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Rookie tight end may realize impossible dream

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  • Rookie tight end may realize impossible dream

    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Thursday, Sep. 02 2004

    First, veteran tight end Cam Cleeland pulled a hamstring in the early days of
    training camp. Rookie Erik Jensen, drafted in the seventh round as a tight end,
    was moved to fullback.

    Just like that, Mike Brake was getting an increasing number of reps and
    building momentum in what at first appeared to be a highly improbable quest to
    land a spot on the Rams' roster. The team is expected to keep three tight ends:
    Brandon Manumaleuna and Cleeland are locks, and at this point, Brake is the
    only other tight end still around.

    "It's been crazy," said Brake, an undrafted rookie from the University of
    Akron. "I got some opportunities to play, and I think I made the most of them.
    This last game, I should get quite a few reps, and I'll just try to prove
    myself once again."

    The Rams (1-2) wrap up their preseason schedule at 9 tonight (St. Louis time)
    against the Raiders (2-1) in Oakland. The regular season gets under way Sept.
    12 at the Edward Jones Dome, with NFC West foe Arizona providing the

    Brake, a linebacker at Hilliard (Ohio) High, had no major-college offers. He
    chose Akron because it was the "first one to offer me (a scholarship), I liked
    the coaches, I liked the school, I liked the guys on the team. . . . We never
    went to a bowl game; 7-5 was our best record. But I wouldn't take that back at

    Brake, 24, started only 15 games for the Zips, although he appeared in 45. He
    totaled 49 catches for 736 yards and 11 touchdowns. He didn't expect to be
    drafted, but he believed he had NFL-caliber skills.

    "I knew if I got the chance, I could do it," said Brake, 6 feet 4 and 256
    pounds. "I knew I could compete at this level. So I'm not really surprised."

    Coach Mike Martz said Brake "has done a much better job than we anticipated.
    He's really picked things up well. . . . He's a better receiver than I would've
    given him credit for when he first got here. He's got excellent hands. The
    physical part of it obviously is so much more than what he was used to at
    Akron, and he's learning that part of it. But he'll be fine."

    Martz wants Jackson to get a lot of work

    Rams rookie Steven Jackson is the NFL's top rusher in the preseason heading
    into tonight's games. He has 251 yards in three games. The New York Giants' Ron
    Dayne is next, with 228 yards. However, Dayne is averaging 7.4 yards per carry
    to 4.6 for Jackson, the team's first-round draft pick.

    On Friday night, Jackson ran for 125 yards - also a league high - in a 28-3
    victory over Washington. He was given 25 carries, an unusually high workload
    for a preseason game. Martz said it was done with a purpose.

    "You've got a guy trying to get used to having to carry the load when (he's)
    exhausted. And you could see he made one or two mental errors when he got
    really tired," Martz explained. "But it was a terrific learning experience for

    Rams leave town without Pace

    The Rams boarded their charter flight for Oakland on Wednesday evening without
    a No. 76 jersey in the equipment bag. Holdout left tackle Orlando Pace still
    has not reported.

    "This is our football team right now. I just would assume he's not coming in,
    period," Martz said. "We love him, we wish he was here. And when he does come
    in - if he does come in - then you move on. But you can't let one player, no
    matter how good he is or how good a guy he is, hold the rest of the team
    hostage, waiting on him to come in. We've got to get ready for Sept. 12."

  • #2
    Re: Rookie tight end may realize impossible dream

    Originally posted by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Thursday, Sep. 02 2004

    Talking about Brake, a linebacker at Hilliard (Ohio) High, Coach Mike Martz said Brake "... (will) be fine."
    You can't tell me connections don't help. Or is it just coincidence that Furrey also started out in Hilliard? Which leads me to wonder why Bullard didn't make the roster last year and Pagac didn't this year? Clearly the team is looking for impact players at LB.


    Related Topics


    • RamWraith
      Rams release tackle, cut down to 65
      by RamWraith
      By Bill Coats
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      Tuesday, Aug. 31 2004

      The Rams reached the 65-player limit Tuesday by releasing offensive tackle
      Jeremy Phillips. The 53-man final roster must be determined by 3 p.m. Sunday.

      The team negotiated an injury settlement with Phillips before waiving him.
      Phillips, an undrafted rookie from Lenoir-Rhyne, had been sidelined for about
      three weeks with a neck injury.

      Rams rookie leads NFL in rushing

      Rams rookie Steven Jackson is the NFL's top rusher in the preseason, with 251
      yards in three games. The New York Giants' Ron Dayne is next, with 228 yards.
      However, Dayne is averaging 7.4 yards a carry to 4.6 for Jackson, the team's
      first-round draft pick.

      On Friday night, Jackson ran for 125 yards, which is also a league high, in a
      28-3 victory over Washington. He was given 25 carries, an unusually high
      workload for a preseason game. Coach Mike Martz said it was done with a

      "You've got a guy trying to get used to having to carry the load when (he's)
      exhausted. And you could see he made one or two mental errors when he got
      really tired," Martz explained. "But it was a terrific learning experience for
      him. That's when you have to really reach down and find something that you
      didn't know was there."
      -09-01-2004, 05:41 AM
    • Nick
      Manumaleuna impresses Martz
      by Nick
      Manumaleuna impresses Martz
      By Bill Coats
      Of the Post-Dispatch

      MACOMB, Ill. - When Mike Martz said that tight end Brandon Manumaleuna has "been consistently excellent throughout practice and our preseason game; he's not had any lapses," the Rams head coach apparently had a lapse of his own.

      On the 11th play of the Rams' first series vs. Chicago on Thursday, blitzing Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer charged by Manumaleuna and sacked quarterback Marc Bulger. The 9-yard loss stalled the drive at the Chicago 15-yard line, and Jeff Wilkins booted a 33-yard field goal. The Bears won 13-10 in overtime at the Edward Jones Dome.

      So, Manumaleuna hasn't been perfect since camp opened July 27 at Western Illinois University. But he's been good enough that Martz probably can be forgiven for his episode of selective memory.

      "Brandon's come light years," Martz said. "He's done just a great job. He finally, at this point, I think, is ready to take off."

      The Rams certainly hope so, considering that in the offseason, they put up $8.3 million over five years to prevent him from going to Carolina as a restricted free agent. Manumaleuna, 24, said he appreciated the Panthers' interest. "It was good to know that you were wanted somewhere," he said.

      But he was glad that the Rams kept him. "I was comfortable with everybody here, I like everybody on the team, and the organization's fine," he said. "I looked at it as, I couldn't lose either way."

      After making only nine catches in his first two years since the Rams selected him in the fourth round of the 2001 draft, Manumaleuna came up with 29 catches for 238 yards last season, his first as the team's No. 1 tight end. He expects even more this year.

      "I would like to have better numbers after this year, so I do have some bigger goals. We'll see what happens," he said. The first step in that direction was the shedding of 13 pounds in the offseason, dropping him to 275 on his 6-foot-2 frame.

      "He felt that I'd be a better receiver, and he also wanted to get me more involved with the offense," Manumaleuna said. "So, he asked me if I'd come in a lot lighter. I did that, and ... everything's going well."

      Bulger's arm is fine

      Quarterback Marc Bulger reported that his right (throwing) arm was "a little sorer than it was" Monday, after he suffered what was termed a mild bruise. Bulger was bumped by tackle Greg Randall, who had been pushed back by defensive end Leonard Little.

      Bulger, who felt a jolt of pain to his upper arm, said he was scared "for about two seconds. But you know pretty quick if you're hurt or not, and I realized I wasn't."
      -08-18-2004, 01:26 AM
    • RamDez
      Rams Head Home
      by RamDez
      Rams Head Home
      Friday, August 20, 2004

      By Nick Wagoner
      Staff Writer

      With the quickness of a Marshall Faulk cutback, coach Mike Martz ended the Rams’ 2004 training camp about 5:15 Thursday evening. Martz cited a major storm brewing in the Macomb area as the reason for the abrupt end.
      “I told them to get out of here tonight,” Martz said. “I don’t want them driving home in the rain in the morning. We wouldn’t get anything out of a morning practice here, anyway.”

      The players and coaching staff will leave for St. Louis on Thursday night and probably have a practice Friday afternoon at Rams Park. The end of camp signals the next step in the drive toward the regular season. St. Louis will play cross-state rival Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium on Monday night.

      The regular season kicks off Sept. 12 against Arizona at the Edward Jones Dome. Martz said he is more than satisfied with the work the team put in at camp. “We had a heck of a camp up here,” Martz said. “The injury list is minimal compared to what it’s been in past years. I’m pleased with where we are.”

      WOHLABAUGH GONE: It was a disappointing ending for center Dave Wohlabaugh, who spent 2003 starting in the middle of the Rams’ offensive line.

      St. Louis cut ties with its injured center Wednesday night. Wohlabaugh had surgery on his hip in March and was not expected back for at least three or four months.

      Wohlabaugh had not practiced with the team during this training camp and was likely going to miss the entire season. He recently traveled to Ohio to have the hip check out again, but the results were not positive that Wohlabaugh would play again this year or any other.

      With his tenure in St. Louis ending, so too, might his career. Wohlabaugh signed with the Rams on Feb. 28, 2003. Wohlabaugh was entering his 10th season in the league. Andy McCollum, who started at left guard for the Rams last season, moved back to center at the beginning of camp.

      McCollum said he feels comfortable playing his original position again, but he is sorry to see his friend and linemate struggle with injuries. “It’s just unfortunate, the injury that Dave had,” McCollum said. “He’s only been here a year, but I consider him a friend of mine.”

      TIGHT COMPETITION: Brandon Manumaleuna seems to be the only tight end that has wrapped up his position, though a return from hamstring problems by Cameron Cleeland could bring the competition into focus. Manumaleuna looks like he is in better shape, showing better burst off the ball and making some difficult catches in traffic.

      Martz said Manumaleuna’s offseason efforts are paying off handsomely. “Brandon has come a long way,” Martz said. “First of all, he has lost a lot of weight. He’s done a terrific job, in terms of being a receiver and a significant blocker. The thing about him is that he has been consistently excellent,...
      -08-21-2004, 12:19 AM
    • RamWraith
      Long shots make their mark with Rams
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      Of the Post-Dispatch

      Long shots, like CB Dwight Anderson (above), are taking full advantage of their chance to try and make the Rams roster.
      (Chris Lee/P-D)

      MACOMB, Ill. - NFL players come in all shapes and sizes, and from all kinds of colleges. But whether you come from South Carolina, or South Dakota . . . Colorado, or Colorado School of Mines . . . Washington, or Eastern Washington . . . Arizona, or Akron . . . if you're good enough to get a chance, you just may get a job.

      With three exhibition games remaining, and cutdown days fast approaching, here's a look at four roster long shots trying to latch on with the Rams:

      CB Dwight Anderson: Traveling Jamaican

      Anderson didn't grow up dreaming of the NFL in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Heck, you couldn't even watch it on television.

      "It was either cricket, soccer, or track," he said.

      Anderson's sports were soccer and track - even after he moved to the United States in 1992 at age 11. But one day at Bloomfield (Conn.) High, he watched the football team practice and was intrigued.

      "I want to try that," he told himself.

      Not surprisingly, he was a kicker as a freshman.

      "Sophomore year, I started playing wide receiver and DB," Anderson said. "The (varsity) coach saw me playing JV, and he was like, 'All right, we're going to move you up. See what you can do up here on the varsity level.' And from there, it just exploded."

      Anderson, who now lives in Queens, N.Y., played junior college ball at Arizona Western in Yuma. He finished college with the South Dakota Coyotes, and now he's been to Macomb and St. Louis trying to make the Rams' roster as an undrafted rookie.

      "I've been going across the country," Anderson said. "I've almost done all 50 states now. I'm having fun with it."

      If the Rams keep five corners, he has a chance. If not . . .

      "I think I've got a chance," Anderson said. "If I just keep working hard, something's going to pay off. I'm not really thinking about getting cut."

      Anderson looks the part. He has 4.35 speed and doesn't seem overwhelmed on the field. What he needs is work on technique and focus. And no more silly penalties, like his costly holding penalty last week against Chicago.

      "It was an iffy call," Anderson said. "But you know the refs, they're cutting down on a lot of that holding."

      WR Brian Sump: Building a career

      With about a semester's worth of additional work at the Colorado School of Mines, Sump will earn his degree in civil engineering. He's in no hurry. Before he starts building dams and bridges, he'd like to build an NFL career.

      -08-20-2004, 06:12 AM
    • RamsFan16
      Jackson ready to take over for a legend
      by RamsFan16
      Jackson ready to take over for a legend

      Jay Glazer /
      Posted: 4 hours ago

      The following is the fourth installment of the Annual Jay Glazer Cross Country Training Camp Extravaganza, with the latest stop at Rams camp. And apologies to our loyal readers who have valiantly awaited my camp-by-camp tour journals.

      So I've taken to the road for 30 days in search of the next scoop, inside slant and the best and worst kept secrets in towns like Kankakee, Ill.; Spartanburg, S.C.; and River Falls, Wisc. Let's enjoy the ride.

      ST. LOUIS — The unthinkable finally happened for Rams fans. Guess it had to happen eventually. But who would have thought the transition would be so painless. After years of watching Marshall Faulk terrorize defensive game plans, 2005 became the year to pass the torch.

      Steven Jackson represents a changing of the guard in St. Louis. (Elsa / Getty Images)

      Enter Steven Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 231-pounder with enough speed and perseverence to garner a very solid 5 yards per rush average. The sophomore slasher has the demeanor of that real nice neighbor's kid from next door. But put him on the field and it's easy to see why the Rams had to make that move. Faulk, believe it or not, actually led the way to his own exodus.

      "It was never an awkward moment," Jackson said of when he found out he was replacing the living Rams legend in the starting lineup. "He was actually the first guy to congratulate me. I lean on him for friendship, plus I have help from someone who has seen so much because he's played in this league for x amount of years."

      The fact that Faulk agreed to step aside for the youngster without making a big stink was huge for Mike Martz's squad. It could have been contentious. Actually, it could have been a lot worse than contentious. Instead, the Rams now head into a season with a legitimate bruising back who can churn up yardage and put more balance into what had been a predominantly passing attack.

      "You stand next to him he looks more like a tight end," said Rams veteran blocker Tom Nutten. "He doesn't have an ounce of fat on him and he runs hard. He's not afraid to take the hit. He'll make some tacklers take some hard shots. He's also a very smart player. He already understands this offense, which made them comfortable giving him the starting job."

      Plus, Faulk now gets to stay healthier and pick and choose his spots to contribute. Martz says the two can also be used in the backfield together to confuse defenses even more. Jackson's ascent is much faster than he probably knew when he was tabbed in last year's draft. It's never easy for a youngster to agree to come in and hope to one day dethrone a city icon much less a perennial MVP contender. Some inside the organization say he never really knew what to expect of the situation...
      -08-16-2005, 11:27 PM