouen with about three minutes to go and the Rams trailing by six.

      McDonald handled the punt well, but as he moved forward, trying to make something happen, he was hit by Jordan Babineaux. The ball squirted loose and long snapper Jean Phillipe Darche recovered at the Rams’ 37.

      The recovery put to rest any chances the Rams had of a comeback and led to a 37-31 loss at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday.

      The lost fumble helped Seattle gain more than just the ball and a win; it also put the Seahawks in sole possession of first place at 3-2. The loss drops the Rams to 2-3.

      “I just tried to cutback, he got his hand on the ball and it came out,” McDonald said. “I have just got to be ready when the play comes.”

      Obviously, McDonald should have been able to hang on to the ball, but the fumbled punt brought about instant memories of Az-Zahir Hakim against the Saints in the 2000 playoffs.

      Hakim muffed a punt return in that game with the Rams trailing, costing them a chance to drive for a potential game-winning score. Receiver Torry Holt immediately remembered that play when McDonald’s mistake happened.

      “It was the same situation when I was talking to Isaac about the New Orleans situation,” Holt said. “The first thing we did then was run out to Az and pat him on the head, asked him how he was feeling and told him to keep his head up because we need him to make more plays for us. That’s the same thing we told Shaun.”

      In the game a year ago, McDonald made the game winning touchdown catch and he also had a couple of big plays to help set up the victory against the Seahawks in the playoffs. But complicating matters further Sunday was the fact that McDonald wasn’t the punt returner.

      Cornerback Terry Fair was informed Friday afternoon that he would not only be active for the first time this season, but also would be handling punt return duties. The move came as somewhat of a surprise to Fair and McDonald, but Fair handled himself well on his first three attempts.

      But when the Rams forced the Seahawks to punt, McDonald came trotting back on the field. The play was perplexing to everyone in attendance, including coach Mike Martz.

      “He was playing defense and he asked to come out,” Martz said. “We don’t do that and Terry is not too familiar with that. You don’t take yourself out....
      -10-09-2005, 08:30 PM
    • RamWraith
      The Graduate
      by RamWraith
      Sunday, July 30, 2006

      By Casey Brown

      stlouisrams.com



      Sometimes the ball is simply out of reach for Rams wide receiver Shaun McDonald. Maybe the pass was a little low or too high but there is always the next opportunity over the course of practice or in the game to make a true catch.



      McDonald came to terms recently with another opportunity over which he had more control. It was an object he had never wrapped his hands around but now it is in his possession: a college degree.



      McDonald declared himself eligible for the 2003 NFL Draft and left Arizona State University with just one semester remaining before graduation. That move added McDonald to the 46 percent of college football players that fail to graduate within six years of enrolling at their respective universities.



      Three years after being drafted by the Rams in the fourth round of the ’03 draft, McDonald was back in Tempe, not as a student-athlete…just a student.



      “I spent a lot of time in class while I was playing football there (Arizona State) and I only had a semester left, so I figured it would be a waste to let all that go and not go back for just one semester,” McDonald said. “Once I got the off-season schedule down, I decided to go back.”



      By staying in touch with Arizona State officials and with the help of Rams Player Development Coordinator Ray Ogas, McDonald now has a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.



      “He (Ray) helped me with what I needed to do to get into the program. He kept me in contact with the people who run the education program with the NFL,” McDonald said. “It was definitely worth it.”



      Ogas, in his seventh year with the Rams, has helped McDonald, Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace pursue their degrees.



      “Some guys will come in right away and say, ‘Ray, I don’t want to let it go and drift away from it (graduation),” Ogas said. “They’re pretty good about it. When you bring it to their attention, they say, ‘Hey, you know, I think I’m going to get this taken care of.’”



      The NFL player development department will reimburse players returning to school up to $15,000 per year for tuition costs.



      McDonald saw a significant increase in his grade point average following his return to the classroom. He credits an increased focus and a higher level of maturity for his 4.0 GPA in the last 12 hours of his undergraduate study.



      “I had more time to concentrate,” said McDonald, who had compiled a 2.57 GPA in his earlier stay at ASU. “I’ve definitely matured a lot since being in the league. I’m a lot older and I took it a lot more serious then when I was in school.”...
      -07-30-2006, 03:20 PM
    • RamWraith
      Return men bring mixed bag of results
      by RamWraith
      By Bill Coats
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      Sunday, Oct. 09 2005

      It started so promisingly ... and ended so maddeningly.

      "I made a bad play at the wrong time," Shaun McDonald said quietly after
      fumbling away the Rams' final chance at yanking a win away from NFC West rival
      Seattle on Sunday.

      McDonald lost the ball on a hit by the Seahawks' Jordan Babineaux, and
      Jean-Philippe Darche pounced on it at the Rams' 37-yard line with 2 minutes 51
      seconds remaining at the Edward Jones Dome. Seattle picked up two first downs,
      then ran out the clock on a 37-31 victory.

      "It definitely hurts when you make a crucial play like that late in the game,
      where there's no coming back from it," McDonald said.

      McDonald wouldn't have been in that position, however, had teammate Terry Fair
      not opted out of the play. Fair, activated for the first time since suffering a
      neck injury Aug. 29, replaced McDonald as the primary punt returner Sunday, and
      brought back Seattle's first three boots.

      But Fair was forced into action at cornerback on the preceding series and asked
      McDonald to take over for him on the punt. McDonald said he was "a little
      surprised" to be summoned.

      "I was really winded," Fair explained. "Maybe I should've been in there on that
      play. Maybe I let my teammates down a little bit."

      Coach Mike Martz said Fair "was playing defense and asked to come out. We don't
      do that, and Terry isn't familiar with that. You don't take yourself out."

      Special-teams coach Bob Ligashesky was more succinct in his analysis: "That
      wasn't supposed to happen. Terry Fair should've been in the game."

      Because of a succession of injuries, Fair hadn't played in a regular-season
      contest in more than three years. "Just to get out on the field and know that
      I'm actually back in the NFL ... it's good to get my feet wet a little bit and
      get some of the rust off," said Fair, an eight-year veteran.

      Still, the punt sequence quashed his enthusiasm. "I just feel so bad right now
      because of the loss. I really feel disappointed in myself," he said. "What a
      way to start."

      Chris Johnson might have said the same thing, but with a far different meaning.
      Johnson sprinted 99 yards with the opening kickoff, putting the Rams up 7-0.

      "I was kind of shocked. It was just a great feeling, my first one ever," said
      Johnson, who ripped off a blistering 4.18-second 40 in front of NFL scouts
      three years ago. Lest he forget the feat, Johnson has the time tattooed on his
      calves.

      He isn't likely to forget Sunday's dash,...
      -10-10-2005, 06:50 AM
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