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Rams in 2004: New faces, same chase

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  • Rams in 2004: New faces, same chase

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Aug. 27 2004

    The numbers shrink a little every year. And this season - even after the return
    of Tom Nutten - they are 10 and 20.

    Ten remaining members from the Rams' 1999 Super Bowl championship squad.

    Twenty remaining members from the team's 2001 Super Bowl runner-up team.

    "Just the other day, we were stretching and I heard a couple guys talking about
    where guys used to be in the stretch line," said quarterback Marc Bulger, a
    reserve on the '01 squad. "It's amazing how many guys have left."

    Kevin Carter ... D'Marco Farr ... Az-Zahir Hakim ... Ricky Proehl ... London
    Fletcher ... Grant Wistrom ... Ernie Conwell ... James Hodgins ... Mike Jones
    ... Ryan Tucker ... Kurt Warner.

    And that's just a partial list. Such is life in today's NFL, the age of the
    salary cap and free agency.

    "You miss those guys," Bulger said. "But at the same time, you can't picture
    yourself without the new guys. At the same time, you really don't notice (the
    departures), because the guys that they've brought in fit our chemistry so
    well."

    In the NFL, it's not always the best players who win Super Bowls; it's the best
    teams. If nothing else, it looks like the Rams will enter the 2004
    season with excellent team chemistry.

    "I've been on different teams in the NFL, and it's nowhere close to what it is
    here," said Bulger, who has had brief stints with New Orleans and Atlanta.
    "Everyone genuinely likes each other.

    "Even in college, you have three or four guys where you really don't care if
    they get kicked off, or if they get in trouble. But here, everyone's friends
    with each other. I can honestly say, there's not one guy that I dislike."

    Those sentiments are shared in the locker room.

    "I feel like I've been here for 10 years," linebacker Robert Thomas said. "This
    is my third year here, and this feels like at home. I can't wait to get to
    practice every day and see the fellas. Just have fun in the locker room and
    joke around. And then when we get out on the field, it's time to work."

    But can friendship lead to first downs? Can a tight team bond lead to
    touchdowns? Does team chemistry help on game day?

    "Sure," Bulger said. "If you have a team that doesn't care about each other, as
    bad as you want to win, some guys aren't going to lay it on the line for the
    other guy."

    When you're close, Bulger says, you can tell a teammate to pick up the pace
    when he might be lagging. On a team that's not close, such words - although
    often necessary - go unspoken.

    But on the '04 Rams, Bulger says, "I think we're all going toward the same
    goal."

    This team may not have the swagger of its recent predecessors. The days of The
    Greatest Show on Turf may be gone. But the goal remains the same: The Lombardi
    Trophy, which goes to the Super Bowl champion.

    "Just being part of the Rams, we have big expectations," said safety Adam
    Archuleta, a first-round draft pick in 2001. "We always come into a season with
    kind of an air about us that we're going to be the best, we're going to be the
    team to beat."

    And why shouldn't they?

    Even with the 7-9 pratfall in 2002, the Rams are tied for the best
    regular-season record in the NFL over the past five seasons with Tennessee at
    56-24. Adding playoff results to the total, the Rams remain tied for the most
    victories with the Titans at 61. (The Titans have one more playoff loss over
    that span - four to the Rams' three.)

    "It takes a special type of person to stay up at a high level all the time,"
    defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson said. "Some people like to get up, taste the
    top, and then fade back down."

    But in an age where teams come and go at the top of the standings from season
    to season, the Rams have been able to sustain success.

    "I can tell you exactly why," coach Mike Martz said. "Personnel. You combine
    what Jay (Zygmunt) has done with these contracts. Keeping guys here. Guys
    wanting to be here. And Charley (Armey) finding guys. And it goes with coaches,
    too. Just getting the right people here. That's what this game's about. ... If
    you have the right people, you've got a chance."

    And now comes 2004. Martz has termed this a transition year, because for the
    first time since the run of excellence started in '99, the Rams begin a regular
    season with someone other than Warner as their starting quarterback.

    There are questions on the offensive line; depth issues at defensive tackle;
    youngsters who must provide help across the depth chart. No one knows for sure
    how much Marshall Faulk can contribute over a 16-game season - at this point,
    not even Faulk.

    So how good can this team be?

    "I definitely wish the offensive line was in better shape health-wise,"
    offensive guard Adam Timmerman said. "That'd be ideal. But I think team-wise,
    we're way ahead of where we were last year."

    That's because a host of younger players, such as Robert Thomas, Dane Looker,
    Pisa Tinoisamoa, Arlen Harris, Jerametrius Butler, Brandon Manumaleuna - even
    Bulger - are now battle-tested. That wasn't really the case a year ago.

    Despite the wrenching double-overtime playoff loss to Carolina last January,
    the Rams are coming off a 12-victory season, which provides some momentum of
    its own.

    "That winning attitude is something that's hard to create," Timmerman said.
    "When we had that down year (2002), it's harder to get that out of your mind."

    At the start of training camp, Jackson said this was as talented of a team as
    he'd been on during his 10-year NFL career. Before joining the Rams in 2001,
    Jackson played on some very talented teams in Tampa Bay, including a 1999
    Buccaneers squad that lost to St. Louis in the NFC title game.

    So far, Jackson has seen nothing in training camp or the preseason to change
    his opinion. He still feels the same way about the '04 Rams.

    "No question about that," Jackson said. "But again, there's responsibility that
    comes with that. If we don't work hard and waste that (talent), it's worse than
    not having it at all."

    In terms of the Rams alone, defensive back Aeneas Williams says the talent
    level is comparable to his three prior seasons here.

    "We're still moving around extremely well on defense," he said. "Offensively, I
    think we're just as explosive. On special teams, there's the infusion of a new
    coach (Mike Stock), and a lot more guys getting involved. I see no reason why
    we can't excel ... and finish this up in Jacksonville."

    In case you missed it, Jacksonville is the site of Super Bowl XXXIX on Feb. 6.

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  • cowboyhater
    Ex-NFL Pro Bowl players try curling with 2022 Olympic goal (Marc Bulger)
    by cowboyhater
    Ex-NFL Pro Bowl players try curling with 2022 Olympic goal Jimmy Golen, Ap Sports Writer
    Published 10:55 am PST, Friday, January 4, 2019
    In this Jan. 3, 2019 photo, former Minnesota Vikings football player Jared Allen, second from left, stands with his three curling teammates, from left, Michael Roos, Keith Bullock and Marc Bulger after practice for a competition in Blaine, Minn. Allen retired from NFL football in 2015 and wasn't ready to give up on the competition he'd come to enjoy as a five-time All-Pro in a 12-year career. His solution: Make it to the 2022 Olympics _ in curling. Less than a year later, he and the three who have never curled before will attempt to qualify for the U.S. championships against curlers who have been throwing stones for most of their lives.









    Defensive lineman Jared Allen retired from the NFL in 2015 and wasn't ready to give up on the competition he'd come to enjoy as a five-time All-Pro.
    His solution: The Olympics.
    The problem: He didn't compete in any Olympic sports.
    Less than a year later, Allen and three other former NFL stars — none with any prior experience — are attempting to qualify for the U.S. national curling championships against players who have been throwing stones for most of their lives.
    It would be the first step toward competing in the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
    "Every team in the NFL — whether you're hot garbage or the defending Super Bowl champions — every coach come August says the same thing: 'We're trying to win the Super Bowl,'" Allen said. "We come from that mentality, where we set lofty goals.
    "Our short term goals are continually to get better: Fundamentals, strategy, sweeping. We know if we master these little things, it will take us a long way."
    A 12-year NFL veteran who spent most of his career with the Chiefs and Vikings, Allen was lamenting the end of his playing days when a friend dared him to try an Olympic sport. Allen toyed with the idea of badminton but rejected it as too taxing.
    "We thought about curling. It was chill, and the winners have to buy the losers beer," he said. "We thought it was a win-win."
    He rounded up former Rams quarterback Marc Bulger and Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck and tackle Michael Roos to form a team; all were Pro Bowl selections during their NFL career, and living near Nashville, Tennessee.
    Adopting the name All-Pro Curling Team, they started from scratch in March and kept their plans under wraps until they felt like they had made enough progress.
    "We wanted the reaction when we got on the ice to be 'Oh, how long have you guys been doing this?" Allen said in a telephone interview after practicing on a converted hockey rink in Nashville. "We were serious. We didn't want it to seem like it was just some media hype, or just trying to stay relevant."...
    Defensive lineman Jared Allen retired from the NFL in 2015 and wasn't ready to give up on the competition he'd come to enjoy as a five-time All-Pro. His solution: The Olympics. The problem: He didn't compete in any Olympic sports. Less than a year later, Allen and three other former NFL stars - none with any prior experience - are attempting to qualify for the U.S. national curling championships against players who have been throwing stones for most of their lives. It would be the first step toward competing in the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. "Every team in the NFL - whether you're hot garbage or the defending Super Bowl champions - every coach come August says the same thing: 'We're trying to win the Super Bowl,'" Allen said.
    -01-06-2019, 05:54 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    A Dream Win - A Decade Ago
    by r8rh8rmike
    A dream win — a decade ago

    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    12/13/2009

    The loud bang of confetti cannons made Mike Gruttadauria's chest shake. He felt the tickle of confetti rolling down his face and arms. And heard the roar of the crowd in the Georgia Dome after one of the most dramatic finishes in Super Bowl history.

    Ten years ago.

    "I'm getting chills thinking about it now," said Gruttadauria, the starting center in the Rams' 23-16 Super Bowl XXXIV victory over Tennessee. "That's the euphoria I remember. That's the one moment. The little snapshot in time."

    For wide receiver Ricky Proehl, his "snapshot" came in the locker room afterward.

    "Just a bunch of grown men — some in towels, some still in their uniforms — just hugging," Proehl said. "Just jubilation. 'Man, we did it!' It was just that bond that stays with you forever."

    The day after the Super Bowl, Tom Nόtten boarded a pickup truck in downtown St. Louis. Each truck had a bale of straw to sit on, with two Rams players per truck. It was freezing cold. Nόtten heard a din in the background, but couldn't see anything.

    "And then the truck turned the corner onto Washington Avenue, and what was it — a quarter million people on the street cheering?" said Nόtten, the starting left guard on that team. "That gave me chills over and over again."

    If you talked to each player on the 53-man roster of that championship team, you might find 53 different signature memories — some that occurred long before that Super Bowl.

    For free safety Keith Lyle that moment came when he showed up for work one day, walked through the players' entrance at Rams Park and saw a framed picture of the Lombardi Trophy hanging on the wall. (It was Dick Vermeil's idea.)

    "Up until that point, there was no talk about Super Bowls," Lyle said.

    And why should there be? Before that '99 season, the Rams had experienced nine straight losing seasons. They were one of the laughingstocks of the NFL.

    "But that year, every day we walked in there, there was a sense of, 'That's what we're playing for. That's what it's about,' " Lyle said. "I think that was one of the first pieces of that season. That was huge for me."

    THE VERMEIL FACTOR

    For defensive end Kevin Carter, who led the league with 17 sacks that season, his watershed moment came that August — in the midst of the hot, grueling drudgery of two-a-days in Macomb, Ill.

    "In the middle of training camp, Coach Vermeil called us up about halfway through practice that day and told us to take it in for the day," Carter recalled.

    Keep in mind, the team had been through two hellish training camps previously under Vermeil....
    -02-06-2010, 03:11 PM
  • RamWraith
    The ball's in Bulger's court
    by RamWraith
    BY JIM THOMAS
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Aug. 27 2004

    For a split second, it had the nightmare feel of Rodney Harrison crashing into
    the knee of Trent Green five Augusts ago in the Dome.

    This time, Marc Bulger was writhing in pain on the practice field at Western
    Illinois University, holding his right (throwing) arm after getting the worst
    of a collision that also involved offensive tackle Greg Randall and defensive
    end Leonard Little.

    Within minutes, it was apparent that Bulger was OK. But at first, no one knew
    for sure. The lasting memory of that incident wasn't the collision, or the
    apparent injury. It was of how quiet it got on the practice field. The anxious
    glances toward Bulger as he was examined by the medical staff. The nervous
    shuffling by teammates.

    The silence was immediate, and total. Except, that is, for wide receiver Torry
    Holt.

    "Who did it? Who did it?" he said. And you couldn't really tell if Holt was
    joking. The entire scene was a telling indicator of how the Rams feel about
    their starting quarterback.

    "I think they have a great deal of respect for him," coach Mike Martz said. "I
    think his humility is something that is noticeable for them. And then, of
    course, the other part of it is performance. In really difficult situations, he
    has come in and performed very well."

    Perhaps the most difficult situation is about to unfold for Bulger. For the
    first time since 1998, the Rams are beginning a football season without Kurt
    Warner as their starting quarterback. The same Kurt Warner who won two
    regular-season MVP awards, as well as being named the most valuable player of
    Super Bowl XXXIV against Tennessee five seasons ago. The same Warner who still
    has the highest career passer rating in league history (97.2), despite
    struggling the past two seasons.

    It's a tough act to follow. No one has ever put up the kind of numbers Warner
    posted over a three-year period between 1999-2001.

    It would be understandable if a part of Bulger always felt pressured to measure
    up to Warner. Understandable, but not necessary.

    "I'd be disappointed in Marc if he ever felt that way," Martz said. "He
    certainly doesn't need to do that. He's Marc. He needs to have his own respect
    for who he is, and what he's capable of doing for this football team. Nobody's
    going to ask him to be an MVP. All he's got to do is come out and move this
    team and win like he's done in the past."

    Win he has. Bulger's 18-4 regular-season record makes him the most successful
    active quarterback in the NFL (with a minimum of 10 starts), with...
    -08-29-2004, 10:58 AM
  • RamWraith
    Treading Water: Rams hope to shake pattern of mediocrity
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    07/29/2007

    The glory days are gone, and as each Rams season comes and goes, the Greatest Show on Turf becomes a more distant memory. The Rams last appeared in a Super Bowl in February 2002, and only seven players remain from that squad.

    After that devastating Super Bowl loss to New England, coach Mike Martz vowed that the Rams would be back in football's biggest game. Instead, the team has settled into a rut of mediocrity.

    The Rams have had only one winning season since then, albeit a 12-4 division championship campaign in 2003. They also squeaked into the playoffs at 8-8 in 2004. But they have only one playoff victory over the past five seasons — a wild-card triumph at Seattle in 2004.

    The franchise's regular-season record since the Patriots game is 41-39, or 42-41 if you count playoff games. Which is basically mediocrity defined.

    "I wouldn't describe it as a level of mediocrity," Rams President John Shaw said. "I would describe it as a team that was in transition and remained competitive. We were in the playoffs a couple of those years. We lost two MVPs between Marshall (Faulk) and Kurt (Warner) — two unbelievable players."

    The reasons for the Rams' decline are well documented:

    — Faulk's knees gave out. Although his last season on the field was 2005, he wasn't a dominating player after 2001.

    — Warner lost his magic. After three incredible seasons from 1999 through 2001, Warner went from difference maker to average quarterback, in part because of injuries.

    — Deteriorating special teams. In terms of the return game and coverage units, Rams special teams went from strength to liability.

    — Less than stellar drafts. The Rams missed on first-round picks such as Damione Lewis, Jimmy Kennedy and Trung Canidate. And wasted several other picks. See: Eric Crouch, Travis Scott, Steve Bellisari.

    — Roster raiding. After going to those two Super Bowls in a three-year span, the Rams' roster was raided by other teams looking for players who had that "winning edge." Kevin Carter, London Fletcher, Grant Wistrom, Fred Miller and Ryan Tucker were all starters on Rams Super Bowl teams who ended up elsewhere for one reason or another.

    — The feud. Martz's working relationship with the front office, particularly Jay Zygmunt, became so frayed that it affected not only daily life at Rams Park but the product on the field. Martz was ousted after the 2005 season and replaced by Scott Linehan.

    The Rams slipped out of the league's elite, giving way to the likes of New England, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Denver and Pittsburgh. All five of those franchises have won 50 or more regular-season games over the past five seasons, meaning they've averaged at least 10 victories a year.

    While far removed...
    -07-29-2007, 04:20 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams skid into Carolina with four straight losses
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After a season-opening victory over Cincinnati in 1996, the Rams lost five in a row. That skid helped get coach Rich Brooks fired by season's end.

    Under Brooks' successor, Dick Vermeil, the Rams lost eight straight the following season, going winless from late September until late November in 1997.

    Fast forward to 2002. Mike Martz and the Rams, in the midst of a severe Super Bowl XXXVI hangover from that wrenching loss to New England, began the season with five consecutive defeats.

    Those are the worst losing streaks since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995. Unfortunately for Scott Linehan, his inaugural Rams team is getting perilously close to that neighborhood.
    Advertisement


    The Rams have lost four in a row and are one-touchdown underdogs entering Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

    "We're in a rut," quarterback Marc Bulger said.

    A rut of porous run defense, ill-timed penalties on offense, special-teams gaffes, and just plain bad luck.

    "We can't just say it's OK to be like this because it's not," Bulger said. "We're getting to the desperate point. ... Fortunately for us, we're still in it, but we don't have much margin for error."

    So how do the Rams dig out of this four-game rut?

    "Win, and win convincingly," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "That will give us confidence as a football team, that ... we are as good as we thought we were coming into the season."

    On paper, this should be a good team, better than 4-5 certainly. The Rams roster includes 13 players who have made at least one Pro Bowl in their NFL careers. It's 14 if you include left tackle Orlando Pace, who's out for the season with a torn triceps muscle. But of those Pro Bowlers, only Bulger, 29, is under 30 years old. Perhaps the nucleus is aging, without enough up-and-coming players stepping up.

    Whatever the reason, the 2006 Rams haven't come together. The frustration is mounting at Rams Park. For the first time this season, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett seemed defensive — no pun intended — when questioned about his unit's continuing problems.

    Linehan in particular took last week's Seattle loss hard. Belying his usual even-keel approach, he looked tired and tight early in the week, but he seemed to rebound as the week progressed.

    As for the players, who knows?

    "We're in a business where we've got to keep fighting," defensive end Leonard Little said. "That's what we get paid for. So if anybody comes (to work) with less enthusiasm, less attitude, they don't need to be in this game. If some guys come in with their heads down, and stuff like that, we can't do that."
    ...
    -11-19-2006, 08:59 AM
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