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  • Depth shouldn't be a problem this season

    Depth shouldn't be a problem this season
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Aug. 21 2004

    Every member of the Rams linebacker corps is old enough to vote. But just
    barely. The average age of the 10 linebackers in camp is a mere 23.9 years.

    "This is by far the youngest group that I have ever had," said linebackers
    coach Joe Vitt, who began coaching in the NFL in 1979.

    Among the projected starters, Pisa Tinoisamoa is entering just his second NFL
    season, Robert Thomas his third and Tommy Polley, the oldest of the group at
    age 26, his fourth.

    The seven other linebackers have a combined 33 games of NFL experience. Except
    for Brandon Spoon, that experience comes mostly from special teams play. As a
    result, there's more teaching involved with this group than with an older, more
    experienced unit. But as Vitt sees it, at least they're willing students.

    "What makes it fun with this group is they want to be coached, and they want to
    be good," Vitt said. "They show great attention to detail. They have
    outstanding work habits. So that makes it exciting."

    So does the fact that all 10 are athletic and run well. Depth at linebacker has
    been a problem for the Rams since the move to St. Louis ... until this year.

    The Rams will take six or seven linebackers into the regular season, and it
    will be difficult to pare down this group. A couple of decent linebackers will
    be out of a job by Sept. 5, the final cutdown day.

    "We've got a great group of linebackers," Thomas said. "I hate to see a couple
    of them leave when the time comes. ... Trev Faulk is behind me. He's definitely
    a starter in this league, and he's making me work hard."

    Apparently the depth is so good behind the starters, that one of them, Polley,
    is being pushed for his starting job. Tony Newson, who played for Vitt in
    Kansas City, was moved ahead of Polley at strongside linebacker after the
    exhibition game with Chicago on Aug. 12. A tight hamstring has sidelined Newson
    for the last couple of practices, which may give Polley an opening to regain
    the job.

    "Tommy right now is working his butt off to try to get back and regain the
    status that he had here," Vitt said. "Tommy wasn't satisfied with his own play.
    ... I told Tommy: 'Pride is hard to swallow, but it will go down.'

    "And there's two ways a player can handle this when he's demoted. He can sit
    around and pout. Or he can work his butt off to try and get better, and regain
    his spot. Tommy has chosen to do the latter. He's had his best practices since
    I've been with him, including the (spring workouts), since the demotion."

    Newson displays good footwork, speed, range, and change of direction. And
    versatility is an asset - he can play all three linebacker positions.

    At middle linebacker, Faulk appears entrenched as the top backup behind Thomas.

    "Trev Faulk's had a great camp," Vitt said. "I've got to tell you this, when
    Trev Faulk was coming out of LSU, I wasn't really (excited about) him. He may
    have come out of school too early."

    Faulk turned pro after his junior season.

    "When he came out, the game may have been too big for him at our level," Vitt
    said. "So he's kind of knocked around a little. Now all of a sudden with Trev,
    the maturity factor has set in."

    Although listed at 254 pounds on the roster, Faulk has his weight down to 235
    pounds. Always a big hitter, he's getting to the ball quicker.

    Brandon Chillar, the Rams' fourth-round draft pick in April, also has dropped
    weight to get quicker. He was 252 at the NFL scouting combine in February, but
    235 now.

    "We knew Brandon would compete," Vitt said. "And we knew Brandon was a
    physical, tough football player. What most surprises me since he's been here is
    his athleticism in space."

    Spoon started 14 games for Buffalo as a rookie in 2001, but he hasn't played in
    a regular-season game since, largely because of injuries. A hamstring injury in
    training camp has put him behind with the Rams. Justin Smith and Jeremy Loyd,
    who both had some special teams experience with the Rams in 2003, may be
    competing against each other for the seventh roster spot at linebacker.

    "These next three (games) are going to be critical for a lot of guys on our
    football team, and some linebackers in particular," Vitt said.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Vitt gets help with linebackers from ex-player
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas

    Former NFL linebacker Kurt Gouveia called Joe Vitt last Friday to congratulate him on his work as interim head coach of the Rams.

    Vitt asked what Gouveia was up to these days.

    Living in North Carolina and doing some radio work, Gouveia replied.

    "You want to come out and help me with the linebackers?" Vitt asked.

    And that was that. Gouveia arrived in St. Louis on Sunday and has been on the practice field this week as the Rams prepare for this week's game in Seattle.

    "I'm still going to be involved with 99.9 percent of the linebackers stuff," Vitt said. "But I need some help with them because of this other stuff."

    The "other stuff," of course, being working as Rams head coach for the rest of this season in place of the ailing Mike Martz.

    Vitt was Gouveia's position coach in 1995 in Philadelphia, and the two hit it off.

    "I have a lot of respect for the man," Gouveia said. "He treated me very well. Treated my family very well. So I trust him."

    A native of Honolulu, Gouveia was drafted by Washington in 1986 out of Brigham Young University. He spent the next nine seasons there, winning two Super Bowl championships with the Redskins.

    Gouveia led the Redskins in tackles in 1992 and '93, and led the Eagles in tackles in '95. He finished up his 14-year NFL career playing in San Diego from 1996-98, then returned to Washington in '99. All told, Gouveia played in 184 NFL regular-season games. Even in retirement, Gouveia couldn't get football out of his system.

    "It's in my veins," he said. "After 14 years in the league, you just can't get away from it. I tried. But I'd wake up in the morning, and I'm thinking football. I'd go to play golf and I'm thinking about football.

    "I thought about coaching a long time ago. I started volunteer-coaching at a nearby high school when I was playing with Washington and enjoyed it a lot."

    He coached linebackers for two years at the University of Hawaii, including one season instructing current Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa. "He was a great college player," Gouveia said.

    Last spring, Gouveia coached linebackers for the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe.

    In St. Louis, Gouveia would like nothing better than to make his current position permanent.

    "No question about it," he said. "I'd like to stay on board. I like the coaching staff. They're very smart, friendly guys that have one goal in common - to win championships. And that's what I like. It's a great experience for me. It benefits me, and hopefully, it'll benefit them."
    -11-10-2005, 04:50 AM
  • RamWraith
    Final-play confusion confuses Vitt
    by RamWraith
    By Kathleen Nelson
    Monday, Nov. 28 2005

    The Rams still aren't sure what all the fuss was about on the last play of the
    game. Not that they're complaining.

    Officials gathered for almost three minutes after Kevin Curtis' reception and
    dash for a 56-yard touchdown in overtime that gave the Rams a 33-27 victory
    over the Houston Texans.

    "I still haven't had a ruling on any of that," interim head coach Joe Vitt said
    Monday. "When Kevin caught the ball, the first thing I did when I saw him break
    the second line of defense was I looked back and saw no flags. So I don't know
    what the discussion was. We were all just kind of mingling to see what the
    final verdict was and they said it was a touchdown. It sounded good to me. I
    was getting off the field."

    Vitt said linebacker Trev Faulk was standing near the referees as they
    conferred. "He said there was some discussion that we had an illegal
    formation," Vitt said. "Well, we went back and checked today. We were legal in
    everything we did. We saw no flags, so I really don't know what the discussion

    Starting job in question

    Vitt hinted that he had yet to decide who would earn the starting job at middle
    linebacker for Sunday's game against Washington. Trev Faulk earned his first
    start against the Texans, replacing Chris Claiborne. Faulk was credited with
    six tackles on defense, one on special teams Sunday.

    "He's got to work on some technique things now, got to play with a better pad
    level, better footwork," Vitt said. "But we got more production out of that
    position yesterday. We haven't shut the door on Chris. Chris is going to get
    more work next week. We're going to do whatever we can to put our best 11
    players on both sides of the ball out there. We're going to judge that on how
    they do in practice. If you perform well in practice, then you're going to get
    the chance to play. If not, it's the next guy's turn."

    Injury updates

    An MRI showed no damage to the left hamstring or right hip of tackle Orlando
    Pace. Pace was slowed by the injuries last week and left the game Sunday in the
    second quarter.

    Vitt said he hoped three players who missed the game in Houston because of
    concussions, safety Adam Archuleta, guard Blaine Saipaia and cornerback DeJuan
    Groce, would return Sunday. Groce and Saipaia "should be OK," Vitt said, though
    he noted that Archuleta had visited a specialist in Los Angeles last week.

    Cornerback Travis Fisher, who has missed three games because of a groin injury,
    was scheduled to work out today.

    -11-29-2005, 05:34 AM
  • RamWraith
    Imagine if Vitt wasn't Rams' interim coach
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Brighters, NFL Analyst

    (Sports Network) - Joe Vitt was named the interim head coach of the St. Louis Rams earlier in the year, when Mike Martz was forced to step down due to heart problems.

    Vitt has taken the task seriously, to say the least. The team has played hard, but eventually, everyone snaps. Vitt broke on Monday at his press conference after an ugly loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at home.

    "Usually by this time of the day after a tough loss you kind of reflect and you calm down and you've had time to reflect," Vitt said. "Well, I'll tell you, I'm still [ticked]. I'm [ticked]. It's not right what took place yesterday on that football field."

    Where to start? How about the quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Harvard product who led the squad to victory against Houston almost a month ago, was flat-out bad. He was 10-of-14 for 69 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. Out goes Fitzpatrick and in comes Jamie Martin, who was 8-of-11 for 58 yards. When asked why he pulled Fitzpatrick, Vitt seemed to have forgotten nothing.

    "The throws and mechanics, decision-making, the one seam route that he threw to Brandon [Manumaleuna] for the interception, it was late, it's a play-action to try to hold the middle linebacker, the play-action wasn't there," Vitt said. "I thought that Jamie gave us our best chance to win."

    At least his footwork was okay.

    Martin could not get it done and now there's a quarterback controversy. Not one brought about by two solid performances, but a battle brought about because someone has to play the position.

    The defense continued to give up big plays. Rookie Ryan Moats darted down the sideline for a 59-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The special teams allowed 180 yards in returns.

    But Vitt's venom was spewed most at one set of players. Although they've been hampered by injuries, the offensive line got sent home with a note on Monday after Vitt's press conference.

    "I'm not happy with the way our offensive line is practicing; I'm not happy with the way they are playing," Vitt said, almost with steam coming out of his ears. "I think we're blocking high, we're soft, we're not coming off the ball, and that's going to change this week in practice. It's been addressed, but it just hasn't gotten done, so it'll be addressed again. The offensive line is the heart and soul of your football team. It protects your quarterback, it gets the running game going. It is totally unacceptable, totally unacceptable."

    Maybe Vitt has a point. The team committed a season-high 15 penalties, including a jaw-dropping eight false starts. There were holding penalties, a chop-block call, and although the rushing game was solid (Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk both posted over 80 yards), the offensive...
    -12-21-2005, 05:05 AM
  • RamWraith
    Vitt content as an aide, but may get much more
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats

    Last Monday morning, about 12 hours after the Rams' season ended with a 20-10 victory in Dallas, Joe Vitt decided it finally was time to get out.

    "My son's in for the holidays and my daughter got back from Dallas, so I said, 'OK, let's go over to Bob Evans and we'll get a little something to eat,'" said Vitt, who hadn't ventured far from home or Rams Park since taking over as interim head coach in late October.

    At the restaurant near his St. Peters home, Vitt was greeted like a conquering hero. "I was shocked," he said. "Nobody's ever identified me before. People came over, and they were very nice. . . . And the girl at the register gave us 4 percent off on the bill."

    Small discounts are big bonuses for NFL assistant coaches, which is what Vitt had been for nearly three decades before Mike Martz contracted endocarditis, a bacterial infection of a heart valve, and left the team after five games. Vitt, 51, suddenly was thrust into the glare of a white-hot spotlight, a position he'd never sought or desired.

    "That was something that I dreaded," said Vitt, whose first game in charge was a nationally televised Monday night contest against the then-undefeated Indianapolis Colts. Gradually, the task of dealing with his temporary fame, as well as daily questions from reporters, diminished.

    "It wasn't nearly as bad as I first thought," Vitt said. "After the first couple of weeks, that became the easy part."

    The hard part, Vitt said vigorously, was "the losing." The Rams finished 6-10, and the role that he might have played in some of the defeats gnaws at him.

    "I got greedy going for some fourth and 1s that I should've never gone for; I should've got the (field-goal) points instead," he said. "I think ultimately that cost us games, and I take responsibility for that. But that's what makes this a great game. It's a result-oriented game, and you're judged on your wins and your losses."

    Although the Rams were 4-7 under Vitt and Rams President John Shaw ruled him out as a possible replacement for Martz, Jets officials apparently liked what they saw. Vitt will be in New York on Monday to interview for the head-coaching job that Herm Edwards is leaving to succeed Dick Vermeil in Kansas City.

    Passion for job

    Vitt grew up in Blackwood, N.J., a working-class community of about 5,000 across the Delaware River from South Philadelphia. His father, Herb, was a laborer for Mobil oil; his mother, Jeanne, worked for an insurance company in downtown Philly.

    Lifelong pal Tim Malloy said Joe distinguished himself with his "passion and commitment to whatever he was doing." Those traits are partly why Vitt chose coaching when his playing career...
    -01-08-2006, 04:30 AM
  • RamWraith
    Illnesses keep dogging Rams players
    by RamWraith
    Associated Press
    ST. LOUIS - So many St. Louis Rams players have landed in sick bay in recent weeks, felled mostly by a persistent stomach virus, that interim coach Joe Vitt suggested fumigating the locker room.

    This week, the virus has hit quarterback Jamie Martin, running back Marshall Faulk, linebacker Brandon Chillar and defensive lineman Brian Howard. Over the last month, a dozen or more players have been affected.

    "Maybe the virus is mutating and it's going to take over the whole world," joked wide receiver Dane Looker, who was sent home himself recently. "Still, anytime you're in close quarters with guys I think this is going to happen."

    Martin, who'll start the season finale at Dallas on Sunday night, left practice early Wednesday, but he felt well enough to return to the field the next day and again on Friday.

    "I'm a little tired and trying to get my energy back, but no more sick feeling," Martin said. "Throwing up is hard work.

    "Luckily, mine was only a day thing. Some guys have been knocked out for a while."

    Offensive lineman Rex Tucker missed two games with illness that struck during the Vikings game on Dec. 11, and he's still not 100 percent.

    "By the end of that game I could barely stand up," Tucker said. "I'm wondering what in the world is wrong with me, sucking oxygen like crazy, sucking an IV dry.

    "I'm still kind of feeling it, just kind of worn out."

    This week, the malady has hit Faulk particularly hard. He might be in line for extra duty considering that Steven Jackson continues to be hampered by a hip pointer, but neither practiced on Friday.

    Vitt said Jackson would be a game-time decision, but said that Faulk's availability was more in doubt.

    Faulk needs 59 rushing yards to pass Hall of Famer Jim Brown (12,312) for eighth on the career rushing list. And this could be his final game, period.

    Vitt said he has no idea why so many players have been affected. This week, he jokingly suggested that team meetings be held outdoors and that the soap dispensers be checked for germs.

    "This is the hand we've dealt and we've got to play the hand," Vitt said. "This is the last game of the year and I can't do a study on why we've been so sick.

    "These guys have been really sick, they've gone to the hospital, they're getting IVs, but to date we haven't lost anybody because of it."

    The Rams (5-10) are winding up a disappointing, turbulent season in which they've lost head coach Mike Martz to illness and landed 10 players on injured reserve, including quarterback Marc Bulger and both starting cornerbacks. It's an uncertain time for Vitt, 3-7 as Martz' fill-in.

    "It's our last game until...
    -12-31-2005, 06:30 AM