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Fisher has lead in battle to replace Wistrom

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  • Fisher has lead in battle to replace Wistrom

    Fisher has lead in battle to replace Wistrom
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Aug. 21 2004

    Grant Wistrom was a five-year starter for the Rams at right defensive end. A
    hustler. A hard-nosed player. And later in his tenure in St. Louis, a locker
    room leader. But whatever mourning period there was following his free-agent
    departure to Seattle has long since passed.

    "That's the way it works," defensive captain Tyoka Jackson said. "No one's
    sitting around saying, 'Oh, Grant's gone.' He was a great player. Great locker
    room guy. Great friend. But he's on the wrong side of the ball now."

    As for replacements, Jackson says, "We've got some guys. People may not know
    who they are, but we've got some guys."

    At the moment, Bryce Fisher and Erik Flowers are the top two ends on the right
    side. Both were washouts in Buffalo - the team that originally drafted them -
    but both appear intent on making the most of the opportunity in St. Louis.

    Talented but raw rookie Anthony Hargrove eventually could work himself back
    into the picture at right end. But for now, the team has been looking at him at
    defensive tackle.

    For all of his contributions in St. Louis, Wistrom was never an elite pass
    rusher. He had superior speed and effort, but not much in the way of moves.
    Fisher and Flowers have the potential - repeat, potential - to be at least as
    productive. They combined for three sacks in the preseason opener against
    Chicago - one by Fisher and two by Flowers off the bench.

    "Bryce has got real good instincts," defensive line coach Bill Kollar said. "He
    plays with pretty good strength most of the time; plays with leverage so he's
    able to end up hanging in there against the bigger players."

    Fisher isn't as fast as Wistrom but has a good short burst. And like Wistrom,
    effort has never been a problem.

    "That's how I made it into the league," Fisher said. "And that's how I plan on
    staying in the league, just by being that guy that keeps on hustling."

    Claimed off waivers from Buffalo just before the start of the '02 season,
    Fisher appeared in only four games for the Rams that year. But he talked his
    way onto special teams last season, including coverage units - which aren't
    normally the domain of defensive linemen. That got Fisher on the field on game
    day, and eventually got him in the defensive line rotation. He finished with 47
    tackles and three sacks.

    "Last year, I was really focusing on being the very best special teams player I
    could, and then trying to get as many reps on defense as I could," Fisher said.
    "It kind of worked out where as the year went on, I got more and more reps on

    This year he has loftier goals. He entered training camp as the starting right
    end, and so far, has held on to the job.

    "I'm getting some hard competition from Tony (Hargrove) and from Erik Flowers,"
    Fisher said. "It's important for me to keep on improving every day.

    "I need to work on a more consistent pass rush. I'm playing the run pretty
    good, but I've got to work on being more consistent in the pass rush, working
    on getting to the quarterback every play."

    As for Flowers, his performance against the Bears may have been one reason the
    Rams decided to try Hargrove inside. After recording one sack, Flowers was
    squashed by the Bears' 370-pound offensive tackle, Aaron Gibson, and
    temporarily left the game.

    "It was painful," Flowers said. "All I remember is trying to turn the corner
    and he fell on me. I just folded, like you fold a sheet of paper. It was
    unbelievable. It knocked the wind out of me. I couldn't catch my breath and
    panicked a little bit."

    Not only did Flowers return later in the game, he registered another sack. "I
    have some God-given talent, and I'm just trying to get the most out of it,"
    Flowers said.

    Kollar and the Rams have taken notice. Flowers got some work with the first
    unit earlier this week. Although listed at 273 pounds on the team roster,
    Flowers' playing weight is around 255. So far, he has shown himself to be
    strong enough to play the run, but speed - as in speed rusher - is his game.

    "He's been doing a good job," Kollar said. "He is definitely in contention
    there to push for a starting position, or definitely end up being a backup."

    But with three preseason games still to be played, the right end situation
    remains in flux. Hargrove could end up moving back to end. Veteran Sean Moran
    could make a move. And, of course, injuries could change the picture.

    "Right now, it's still pretty far up in the air," Kollar said. "But no matter
    how it ends up working out - what player, or how many players - I definitely
    think we should be pretty productive at the right end position."

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: Fisher has lead in battle to replace Wistrom

    Originally posted by RamDez
    But whatever mourning period there was following his free-agent departure to Seattle has long since passed.

    For all of his contributions in St. Louis, Wistrom was never an elite pass
    rusher. He had superior speed and effort, but not much in the way of moves.
    First off, the mourning period isn't over for all of us. Second, Wistrom didn't have much chance to become an elite anything because teams recognized the threat he posed early on and double-teamed him. The "effort" was all he needed to throw a QB off his game. That's hard to measure in the stats. They don't keep track of "scares".

    As for his replacement, they both show signs of being able to fill his shoes (and big shoes they are to fill). So having either as starter and either as backup would be fine with me. I think they both see they've been given a second chance and won't squander that away on complacency.


    Related Topics


    • RamDez
      Mix of players vying to replace departed Wistrom
      by RamDez
      Mix of players vying to replace departed Wistrom


      Associated Press

      MACOMB, Ill. - At this time last year, Anthony Hargrove was pushing airplanes around instead of offensive tackles.

      After being declared academically ineligible at Georgia Tech, the St. Louis Rams' rookie defensive end got a taste of life in the real world. He worked as a ramp agent at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, squeezing himself into undersized work clothes, wheeling around in carts, toting baggage and supervising the parking.

      Now, he's in a mix of players vying to replace Grant Wistrom at right defensive end. It's the only position vacancy on a team that went 12-4 and won the NFC West last year.

      "I couldn't ask for anything better," Hargrove said. "It's a free battle on the right side and we've got a lot of guys competing, and I'm right in the mix."

      There's an immediate opening for Hargrove, a third-round pick in this year's draft, after Wistrom was bowled over by a six-year, $33 million contract from the Seahawks that included a $14 million signing bonus. Bryce Fisher, a 1999 seventh-round pick of the Bills, entered camp first on the depth chart.

      Other candidates in the group are Sean Moran and Erik Flowers. Coach Mike Martz said the Rams will be just fine with a no-name rotation opposite Leonard Little, who was among the league leaders with 12.5 sacks last year and went to his first Pro Bowl.

      Veteran Tyoka Jackson is another backup end, but on the left side behind Little.

      Martz thought Wistrom, a 1997 first-round pick of the Rams, would be with St. Louis his entire career. But he's moved on.

      "There's six guys on the left and right side that you'd be happy with lining up and playing, I can safely say that," Martz said. "Whoever lines up on the right end, that's who he is, and I'm sure whoever that is will play very well."

      Players also are confident there won't be a dropoff.

      "We'll line up and play, that's the way it works," Jackson said. "Grant was a great player and a great friend and he's always going to be a friend, but he's on the wrong side of the ball now.

      "We've got some guys; people may not know who they are, but we've got some guys."

      Wistrom had 7 1/2 sacks last year and was a coaches' favorite because of his non-stop motor. Fisher, on the other hand, has made three career starts.

      "We're really working our tails off to prove we can be out there," Fisher said. "Everybody adds a little bit something different. Tony is a phenomenal athlete, Erik has a great takeoff, Sean is a nine-year veteran and I use my hands well."

      Unlike other members of the defensive line like tackle Ryan "Grease" Pickett and Jimmy "Bear"...
      -07-31-2004, 04:02 PM
    • RamWraith
      Air Force helps B. Fischer remain grounded
      by RamWraith
      By Bill Coats
      Of the Post-Dispatch

      Because he had no athletic scholarship offers in hand and little money in the bank, Bryce Fisher applied for the Air Force Academy in 1995. At the time, the NFL wasn't even a whim.

      "I went to the Academy with the intent of getting to play Division I football in college, because that was my dream," Fisher said. "And to become an officer in the Air Force."

      He realized both goals. Fisher, a star student as well as an all-metro football player at Seattle Prep High, was a two-year starter at Air Force, where he was named the Western Athletic Conference defensive player of the year as a senior. He graduated as a second lieutenant; today, he's a captain in the Missouri Air National Guard.

      But a funny thing happened along the way: Fisher developed into an NFL prospect, and the Buffalo Bills drafted him in the seventh round in 1999. The Rams signed him as a free agent just before the start of the 2002 season.

      At Air Force, "I grew 2 inches, I got in better shape, and I played for a guy, Jappy Oliver, who really taught me the game," Fisher said. Oliver, the Falcons' defensive line coach, "taught me about hand placement, footwork, what teams do in certain formations," Fisher said. "He said, 'If you do this, this and this, you'll be successful at this level.' And it just worked out."

      Before he joined the Bills, Fisher served two years of active duty, first as a coach and recruiter at the Academy, then as a transportation officer at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina. Fisher has nine years remaining on his reserve commitment: He reports on Tuesdays to his "second job" - he's a public-affairs officer at the National Guard facility at Lambert Field.

      He said he learned to value discipline in his time at the Academy "It was kind of tough (at first), because every 16-year-old thinks that he's got the world licked," Fisher said. "It was good for me. And I made friends that I'm close with to this day, guys I consider like my family."

      Fisher, 27, is in his first season as the Rams' starting right defensive end. Grant Wistrom held that spot for five years before accepting a lucrative free-agent offer from Seattle in the offseason.

      Wistrom was well-liked and highly regarded, and Fisher knew that comparisons were inevitable. Fisher said defensive line coach Bill Kollar "put it out there at the beginning of the year. He said, 'Bryce, Grant's gone, and there's nothing we can do about it. We're going to find out whether you're good enough to be a starter.'"

      Coach Mike Martz said Fisher has passed that test. "That comparison (with Wistrom) is always going to happen, but he's worked past that," Martz said. "He's making his own statement. He's had a good season." ...
      -12-27-2004, 05:19 AM
    • RamWraith
      Competition Fierce, Deep at Defensive End
      by RamWraith
      Staff Writer

      When Rams’ coach Mike Martz looks at his menu of defensive ends; it might depend on what kind of mood he is in to make his selection.

      Martz said he has as many as six possibilities to full the position vacated by the departed Grant Wistrom. Wistrom chose to sign with Seattle in the offseason after six seasons in St. Louis. Replacing a talented pass rusher and charismatic leader such as Wistrom could be tough to do with one player.

      “There was such an emotional attachment there,” Martz said of Wistrom. “We all felt like he was going to end his career here. It didn’t work out that way.”

      With that in mind, the Rams have a variety of choices to replace Wistrom, each bringing something different to training camp. Leonard Little will continue to hold down his position at left end as one of the league’s most feared playmakers. That leaves the six others to fight it out for Wistrom’s former spot.

      Bryce Fisher is penciled in as the No. 1 end on the depth chart. Fisher gives the Rams a solid, disciplined player who honed his leadership skills at Air Force. At 6-feet-3, 272 pounds, Fisher gives St. Louis bulk opposite the speedy Little. He finished the 2003 season with 47 tackles and a pair of sacks.

      Fisher’s spot is written in pencil for a reason, though. He will face stiff competition in training camp for his spot. The group that is angling for his job includes a former first round pick, a recently retired “plane pusher,” a grizzled veteran, a returning Ram and an unknown free agent. Any of them could win the job, but with only three training camp practices in the books, nobody knows who it will be.

      “I think last year I proved that I could play in this league,” Fisher said. “This year I am looking forward to proving that I can be a full-time starter for 16 games.”

      Buffalo drafted Erik Flowers with the 26th pick in the 2000 draft. After two seasons with the Bills, Flowers moved on to Houston, where he adjusted to a new role as an outside linebacker. Flowers is still searching for the fit that can prove his detractors wrong and a clean start in St. Louis could be the cure for what ails him.

      Perhaps the most intriguing prospect of the group is rookie Anthony Hargrove. Hargrove has been one of the camp’s early standouts, showing a quick burst and enough strength to pound against the run.

      After missing his final season at Georgia Tech because of academic problems, Hargrove took a job at Hartsfield Airport as a “plane pusher,” helping Delta move planes in and out and riding alongside the planes to make sure the wings don’t hit anything.

      Hargrove said he didn’t like having to wear the uniform Delta gave him because it was too small. That was the least of his worries there, however.

      “I was always thinking NFL,” Hargrove said. “Working 9 to 5 behind a desk,...
      -07-29-2004, 06:31 PM
    • RamDez
      Wistrom gets ready to face old team, and stand-in Bryce Fisher
      by RamDez
      Wistrom gets ready to face old team, and stand-in Bryce Fisher By Greg Bishop
      Seattle Times staff reporter

      KIRKLAND — Funny how things work, lives intersecting and disconnecting, only to circle back in a way that seems impossible.

      Grant Wistrom was Midwest ethos at its best, a hard worker who stayed at home and did just that. He played high-school football in Webb City, Mo., college football at Nebraska and pro football in St. Louis.

      Then hard work met paydirt, and along came a $33 million contract, which included a $14 million signing bonus, which whisked Wistrom from his roots to Seattle and a division rival.

      And so who do the Rams replace Wistrom with? None other than Bryce Fisher, a Renton native and Seattle Prep graduate.

      And who do the Seahawks host this weekend? None other than the St. Louis Rams, Wistrom's former team, with one of his pupils manning his old position in the area in which the pupil grew up.

      Funny how things work. Although neither Fisher nor Wistrom laughed too hard.

      Said Wistrom: "You can hype it up all week long as much as you want. Everybody is making a bigger deal out of this than I am. It's just another football team, another opponent and a game we have to win."

      Said Fisher: "I expect it to be like any other road game. Except my mom will love it more."

      Wistrom knows this won't be like any other game. Too many memories involved. Too many old friends to shake hands with. Too much importance in the grand scheme of the NFC West, a division in which the Seahawks hold a 1˝-game lead.

      Too much emotion, period.

      "There is a deep, deep emotional impact," St. Louis coach Mike Martz said of Wistrom leaving. "He's like one of my family, one of my kids. I just miss him. I do. I miss him."

      So does the Rams defense. Last season, St. Louis led the NFL with 46 takeaways, good for a turnover differential of plus-seven, seventh best in the NFL. The Rams, sans Wistrom, forced two turnovers in their last game, their only takeaways in their first four games, tied for last in the NFL.

      Meanwhile, the Seahawks, with Wistrom, have forced 10 turnovers, tied for fifth best in the league, for a plus-seven differential, third best in the NFL.

      "Wow," safety Aeneas Williams said. "The ability for a defensive end to make plays all over the field, almost like a linebacker, is contagious. You get big plays that are unexpected out of a defensive end being able to run and pursue. You get caused fumbles, tipped balls. I don't know if I've ever seen a defensive lineman with that kind of tenacity."

      One player can't make that much a difference. Can he?

      "You can talk about all those famous Seahawks — the Matt Hasselbecks and so forth," ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth...
      -10-07-2004, 11:19 AM
    • RamDez
      A moment with ... Bryce Fisher, Rams defensive end
      by RamDez
      A moment with ... Bryce Fisher, Rams defensive end


      Bryce Fisher has taken an unorthodox path to becoming a starter in the NFL. Some players aren't recruited out of high school, as was the case with Fisher at Seattle Prep. Some players have to wait their turn until another player leaves the team, as was the case with Fisher while playing behind Grant Wistrom the past two seasons. But few players put their NFL career on hold for two years after coming out of college, as Fisher did after being a seventh-round draft choice by the Buffalo Bills in 1999 so he could fulfill his military commitment after graduating from the Air Force Academy. The Renton-born Fisher took a few minutes this week to discuss his unusual path and past, as well as tomorrow's "homecoming" game against the Seahawks at Qwest Field.

      Q: You've come at this in a different way, has it worked out?

      A: "Yeah, it's worked out well. I started two years active duty out of the Academy. Now I've got my fourth year in the league. I can't complain one bit."

      Q: What was your initial reaction when you heard Wistrom had signed with the Seahawks in March?

      "I was happy for Grant, getting to move on. Plus, he gets to live in God's country now. You can't beat it, as far as I'm concerned. So I was happy for him. The guy works his butt off, and you guys are seeing the kind of player he is. Even though the last couple of years he hasn't been the 12- or 13-sack guy, he's good for 80-plus tackles, he's going to play hard, he's going to be a good leader. He deserves everything he got."

      Q: Is there still anything special about playing at home, even though you've been here the past two seasons?

      "It was cool the first couple times, getting to come home. But it's just like any other road game. I've just got to go out there and play hard and do all the things we need to do so we can win this week. It will be a good chance for me to see my family on Saturday night and get to hang out with them. Since I graduated from high school, I haven't had a whole lot of opportunity to be home in Seattle. My mom, my dad, both my brothers will be at the game. Everybody in my family is there."

      Q: The players' day off in the NFL is Tuesday, how do you spend yours?

      "I'm in the reserves. So Tuesdays during the season I go in and do my duty, because normally you're required to do one weekend a month. Instead, I do four Tuesday afternoons to make up for the weekend that I miss. It's a pretty good opportunity for me to get to play on Sunday and then get do a little service on Tuesday."

      -- Clare Farnsworth
      -10-10-2004, 01:10 AM