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It's tough to sing the praises of these rookies

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  • It's tough to sing the praises of these rookies

    It's tough to sing the praises of these rookies
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Aug. 21 2004

    The other day in training camp, defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson was asked to
    assess the performances of the rookies.

    "They've been doing a really good job," Jackson said. "I've been impressed
    specifically by about three or four of them. I like (Jason) Shivers. Shivers is
    playing great. (Anthony) Hargrove, I think. . . ."

    Jackson was interrupted right there. Not their playing performances. Their
    singing performances.

    "Oh," Jackson said. "Singing-wise. We've got no talent there. I haven't seen
    one guy who should be doing anything other than football."

    A sampler of the play list:

    After getting booed off stage in his first attempt, first-round draft pick
    Steven Jackson passed muster with Will Smith's intro to "Fresh Prince of
    Bel-Air." But he was far from overwhelming.

    "My record deal is probably going to go down the tubes," he said.

    Seventh-round center Larry Turner performed the Righteous Brothers' "You've
    Lost That Loving Feeling" to generally bad reviews.

    "He was hurting," veteran reviewer Adam Timmerman said.

    Sixth-round quarterback Jeff Smoker bombed with something from BoyzIIMen.

    "It was pretty rough," Timmerman noted.

    Third-round defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove got by with a shaky rendition of
    the Georgia Tech fight song.

    He skipped entire sections of the song. "But nobody knew," he said. "They all
    just laughed."

    They were laughing because many of Hargrove's teammates think he looks like
    rapper 50 Cent. "Which I don't believe at all," Hargrove said.

    Undrafted quarterback Russ Michna sang, "I Believe I Can Fly."

    And those weren't even the worst efforts.

    "I think Brandon Chillar was particularly bad," coach Mike Martz said.

    Chillar, a fourth-round linebacker, was so bad that he's this year's winner of
    the unofficial McDonald Award - so named for wide receiver Shaun McDonald after
    his performance in '03.

    "Mac started off last year with the worst performance ever in the history of
    all rookies," Martz said. "But Chillar was right there."

    While the Rams were in Macomb, Ill., Martz called rookies up at random at the
    end of team meetings for what he calls "rookie entertainment." This year, he
    gave them the option of either singing or telling jokes.

    In his first two attempts, Chillar tried jokes. Jay Leno has nothing to worry

    "The jokes didn't work," Chillar conceded. "I got booed off twice."

    If you're booed off stage, you're called back again. But with a little help
    from his linebacker friends, Chillar finally got through by singing, "Shout!"

    McDonald, currently bearing the stigma as the worst Rams' rookie performer
    ever, complained mildly about this year's judging. "The crowd was a little
    softer this year," he said. "They're letting a lot of stuff through that
    wouldn't have gotten through last year."

    And McDonald didn't have the joke-telling option last year. "That's definitely
    a lot easier than trying to serenade the group," he said.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Jackson rides the bus to his first NFL camp
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    MACOMB, Ill. - Steven Jackson had a practical reason for taking the "rookie bus" to training camp, something Rams first-round draft picks rarely do.

    "I didn't want to get lost," said Jackson, a running back from Oregon State. "I caused enough drama over the last week. What if the first-rounder gets lost? That'd be a little more news for you guys. So, I figured I'd just hop on the bus and it'd be a little easier for me."

    Jackson worked his way into coach Mike Martz's doghouse last week when he was a no-show for a rookie session at Rams Park. Martz scolded Jackson publicly, emphasizing that he would be listed No. 4 on the depth chart when camp started, behind Marshall Faulk, Lamar Gordon and Arlen Harris.

    "Whether you're drafted in the first round or the seventh round, whatever you get, you earn; that's what this league is all about," Martz said Tuesday night after players had reported to Western Illinois University. "There was a misconception that he was going to come in and play right away . .. because he's Steven Jackson. Well, Lamar and Arlen and these other guys have got something to say about that.

    "This is a very competitive league, and he needs to come in and compete. And my message to Steven was exactly that."

    Jackson said he got the point, loud and clear.

    "He's saying I'm not a special guy, that I'm going to be held to the same standards as everyone else," he said. "I don't have any hard feelings toward Coach Martz. Hopefully we can have a great relationship."

    After signing a five-year contract Sunday, Jackson deposited his $4 million signing bonus in the bank and packed his bags.

    "I just treated it like I was going to college, going back to a dormitory," he said. "So, I've got my pillows, my CD player, PlayStation 2, of course. Just the essentials."

    The bus riders arrived at 2:30 p.m.; the first practice was scheduled for 8:10 this morning.

    Fourth-round pick Brandon Chillar, a linebacker from UCLA, said he was "anxious and excited" heading into his first NFL camp. "That's been my goal, to make it to the NFL," he said. "Now that I'm here, I want to see what I can do."

    Quarterback Jeff Smoker, a sixth-round pick from Michigan State, said he expected the 3 1/2-week stay in Macomb to be a challenge, physically and mentally.

    "Camp's obviously going to be tough," he said. "There are going to be a lot of things going on, a lot of things thrown at us, being rookies. I'm getting ready to learn a lot."

    Jackson said he anticipated plenty of bumps and bruises.

    "A lot of pain," he said, laughing.

    -07-28-2004, 05:36 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rookies feel challenged, blessed by life in the NFL
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Nov. 13 2004

    Rookie linebacker Brandon Chillar sometimes can't help himself. He looks around
    the Rams' locker room at stalls labeled "Faulk," "Bruce," "Holt," "Little" and
    "Pace," and just shakes his head.

    "This is what I've been praying for, this is what I've been working for, this
    is what I've wanted to do for so long," said Chillar, a fourth-round draft
    choice from UCLA. "It's what I asked for, and it's what I got. So, I'm blessed.
    I must be living right or something."

    Chillar is one of 12 first-year players who rise every day and report to Rams
    Park in Earth City. A year ago, they woke up on college campuses and headed for

    "This is a job; it's not just football," said cornerback Dwight Anderson, an
    undrafted rookie from the University of South Dakota. "You come in here at 6
    o'clock in the morning, and you come to work. It's just like your mom goes to
    work at 7 and comes home at 5. This is our job. ... But it's a fun job."

    Chillar said the commercial aspect of pro football came as a bit of jolt. "You
    start to learn how much of a business the NFL is," he said. "That's one thing
    that I didn't expect so much. Maybe that's just being a dumb rookie."

    But safety Jason Shivers said the NFL experience "is pretty much what I thought
    it would be. You have to get used to the stringent routine, because it's day in
    and day out. You have to really be focused 100 percent of the day. I think
    that's the biggest change" from college football.

    Shivers, a fifth-round pick from Arizona State, has yet to see game action,
    spending most of the season on the practice squad. "It's disappointing because
    I know that I'm better than that," he said. "But all I can do is just keep
    working and hopefully I'll get on the active (roster) and then I can get out
    there and do my thing."

    Others have been asked to contribute right away, despite their first-year
    status. Chillar has started four games; running back Steven Jackson, the team's
    first-round selection (No. 24 overall), is getting steady work spelling
    Marshall Faulk; and third-round pick Anthony Hargrove, an end from Georgia
    Tech, has been filling an increasing role on the defensive line rotation.

    "Things right now are going exceptionally for me, being able to compete on this
    level," said Jackson, an Oregon State product. "All the things I was going to
    deal with, Coach (Mike) Martz and his staff did a great job of exposing me to
    that early on. They kind of let...
    -11-13-2004, 07:03 PM
  • RamWraith
    Storm prompts team to end camp
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    MACOMB, Ill. - The exodus began about 6 p.m. Thursday, less than an hour after Rams coach Mike Martz abruptly declared an early end to Camp Macomb.

    "We've got a big storm coming in tonight, so I told them to get out of here," Martz said. "I don't want them driving home in the rain in the morning. It's supposed to rain all night and well into (today). So, we wouldn't get anything out of a morning practice out here, obviously."

    The team practiced twice Thursday and was scheduled for a morning workout today before checking out of Thompson Hall and returning to St. Louis. Instead, Martz planned a light practice for this afternoon at Rams Park.

    "We'll reorganize down there," he said. "We had a heck of a camp up here. We came out of this thing healthy; the injury list is minimal compared with what it's been in past years. We've had good tempo, the work's been outstanding. I'm pleased with where we are."

    The Rams will practice Saturday and Sunday evenings. Their second of four exhibition games is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

    Hargrove moves

    Rookie Anthony Hargrove said he'd heard scuttlebutt about his moving to defensive tackle from defensive end. But when it became reality, he still was stunned.

    "It's kind of a shocking thing, something that I never thought really would happen," said Hargrove, the Rams' third- round draft choice. "It's one of those things that's in the back of your mind, but when it happens, you're really just kind of caught off-guard."

    Martz indicated that the strong play of Bryce Fisher and Erik Flowers at right end provided an opportunity to get a look at Hargrove on the inside. He worked at tackle Wednesday and Thursday, and pronounced himself "happy to take the challenge."

    "Coach Martz told me that he thinks the way I come off the ball and the way I play, that's a natural fit for me," Hargrove said. "I think it's going to be a real comfortable move for me."

    Veteran defensive end Tyoka Jackson likes the idea, too.

    "He's 6-4, 285 (or so), probably the strongest dude on the team, as fast as Leonard (Little) ... yeah, I'm cool with that," Jackson said. "He's going to make his mistakes because he's young, he's a rookie. But he's going to make his plays, too."

    Jensen returns

    A long and trying stretch on the injury list finally came to an end for rookie Erik Jensen, who practiced in full pads Thursday for the first time since suffering a sprained knee ligament in the first week of camp.

    Jensen, a seventh-round draft pick, said as time wore on, his frustration grew.

    "You want to come in and...
    -08-20-2004, 06:34 AM
  • RamDez
    Another Young Gun: Rookie Chillar is poised to start at linebacker
    by RamDez
    Another Young Gun: Rookie Chillar is poised to start at linebacker
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Sep. 11 2004

    The Rams have made a habit of starting rookie linebackers: Tommy Polley in
    2001, Robert Thomas in 2002 and Pisa Tinoisamoa in 2003.

    That trend should continue Sunday in the regular-season opener against Arizona.
    Brandon Chillar, the team's fourth-round draft pick in April, is expected to be
    in the lineup.

    Ironically, he's manning the spot Polley held for the past three seasons.

    Chillar started the last three preseason games and graded out well.

    "He just doesn't make mistakes," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "The way he times
    and gets through people and gets to the ball, head in front, outstanding
    tackler, does not make mistakes, gets lined up right, takes on blockers ...
    he's just a refined player for a guy that young."

    When they strap on the helmets for real, though, Chillar anticipates a
    noticeable difference.

    "I expect it to be a lot faster," he said. "I think the guys are going to be a
    lot more hungry. Every yard's going to count. I've tried to prepare myself the
    best I can. Once I get out there, I'll just have to adjust."

    NFL rules kept Chillar, 21, out of the Rams' full-squad minicamp in May because
    his senior class at UCLA hadn't yet graduated.

    So he arrived in Macomb, Ill., on July 27 "a little bit behind the 8-ball,"
    linebackers coach Joe Vitt said.

    Chillar made up for it by diving into the playbook.

    "That was the advice I got from the older guys, to get into your playbook, that
    the fastest way to get off the field is making mental errors," he said. "The
    mental preparation I do, I take that real serious."

    First, Tony Newson supplanted Polley on the No. 1 unit early in camp. A week
    later, Chillar nudged Newson aside and has stayed there since.

    "We knew that he was going to be extremely physical and that he had courage,"
    Vitt said. "What's surprised us is his range and his athleticism. ... He's got
    a good grasp of what we're doing with our regular package.

    "He's got a long way to go, as he knows. But he's easily coached. He takes to
    hard coaching, and he wants to be good."

    Chillar is the first NFL player of Indian descent.

    His father, Ram Chillar, left his native India in November 1974, settling in
    Southern California.

    He soon became an NFL devotee.

    "I didn't know anything about U.S. football," his dad said. "But the first game
    I saw, I liked it, even though I didn't know what they were doing. I liked the
    -09-12-2004, 01:04 AM
  • RamDez
    Anthony Hargrove hurt
    by RamDez
    Veteran tackle joins depleted line
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - Help arrived Sunday night in a big package. A 6-foot-6, 333-pound package, to be precise.

    Tackle Greg Randall, a five-year NFL veteran, hustled from his hometown of Houston to Western Illinois University, signed a one-year contract with the Rams, and was on the practice field Monday morning. Randall was hired to shore up an offensive line that has become short on personnel during training camp.

    "I'm very excited. I'm just trying to come out here and work hard," said Randall, who has huffing and puffing a bit after a full-pads workout that was cut to about 90 minutes because of a thunderstorm. No afternoon practice was scheduled.

    Randall, working at right tackle with the second team, took part in full-contact action. "Obviously, we feel pretty good about him to bring him in like this and throw him in there like we did," coach Mike Martz said. "We put him in a live situation for about 10 plays out here, and he was able to perform pretty well."

    With Orlando Pace absent during contract negotiations and fellow tackle Kyle Turley (back) and center Dave Wohlabaugh (hip) out with injuries, 60 percent of the front five is missing. Grant Williams, Andy King and Scott Tercero have been filling in on the first unit, but depth had become a concern.

    Randall, 26, was New England's fourth-round pick (127th overall) in the 2000 draft out of Michigan State. He started 23 games for the Patriots over three seasons; he played against the Rams in the Super Bowl following the '01 season. He was traded to Houston and started all 16 games at right tackle last year for the Texans, then signed with San Francisco in the offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

    His time with the ***** was short: He was released in June. "They sent me a letter," Randall said. "Nobody called me."

    More than a month passed before anyone else called, either. "I was a little worried, but you can't get too down about it," he said. "If you don't get picked up, you've got to move on and do something else."

    For now, Randall is undergoing a crash course with the Rams' playbook. "It's tough; there's a lot to learn," he said. "You have to try to figure out what you're supposed to do on a play instead of just relaxing and playing. But it's a great offense."

    Plus, he's trying to get into football shape as rapidly as possible. "Being in pads and then going against people live is completely different from just getting up and running," Randall said. The opportunity to resume his career "means a lot to me," he said. "I'm happy to be here, and I just want to go out here and work hard and try to do my business."

    -08-03-2004, 11:17 AM