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  • Pace finally with Rams, but is he ready to commit?

    Pace finally with Rams, but is he ready to commit?
    By Jeff Gordon
    Online Sports Columnist
    Monday, Sep. 06 2004

    Rams coach Mike Martz remained on the high road Monday after wayward tackle
    Orlando Pace finally rejoined his team.

    Reporters wondered about lingering hard feelings from Pace's protracted
    holdout, the third of his career in St. Louis.

    "It's never remembered," Martz said. "That's his deal and I don't have anything
    to do with that. That's another world that I don't participate in."

    Yeah, well, fans want to participate in that world. So does the media.

    And Pace's teammates might have some thoughts on the latest holdout, too,
    should his camp-long absence affect the caliber of his play.

    There is only one way that this issue goes away: If Pace plays at his
    accustomed all-pro level from Week 1 on this season. If he stays healthy, opens
    holes for Marshall Faulk and protects Marc Bulger's backside, then nobody will
    have a beef with O.P.

    But if he struggles for a few weeks while trying to regain his game
    conditioning and bearings . . . we'll, let's just say the controversy will roar
    on.

    This is a pivotal season for the Rams. Many experts believe the team is
    teetering these days, just a key injury or two from starting a slide back to
    mediocrity.

    The loss of veteran offensive linemen Kyle Turley and Dave Wohlabaugh
    compromised the offensive line. Chris Dishman came out of retirement to fill
    one hole and journeyman Grant Williams will try to fill the other.

    Even with a healthy, fully-prepared Pace, there were going to be questions
    about this offensive line this year. So if Pace's performance is lessened by
    his boycott, then Martz may have a crisis on his hands.

    It is impossible to evaluate the offensive line until it faces real defensive
    game plans and real action. This unit has suffered rocky starts in the past,
    most recently with last season's fiasco at Giants Stadium.

    Will it happen again? If it does, the blame will fall squarely on Pace.

    I can certainly understand Pace's frustration with having to work under the
    "franchise player" tag year after year. But he shares some responsibility for
    his predicament.

    If he wants a long-term commitment from the franchise, he needs to structure
    his market-setting demands so that they fit into the team's salary cap
    structure.

    Also, HE has to make a commitment to the TEAM. It's a two-way deal. If he wants
    to be paid as one of the franchise's cornerstones, then he needs to become one
    of the franchise cornerstones.

    The team must pick and chose which players get the long-term commitments. The
    team must rewards its leaders, and players cannot lead in absentia.

    Faulk is obviously one of those leaders. So Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Kyle
    Turley got leadership money because he was willing to work.

    Could Pace still finish his career as a Ram? Perhaps.

    He would have to play very well from start to finish this season. Then he would
    finally have to agree a long-term contract fair to him and the team, as the
    others have done.

    The he would have to get to the work on the '05 season, immediately, and start
    leading by example for a change.

    Only then could Rams coaches, players and fans forget about all the nonsense
    that just transpired.

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  • Nick
    Teammates suffer while Pace -- with nothing to gain -- sits out
    by Nick
    Teammates suffer while Pace -- with nothing to gain -- sits out
    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    Wednesday, Aug. 25 2004

    We all understand the NFL is a business, and a nasty one at that.

    The franchises are enormously profitable. Franchise values escalate yearly. The folks that own these franchises are very, very rich.

    Nobody should begrudge players for getting whatever they can out of the game, for as long as they can physically last.

    But there comes a point when a football player has to become a teammate, too, and consider the needs of the men he will line up with when the real games
    start.

    Orlando Pace is well past that point with the Rams. By refusing to report to training camp, he literally put his fellow Male Sheep in harm's way the past two weeks.

    Therefore, O.P. has become a terrible teammate.

    In his absence, tackle Grant Williams has played with an ankle injury because the Rams need experienced offensive linemen to play preseason games. He has played in pain, risking further injury.

    In Pace's absence, Adam Timmerman has played with a shoulder injury for the same reason. Chris Dishman has rushed back into the fray, still huffing and puffing, after his un-retirement.

    And Pace? He stayed out of camp, despite having nothing to gain by refusing to sign his franchise tag tender.

    Nobody should begrudge players who put themselves first, since the NFL quickly discards athletes once they lose value. But a player who puts himself THAT far ahead of his team . . . well, you have to wonder how he will ever move forward with the group.

    The Rams can't negotiate a long-term contract with Pace until he signs that tender and reports to work. The longer he waits to sign the tender, the less likely a deal can be struck before the season.

    Obviously the Pace Camp is frustrated by this whole "franchise player" designation, a piece of the collective bargaining agreement that inevitably creates hard feelings.

    Getting tagged year after year would aggravate any player eager to bank the staggering signing bonus that would come with a new long-term deal.

    Then again, a player can't expect to get a long-term deal from a competitive deal while making outrageous demands. A player can't expect to reach a long-term agreement unless his agents -- in this case the Poston brothers -- fit those requests within the salary cap framework of the team.

    Pace expressed some willingness to do just that during the spring, but then went back into hiding while his representatives held firm.

    The Rams have done a marvelous job managing their salary cap. Jay Zygmunt is a master at it. His creativity has allowed the Rams to keep many top players while remaining competitive year after year after year....
    -08-25-2004, 02:09 PM
  • RamWraith
    Pace Proves a Pleasant Surprise to Rams
    by RamWraith
    R.B. FALLSTROM

    Associated Press


    ST. LOUIS - Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace broke a three-day silence on his contract holdout Thursday, saying a lighter playing weight would help him get back into playing shape in time for Sunday's opener.

    Earlier this week Pace agreed to a one-year, $7.02 million contract as the team's franchise player, and he practiced for the first time Wednesday. He reported at 325 pounds, almost 20 pounds below last year, and believes that will offset the fact he's got only four practices to get ready.

    During the offseason, in addition to working out on his own, Pace largely eliminated fried foods from his diet and cut back on his soft drink intake.

    "I feel light years better than I did last year," Pace said. "I feel a lot quicker, a lot fresher. That was one of the elements I dealt with last year, just trying to get the weight down."

    After two workouts, the Rams have been pleasantly surprised by Pace's conditioning.

    "It looks like he's been here all camp, honest to goodness he does," coach Mike Martz said. "No mental errors and he's quick, he's physical.

    "At this time last year he was very sluggish and the conditioning was a factor for him."

    Martz said there's no question Pace will be ready for the opener.

    "If there was any doubt, if he was not in great shape or if he was sloppy and making mistakes out here, you'd have to consider otherwise," Martz said. "But it's clear in my mind, he's looked terrific."

    Pace, the first overall pick of the 1997 draft, has been a holdout in three of his eight seasons. He said there's been no backlash from teammates who went through two-a-days plus four preseason games.

    "Really the bottom line, and what matters most in this locker room, is how the guys feel," Pace said. "And they're happy to see me and they're happy I'm back on the team."

    Pace said a holdout was his only option when the Rams designated him as their franchise player for the second straight season. Now that he's signed the Rams and Pace's agents, the Poston brothers, can negotiate a long-term deal.

    Not that he's holding his breath, considering the sides were far apart the last time they talked.

    "Right now I'm not really focusing on next year," Pace said. "Whatever happens at the end of the season, hopefully I can sign a long-term deal. If not, we'll be sitting here talking about the same thing next year."

    After three holdouts, Pace remains steadfast in support of his high-profile agents. He also said the bottom line is these are his decisions.

    "I always have confidence in the people that represent me," Pace said. "They're professionals in what they...
    -09-09-2004, 04:26 PM
  • RamWraith
    Fans pile on Pace and Postons
    by RamWraith
    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    09/02/2004

    Online Columnist Jeff Gordon

    The Rams went to Oakland without Orlando Pace to play the Raiders. On the advice of his agents, the Poston brothers, the All-Pro left tackle is taking his holdout to the max.

    So the protests from the citizens of Rams Nation continue pouring into the "Letters to Gordo" bin. Here is another sampling:


    * * *

    "Pace has a couple things to gain. He gets to miss training camp. Isaac Bruce has said he doesn't think he needs training camp and wouldn't go if he didn't have to. Pace is living Bruce's dream. Almost everyone agrees that the preseason is too long.

    "And as the franchise player, not showing up for camp is Pace's only bargaining chip. If the Rams want Pace in camp they need to work out a deal with him. That's Pace's only leverage. I know Pace is a big dude but he can't play three positions at once . . . "

    -- Steve Dietrich


    GORDO: Trouble is, he can't bargain for a new deal until he signs the "franchise player" tender. So his holdout almost precludes him from negotiating a long-term deal before this season. It pushes the process back another year and prevents him from banking a signing bonus of, say, $17 million. This tactic didn't work last summer and it isn't likely to work this summer, either.

    As for Pace being but one player, that's true – but he is demanding superstar, team-leading, anchor-of-the-unit dollars. He is the cornerstone of the unit. His absence makes every other player's job harder.


    * * *

    "Most NFL players hate training camp, and when it comes to linemen, they are lazy. If you check most 'holdout' negotiations, they are settled on the last week or two before the start opening of the season. Why? The player works at his own pace and when they arrive, they are still three to four weeks away from 'playing shape.'

    "Don't defend these guys by saying they are working hard on their own. They don't. The prima donnas of the league do what they have to do until the season starts, and they get into shape on the team's time, not their time."

    -- David Carriger, Florence, N.J.


    GORDO: You're right about playing shape. Pace may have skipped some work, but he is putting himself at risk for injury. He also stands to diminish his effectiveness. If this holdout leads to injury or poor play, then he will hurt his negotiating power. He won't set any new records for long-term deals if he scuffles through a sub-par 2004 season.


    * * *

    "Orlando has the worst agent in football. Why doesn`t the press try incessantly to contact Pace, putting pressure on him?"

    -- Warren Bartold


    GORDO:...
    -09-03-2004, 09:11 AM
  • RamWraith
    Pace Enjoying Offseason Work
    by RamWraith
    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Orlando Pace doesn’t remember where he was at this time last year. The one place he knows he wasn’t was Rams Park for the team’s veteran mini-camp.

    “I probably was working out, just hanging out with my kids. I’m not much of a golfer, so I was probably just chillin’ at home,” Pace said.

    For the first time since 2002, the Rams’ All-Pro left tackle is attending the team’s veteran mini-camp. Pace missed each of the past two mini-camps because of a contract stalemate.

    Armed with a new seven-year, $52.9 million deal and the title of team captain, Pace seems rejuvenated. Soon after signing the long-term contract, Pace received a call from coach Mike Martz telling him that he was going to be a captain.

    The decision to make Pace a captain was easy for Martz.

    “Just the tempo of which he does things, he is just a great role model for the entire offensive line,” Martz said. “We have some guys that are first-time starters and first-time here. He’s a terrific role model (for them).”

    Pace’s long and winding road from the first pick in the 1997 draft to six-time Pro Bowler has brought many achievements, but he has never been a team captain before. Pace left Ohio State a year early after winning the Lombardi Trophy as the best offensive lineman two years in a row. Because of his early departure, Pace never led the Buckeyes, as Ohio State reserves that honor for seniors.

    Of course, Pace was not a captain in recent seasons because he wasn’t around. Without a long-term deal in place, the Rams placed the franchise tag on Pace in each of the past three seasons.

    The past two years, Pace has not attended any of the mini-camps or training camps because of the franchise tag. In his efforts to get a long-term contract done, he chose to stay away.

    The time missed didn’t hurt Pace’s performance much, as he still made the Pro Bowl both years. There was, however, a noticeable difference in Pace’s performance last season. Pace admitted on the day he signed his contract that he didn’t play up to his all-world potential last year and an offseason of normal training would probably rectify that.

    Now, Pace knows he has a chance to be at his absolute best next year, a scary thought for opposing defenses.

    “I think sometimes what gets lost in holding out is you don’t have a chance to work on your game as much,” Pace said. “I think just being here in the offseason gives you a chance to work on your game and really try to hone your skills.”

    Last season was particularly difficult for Pace, not only because of his uncertain contract status, but also because of the revolving door next to him at left guard and on the other end at right tackle.

    Both of those problems seem to be solved, though, as St. Louis signed Rex Tucker to operate next to Pace...
    -06-04-2005, 03:35 PM
  • RamWraith
    Where's Pace-SI
    by RamWraith
    ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Now that the curtain has fallen on right tackle Kyle Turley's season before it even began, Grant Williams and the rest of the St. Louis Rams' offensive line could find solace Monday in at least one thing: One huge distraction down, one more to go.

    In a preseason that has resembled a soap opera in terms of the Rams' blockers, the nagging question now is when, and if, five-time All-Pro left tackle Orlando Pace will end his holdout, perhaps even in time for the Rams' preseason finale Thursday at Oakland.

    Stay tuned.

    "Just from a team standpoint, it'd be nice to get what looks like would be the starting five out there for a quarter or a half against Oakland, just get some time together as a unit before we go into the season," Williams said Monday, two days after the Rams placed Turley on injured reserve because of his ailing back.

    Turley, among the NFL's steadiest linemen throughout his six seasons, started every game in 2003 after joining the Rams in an offseason trade with New Orleans.

    But when he reinjured his surgically repaired back in late July and left training camp Aug. 1 to visit doctors, coach Mike Martz _ already dealing with the no-show Pace -- had to piece together an offensive line, even luring veterans Chris Dishman and Tom Nutten out of retirement.

    Martz waited for word from Turley on the prognosis about his back. Then on Saturday -- a day after the Rams' offensive line held the Washington Redskins at bay in a 28-3 preseason victory -- Martz finally declared Turley's season was history.

    "I talked to Kyle today, and he was very vague about his plans," Martz said. When quizzed about the significance of losing Turley, he added without elaborating: "I'm happy with the guys we have."

    Turley's agent, Tom Condon, did not return telephone messages left Monday. Messages also were left with Pace's agent, Carl Poston.

    So it goes in what a Rams staffer quipped Monday was the latest in "As the World Turns," with Williams -- a nine-year veteran filling in for Pace -- perhaps playing Turley's role if Pace agrees to a one-year tender offer as the team's designated franchise player and returns.

    "It'll be nice when he reports," said Dishman, a 350-pound guard nursing a right ankle he rolled in the first quarter against the Redskins, though he went on to play the entire game. "It'd be nice to get some work in with him. But his thing is his thing, and when he comes in he comes in."

    Williams' advice to Pace: Get back sooner rather than later, certainly before the Rams' Sept. 12 opener at home against Arizona.

    "I know if I was in that situation I would want to play in the last preseason game and get ready for the season," Williams said, convinced Pace would benefit from getting some reps -- and...
    -08-30-2004, 03:07 PM
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