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Anxious players deal with the dread of cutdown day

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  • Anxious players deal with the dread of cutdown day

    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Monday, Aug. 30 2004

    "The Turk" is lurking at Rams Park, which makes for uneasy times for players
    teetering on the bubble as roster cutdowns take place.

    "I couldn't sleep the last two nights, and my stomach's been turning," said
    undrafted rookie Matt Morgan, an offensive tackle from Pitt. "It's been pretty

    Others, such as safety Nijrell Eason, try to purge all thoughts of impending
    doom. "To me, it's just like any other time," said Eason, an Arizona State
    product who has played in one NFL game. "You just do whatever you can. What's
    out of your hands, you can't really control."

    The team has to make one more cut to reach 65 players by today's deadline. The
    53-man final roster must be set by Sept. 5. Between now and then, "The Turk" -
    the Rams use several members of the scouting department to do the dirty work -
    will be instructing ill-fated players to report to general manager Charley
    Armey's office to officially receive the bad tidings.

    "It's pretty nervous about this time," said defensive end Kevin Aldridge, an
    undrafted rookie from Southern Methodist. "You start number-counting, seeing
    who was here last year, who was a high draft pick, how many they'll keep at
    your position."

    Morgan said he tries to avoid the numbers game. "I talked to a lot of the vets,
    and they said you can't do that to yourself," he said. "You'll just tear
    yourself apart; there's too much stress. You've got to worry about practice,
    not whether you're going to be here tomorrow or not."

    Surviving the first flurry of cuts is cause for some relief. But not much,
    Aldridge emphasized. "You still know there's more to come," he said. "You're
    not here until the final roster is set."

    In the meantime, it's hard not to flinch when the telephone rings. Morgan got a
    scare Saturday morning, when six players were released. He received a call, but
    "they were looking for somebody else that I was hanging out with," he said. "I
    (thought), 'Whew.' I wiped the sweat off my brow."

    Aldridge said he keeps a close eye on his caller ID. "If the number is from
    (Rams Park), then you start panicking," he said, laughing. But he also noted
    that it's important not to allow the building anxiety to affect his performance
    on the field.

    "You have go out there and play as hard as you can, and hopefully it'll work
    out," he said. "And if they don't want to keep you, maybe somebody else will
    bring you in or you can hope to make the practice squad."

    Gordon practices

    Running back Lamar Gordon practiced Monday for the first time since having
    ankle surgery Aug. 10. Gordon participated in individual drills and even took a
    couple of reps during team work.

    "Talking to the trainers, it seems like he's probably close to a week ahead of
    schedule. Still, we're going to be very careful with it," coach Mike Martz
    said. "Any time you come back like that off of surgery, just the strength of
    the ankle itself is a little different. So he's going to try to get confidence
    in it over the next few days, and we'll just kind of see where he is."

    No cause for concern

    Martz said he wasn't concerned that linebacker Justin Smith and receiver Derek
    McCoy would disclose strategy secrets to Arizona, which picked them up soon
    after they were released by the Rams. The Cardinals visit the Edward Jones Dome
    for the regular-season opener Sept. 12.

    "One of the reasons they were cut is they couldn't figure out what we were
    doing," Martz said, expressing doubt that either player could divulge much to
    new Cards coach Dennis Green.

    "I wish I had a tape of some of those conversations; I think they'd be very
    interesting," Martz said. "They'd thoroughly confuse him. So, I think it's

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Rams Continue Roster Movement
    by RamWraith
    Wednesday, September 8, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    An offseason that has seen plenty of activity seemed ready to settle in with the final cuts made on Sunday. That isn’t so for the Rams, though. St. Louis saw a flurry of activity Wednesday, including a failed free-agent signing, a trade and three new additions to the active roster.

    With questions in the defensive backfield, St. Louis attempted to bring back Jason Sehorn, who appeared to retire after last season. All Sehorn had to do was pass a physical. Sehorn flunked the test and will not be signed to the one-year deal he was offered.

    Sehorn took the exam Wednesday morning, but was unable to show enough improvement in his health to pass. He suffered from a broken foot in 2003 that plagued him through most of the year. Sehorn had surgery in February, but it wasn’t enough to fix what ailed him.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said the team wanted to see if Sehorn was even healthy enough to make a comeback.

    “We brought Jason in to see where he was with his foot,” Martz said. “After the second surgery, he just hadn’t healed as well as we had hoped. It just wasn’t a situation where he felt comfortable.”

    The cornerback/safety played in 10 games, starting two last season. He finished with 26 tackles and had no interceptions.

    The locker room at Rams Park saw plenty of new faces Wednesday as well. Linebacker Dedrick Roper and offensive linemen Darnell Alford and Blaine Saipaia joined the team Wednesday morning.

    Martz said it is somewhat strange to be making so many changes this close to the beginning of the regular season and it can take away from gameplanning efforts.

    “It can be a distraction,” Martz said. “It’s good to have so much of these things finally completed. Some of these guys, of course, we would have liked to had a few weeks ago, but thank goodness their ours now.”

    Roper comes to the Rams from Pittsburgh, where he was an undrafted free agent. Roper said he was on his way to the field as a member of the practice squad when he got word the Rams claimed him. Roper played two years at Michigan State before transferring to Northwood (Mich.) College. He made a name for himself in the Whataburger Cactus Bow, a Division II all-star game with seven tackles.

    Roper said he was thrilled when he realized he was going from a spot on the practice squad to an active roster.

    “I couldn’t keep the smile off my face,” Roper said. “I liked it there in Pittsburgh, but I really wanted to play this year. Now, I have the opportunity.”

    Alford came to the Rams from Kansas City after it put him on waivers Sunday. Saipaia spent his preseason with Oakland. Both players played against the Rams in preseason games, presumably making enough of an impression to get the call from St. Louis.

    -09-09-2004, 05:20 AM
  • RamDez
    Dishman is back after a visit home
    by RamDez

    Dishman is back after a visit home
    By Bill Coats

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - When the football players at Lincoln (Neb.) North Star High saw Chris Dishman's Hummer parked outside the weight room early one morning this week, they figured he'd be coaching their team again.

    "They thought I was released," Dishman said after Wednesday afternoon's practice at Rams training camp. "They (said), 'Geez, you already got cut?'"

    No, Dishman is still with the Rams, vying for a job on an offensive line badly lacking in personnel. But he had some unfinished business that needed to be addressed, so he left for his Garland, Neb., home after Thursday night's preseason game in St. Louis and returned to Western Illinois University about noon Wednesday.

    "Just a lot of personal stuff," said Dishman, who had decided to retire after seven NFL seasons before Rams coach Mike Martz persuaded him earlier this month to accept a one-year deal and report to camp. Dishman said it seemed like a good idea at the time, but . . .

    "My kids, I didn't get to say goodbye to them," said Dishman, 30, a father of two. "It was getting tough for them, crying every night and calling me up and telling me they wanted me to come home. It started to make me (wonder) if . . . my retirement wasn't a bad plan. The money's all good and everything, but when you've got kids at home, the money doesn't really mean anything to you."

    Although Dishman acknowledged that "definitely there were second thoughts," he emphasized that he never seriously considered re-retiring. "My wife and my dad both said, you signed a contract, don't back out like some of those guys," he said. "I was raised that way. There was no way that I wasn't coming back."

    But he wanted to see his children again, as well as his extended family at North Star, where he'd been serving as an assistant coach. "I went up and saw them practice," he said. "I let them know why I wasn't there personally. Calling them on the phone, I think, is inconsiderate when you've spent four months with these kids.

    "Some of them don't have fathers. It's not a troubled group, but it's a new school there, so they're getting kids there from all over town. If you're a role model to them, you need to go back and show them your face and tell them you haven't forgotten about them."

    Two players are hurt

    Two more Rams went down with injuries Wednesday, but Martz reported that neither player was seriously hurt. Offensive tackle Grant Williams, who probably will be in the lineup when the Rams open the regular season Sept. 12, turned his right ankle in the morning practice and skipped the afternoon workout.

    Cornerback DeJuan Groce appeared to be much more
    -08-19-2004, 02:49 PM
  • RamWraith
    Howard feels bond with undrafted rookies
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Aug. 10 2005

    That second-year defensive tackle Brian Howard acknowledges a particular
    affinity for Rams rookies Zach Bray, Jeremy Calahan, Jeremy Carter, Clifford
    Dukes, Vontrell Jamison, Dominique Thompson and Duvol Thompson should come as
    no surprise.

    The seven are undrafted free agents battling the odds during training camp in a
    long-shot attempt to win a spot on the 53-man roster. Howard is acutely
    familiar with their situation. "A year ago," he pointed out, "I was that guy."

    Howard showed up at Rams Park in April 2004 toting a slim resume. Not only had
    he never been selected to the All-Big Sky Conference team, he'd never even led
    his team in tackles in any of his four seasons at the University of Idaho.

    But his reps increased when fellow tackle Jimmy Kennedy broke his foot early in
    camp, and Howard impressed the coaches with his effort and passion. When the
    final roster was announced Sept. 5, Howard's name was on it.

    He wound up playing in 15 regular-season games - including one start - and both
    playoff contests, collecting a total of 25 tackles. He celebrated his season by
    having large, colorful tattoos applied to both upper arms, increasing his
    personal collection to five. "Look for some more" in the future, warned Howard,
    who arrived at camp this year a proven veteran instead of an obscure rookie.

    "It's a different feeling, but you're still never comfortable. There are no
    guarantees" in the NFL, said Howard, a 6-foot-4, 278-pound native of Seattle.
    "It's definitely a lot less stress coming into camp, but I'm still as hungry as
    I was last year - even more so."

    But not so preoccupied with his own duties that he can't find time to counsel
    the seven youngsters with whom he shares a bond of sorts.

    "I make sure to give them support, talk to them a lot," said Howard, 23.
    "Because I remember a year ago, it was nice for me to get tips from different
    guys on the team. So, as much as I can do, I'm going to try to help them out,

    Friday's game will be televised

    They needed a 24-hour extension of the deadline, but Rams officials said
    Wednesday that enough tickets had been sold so that Friday night's preseason
    game against the Chicago Bears at the Edward Jones Dome can be televised
    locally. It will be shown on KTVI (Channel 2) at 7 p.m.

    Normally, a sellout must be achieved 72 hours before kickoff for the blackout
    to be lifted.

    Anderson lands in Carolina

    It didn't take cornerback Dwight Anderson long to find work. Anderson, a...
    -08-11-2005, 05:29 AM
  • RamWraith
    Roster scrambling, defensive holes hint at trouble for Rams
    by RamWraith
    By Bernie Miklasz
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Sep. 08 2004

    A few days before the 2004 regular-season opener, the Rams seem unusually

    They're signing waiver-wire pick-ups and other castoffs in a late, desperate
    rush to upgrade the roster. They tried to lure used-up Jason Sehorn out of
    retirement, but he flunked the physical. In this flurry of activity, the Rams
    oddly failed to address the most glaring weaknesses, at cornerback and
    defensive tackle.

    If you're going to invite people off the street for open auditions, why not try
    to reinforce the unimposing, underachieving cast at defensive tackle? And how
    can the Rams be comfortable with only one experienced NFL cornerback in
    Jerametrius Butler? (I'm not counting Aeneas Williams; the Rams insist he will
    remain at free safety). The NFL is a passing league, and the Rams simply don't
    have enough cover guys.

    The Rams also made a debatable, peculiar decision to trade promising running
    back Lamar Gordon to Miami. Marshall Faulk's health is an open-ended concern.
    If Faulk's knee folds, the offense will have to rely on a rookie, Steven
    Jackson, who had knee issues late in his college career at Oregon State. Arlen
    Harris is a tough runner and can fill in at the position, but he lacks speed.

    Astoundingly, the Rams got nothing more than a third-round pick for Gordon. And
    they didn't insure themselves with a side agreement to upgrade to a more
    premium draft choice should Gordon produce a 1,000-yard rushing season in
    Miami. (And he will). More baffling is that the Rams unloaded Gordon's
    salary-cap friendly contract. Gordon wasn't costing them much, so why move him?

    After the retirement of head case Ricky Williams, the Dolphins were hard up for
    a back, and the Rams should have exploited the situation by holding out for a
    better draft choice. They're not running a charity.

    Gordon's frustrating foot problems finally were solved through surgery, so the
    move was hardly embraced inside every office at Rams Park. I'd be surprised if
    coach Mike Martz privately gave an enthusiastic endorsement to this trade.
    Martz offered mixed signals Wednesday when discussing the deal. While
    explaining that Gordon was expendable because of Jackson's emergence and the
    increased confidence in Faulk's viability, Martz also described the transaction
    as "risky" and his feelings as "nervous."

    "Lamar's a terrific value," Martz said.

    Yes, and the Dolphins undoubtedly would agree.

    It's been a fidgety week at Rams Park.

    "Very, very, busy," Martz said.

    And the roster tuning has taken Martz...
    -09-09-2004, 05:19 AM
  • RamWraith
    Tuesday Notebook
    by RamWraith
    Staff Writer

    When the Chicago Bears came to Macomb for a series of practices capped off by a scrimmage this past week, everyone assumed it was simply a matter of Rams’ coach Mike Martz calling Bears’ coach Lovie Smith and asking.

    That assumption would be wrong. Sure, Martz did ask Smith to come to Western Illinois University, but there is another reason for the added workouts with the neighbors to the north and John Oswald is his name.

    Oswald is in his third decade with the team and the Vice President of Operations since 1992. Every time the Rams go on a road trip, Oswald makes it happen. When the team moves its entire organization to training camp, Oswald makes it work.

    It was no different this past week, when Oswald brought the Bears and Rams together in Thompson Hall for three days seamlessly. Martz was one of the first to credit Oswald for his efforts. “Let me just say this,” Martz said. “John Oswald really orchestrates this whole thing. He is the one that does all of this. By golly, he does a fantastic job.”

    Oswald helped put together the scrimmage with Tennessee in 2000, so he had some experience doing it, but there were a few new wrinkles this year. The setup was similar in that the Titans and Bears were put in Western Illinois’ locker room, training room and equipment room.

    The biggest difference, though, was a change made in Thompson Hall. In 2000, there was no cafeteria for the teams to share, so they ate on the 18th floor. Since then, Western Illinois has put in a new cafeteria that has more than enough room for two football teams and their staff.

    Oswald said he can’t take all of the credit for the planning. “We started from when they check in to when they check out, what exactly is their schedule going to be like,” Oswald said. “We go through it piece by piece and then we incorporate the university here which is very helpful. “There were a wide range of people that really assisted with the scrimmage itself.”

    The university provided the teams with security, transport vans and set up meeting rooms. Like with any meeting involving that many people, Oswald said there were a few hiccups along the way and there will be a meeting to evaluate those mistakes so the problems can be corrected in future scrimmages.

    Oswald said he is always on the lookout for another scrimmage opportunity, so he can do his part to help break up the monotony of camp. “Overall it went off without a hitch,” Oswald said. “I give all the credit to the university and the city of Macomb.”

    Those two entities deserve credit for helping, but, as Martz said, without Oswald in a leadership role, it would have been difficult.

    ROSTER MOVE: Offensive guard Jason Lenzmeier arrived to give the Rams another body on their thinning offensive line. Lenzmeier got word of the opportunity while in Boise,...
    -08-12-2004, 05:42 AM