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  • St. Louis Rams Team Report

    St. Louis Rams Team Report

    On a team where there was monumental turnover from last season, coach Steve Spagnuolo often talked in the offseason about the process of building a roster.
    Still, despite the numerous changes and jettisoning of veterans, there was some optimism that the team could improve from the 2-14 season in 2008. However, everyone knew, even if they wouldn't admit it, that the margin of error was slim, depth could be a factor and everything had to go just right, meaning the avoidance of injuries.

    Unfortunately that didn't happen. One week into training camp, wide receiver Donnie Avery and defensive tackle Adam Carriker were injured in a scrimmage. Avery got off to a slow start and Carriker was lost for the season.

    Quarterback Marc Bulger missed several weeks of training camp with a finger injury, and has missed games with a bruised rotator cuff and is currently out because of tibial plateau fracture in his leg.

    Wide receiver Laurent Robinson was establishing himself as a go-to receiver when he suffered a broken fibula in the third game of the season.

    After Sunday's loss to Seattle, Spagnuolo was asked if the team just isn't talented enough. Said Spagnuolo, "I would never say that because I believe in the guys we have there and we'll keep fighting. In this league, anybody can beat anybody on any given Sunday. Are we banged up? Yeah, but that's no excuse for losing and I don't think our guys would use that as an excuse."

    No, players and coaches normally don't use that excuse, but this is a team more than just "banged up."

    In addition to Carriker and Robinson, starters cornerback Bradley Fletcher, defensive tackle Gary Gibson and wide receiver Keenan Burton are on injured reserve. Burton became the starter after Robinson was injured, while Gibson took Carriker's starting spot.

    Through 11 games, 10 starters had missed a total of 48 games. At least 25 games will be added to that from the five starters on injured reserve.

    In preparations for last week's game against Seattle, five offensive players that opened the season as starters weren't practicing: Bulger, running back Steven Jackson, right tackle Jason Smith, right guard Richie Incognito and Robinson. Fullback Mike Karney was also out.

    The Rams played the Seahawks without a true fullback, and during the game, center Jason Brown suffered a knee injury, leading to an offense that stalled in the first four possessions of the second half.

    Just when some continuity was developing in the line, the departure of Brown resulted in Mark Setterstrom sliding from right guard to center and John Greco entering the game at right guard.

    The Seahawks took advantage, and while the offense came to a grinding halt, Seattle built its halftime lead from 14-10 to 27-10.

    Concluded Setterstrom, "We got into a situation where they could be aggressive. You know, they got ahead of us. But in reality, they weren't really doing anything different than what we had seen on film. They just were doing it more numerous times. ... Our quarterback got hit way too many times. We've got to clean that up."

    SERIES HISTORY: 87th meeting. Bears lead, 49-34-3. The Bears have won the last two games played in 2006 and 2008, both in St. Louis. Prior to that, the Rams won four straight including games in 1998 and 2003 in Chicago. The last Bears win over the Rams in Chicago was in 1996.

    NOTES, QUOTES

    —RB Steven Jackson had some pointed words for Seattle rookie LB Aaron Curry during a radio appearance Monday, the day after the teams played. In the season opener this season, Curry was fined $5,000 on a play for which there was no penalty.

    QB Marc Bulger also got in Curry's face that game for questionable antics.

    After Sunday's game, Curry said of Jackson, "I don't think he likes me. For some reason, half the stuff he says to me I can't remember. I just don't think he likes me. I guess it's the battle for respect and being a rookie; I just don't see myself backing down. The first time I played him he verbally assaulted me, but he's a good dude. I don't know what his intentions are, but I think it's like, who's going to lose their cool first and it isn't going to be me.

    "I respect him as a running back, I respect him for how he runs the ball, but everyone has to understand that we're all grown men out here and nobody's going to back down from any human being. That's just not what I was taught."

    Jackson said of Curry, "Some guys don't know how to be pros and I feel he has not learned that yet. Someone is over there not teaching him what it means to be a pro. It's all right to jaw-jack but unnecessary hits and taking shots at guys that are defenseless, or going after guys because they are high-profile guys and he is trying to make a name for himself, it's not professional."

    During the game, Jackson had words for Curry, and said Monday, "You don't get your name based on that because you're going after another high-profile guy. You get your name and your status because of your work and your play in it. I'm just sitting there jaw-jacking a guy and letting him know that I'm not backing down. It's obvious I'm injured, it's obvious that I haven't practiced all week and if we want to go head-to-head for 60 or 70 plays in a row, I'm willing to do so. I'm not going to back down. I'm going to let him know there's a whole another monster, a whole another level in the NFL and this is not Wake Forest or the ACC."

    Asked if Curry was trying to validate his selection as the fourth overall selection in the draft, Jackson said, "I don't see our rookie, No. 2 pick overall (Jason Smith), going out and doing that. It's easier to make a name in other ways than going out there jaw-jacking and trying to draw attention to yourself. It's a professional game and this is a livelihood and I don't intentionally go out there and trying to — I'm a pro about it. I would hope that he learns that."

    —For the second straight week, the Rams will have just two healthy quarterbacks available to play: starter Kyle Boller and rookie Keith Null. A sixth-round pick from West Texas A&M, Null's initial time with the team was spent getting accustomed to taking snaps from center since his college days were spent in the spread offense.

    Said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, "You're seeing more and more college quarterbacks that are coming from systems where they're exclusively in the shotgun. So the fundamentals of taking a snap, dropping back and throwing really was the first challenge."

    Of his frequent work with quarterbacks coach Richard Curl, Null said, "He was constantly working me with getting my feet set and getting back fast enough, all the drop stuff. I wouldn't say I'm there yet, but I'm a lot closer than I was."

    As for the speed of the game, and having played some in the preseason, Null said, "It was a challenge at the beginning. I think that I've gotten a pretty good feel for it, although I haven't been thrown into the fire yet."

    He believes he's ready if needed. "If they call on me, I'll be ready," Null said.

    Shurmur likes what he's seen from Null. "He's a natural thrower, he's got great skill and ability, and he's working extremely hard." Shurmur said. "I think he's got a lot of the attributes you're looking for in a quarterback."

    BY THE NUMBERS: 7 — Number of turnovers by QB Kyle Boller in 14 quarters of play this season. Four of the turnovers were returned for touchdowns, and two of the other three came in the red zone. The other was from the opponent's (Seattle) 23-yard line and came on a pass into the end zone.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "You never know if they're ready until you put them out there and see. He's done everything we've asked him, being a third-string quarterback. He's in tune, I know that, with everything that's going on." — Coach Steve Spagnuolo on rookie QB Keith Null.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    PLAYER NOTES

    —OT Jason Smith did not practice Wednesday and has yet to take another neurological exam that is necessary to clear him for practice and games. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Smith won't take the test again "until he feels better," basically saying he couldn't pass the test at this time.

    —RG Richie Incognito returned to practice Wednesday after missing four games because of a foot injury suffered against Indianapolis on Oct. 25. Officially listed as limited on the injury report, Incognito took most of the reps with the first unit at right guard. Incognito said that barring any setbacks he expects to play Sunday against Chicago.

    —RB Steven Jackson did not practice Wednesday, but could some time on the field Thursday or Friday.

    —FB Mike Karney did not practice Wednesday although coach Steve Spagnuolo said he is feeling better this week, "but we are talking about the neck so you have to be careful."

    —C Jason Brown missed what he says was the first practice of his college or pro career. Brown injured his right knee late in the second quarter of Sunday's game against Seattle. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said it's possible Brown would practice Thursday. "He wanted to practice," Spagnuolo said. "But the doctors felt it was wise to tread lightly today." Brown rode the exercise bike during practice wearing his helmet.

    —LB James Laurinaitis was reported as limited in practice Wednesday, but he was able to participate in most of the snaps. "He's battling issues with both shoulders," coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "but that's pretty normal for a MIKE linebacker."

    GAME PLAN: The Rams hope to have C Jason Brown back Sunday to continue the stability being built on the offensive line. The Rams couldn't handle the Seahawks pressure in the second half Sunday after Brown was injured, necessitating two changes in the line. With Brown back, depending on RB Steven Jackson's health, they should be able to move the ball on the Bears.

    Defensively, the Rams have actually been solid against top quarterbacks this season, and they will have another challenge against Jay Cutler. Stopping the run has been an issue, but the Bears have not run the ball effectively this season. Surely, they will try to change that this week.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams DLE Leonard Little vs. Bears RT Chris Williams/Kevin Shaffer. Cutler has been sacked 24 times and thrown 20 interceptions this season. Williams will be trying to keep the still-speedy Little away from his quarterback, although he might end up at left tackle with Orlando Pace bothered by a groin injury. If Williams moves, Kevin Shaffer will be the right tackle.

    Rams RB Steven Jackson vs. Bears run defense. The Bears have allowed 125.6 yards rushing per game and 4.3 per attempt, so they will be hard-pressed to contain Jackson. A big key will be how healthy Jackson is after playing last week with a sore back, but still rushing for 89 yards.

    INJURY IMPACT: RG Richie Incognito expects to return to the lineup after missing four games, while RT Jason Smith seems unlikely to play this week as he continues to experience post-concussion symptoms. More will probably be known Thursday regarding the potential availability of center Jason Brown (knee).
    :ramlogo:

  • #2
    Re: St. Louis Rams Team Report

    RB Steven Jackson had some pointed words for Seattle rookie LB Aaron Curry during a radio appearance Monday, the day after the teams played. In the season opener this season, Curry was fined $5,000 on a play for which there was no penalty.

    QB Marc Bulger also got in Curry's face that game for questionable antics.
    Curry doing alot of barking for someone who has not done alot.
    :ramlogo:

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      Although he was drafted 3½ years ago, James Wyche would be seeing action in just his third NFL regular-season game if the Rams decide to suit him up Sunday at Arizona.

      A seventh-round pick by Jacksonville in 2006, Wyche spent most of his rookie year on the practice squad. The 6-foot-5, 279-pound defensive end from Syracuse then missed all of the next two seasons, with a groin injury in 2007 and a torn Achilles' tendon in '08.

      The Achilles' tear "is about the worst injury an athlete can have," said Wyche, 27. "But I've bounced back from there. I'm getting my leg stronger."

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      "I've got a good jump on the plays already," Wyche said. "If they have to throw me in there on Sunday, I'm ready."

      Eager, in fact, to start proving himself to his new team.

      "Going out there, showing talent and making plays, that's what it's all about," Wyche said. "It's always good to get a new start."

      LONG ON LEFT SIDE

      Little's absence also has provided Chris Long with extended time on the left side. Normally, Long lines up at right defensive end, his position during most of his college career at Virginia.

      "I think I can do different things from different sides," Long said. "I've got some getting-used-to to do on the left side, but I feel good over there."

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      "There is a big difference," Long said. "Right tackles tend to be a little bit less athletic, more maulers. So, that can serve well on pass rush."

      NO QB DECISION

      Even on Christmas Day, with only two reporters in attendance for the 90-minute practice, coach Steve Spagnuolo was handing out no holiday treats — at least when the subject was his starting quarterback vs. the Cardinals.

      "I've talked with both quarterbacks, and I'm going to let them know as soon as I know," he said. "But I'm not going to make any decision right now."

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    • r8rh8rmike
      Rams Facing Big Shortage
      by r8rh8rmike
      Rams facing big shortage
      BY BILL COATS
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
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      Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo cringed when considering the possibility that five of his 11 starters on offense could be watching from the sideline Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

      "Well, when you list it like that ... " Spagnuolo said before reverting quickly to the company line.

      "In this league, you've got to step in there and play," he said. "All teams have injuries. We just line up and play the game."

      Still, the Rams' odds of knocking off Seattle certainly would be enhanced if quarterback Marc Bulger (leg), guard Richie Incognito (foot), running back Steven Jackson (back spasms), fullback Mike Karney (neck) and tackle Jason Smith (concussion) were on the field for the noon kickoff.
      Bulger and Smith definitely won't suit up. Kyle Boller takes over for Bulger with the first team. Adam Goldberg slides from right guard into Smith's spot at right tackle, with Mark Setterstrom expected to move in at right guard.

      Setterstrom, who hasn't started a game since the third week of the 2007 season, had "a solid week" of practice with the first team, Spagnuolo reported.

      Incognito, Jackson and Karney were listed as questionable on Friday's injury report. In NFL parlance, that means they have a 50-50 chance of playing.

      Jackson, the NFL's second-leading rusher, missed a third consecutive day of practice, although he did some individual work with the trainers on the sideline. Spagnuolo said he hoped to reach a decision on Jackson's availability today but conceded he might wait until Sunday morning.

      "I trust Steven and what he can tell me. I think he'll be truthful," Spagnuolo said. "The competitive juices come out. But I think he's been in the league long enough that he knows he doesn't want to hurt the team, yet he wants to be out there to help the team."

      Spagnuolo indicated that despite missing the entire week of practice, Jackson could step in on game day without a glitch. Jackson, who said earlier in the week that he expected to play Sunday, was unavailable to reporters Friday.

      If Jackson were unable to play, Kenneth Darby and Samkon Gado would be the primary ball-carriers. Rookie Chris Ogbonnaya, a seventh-round draftee who has spent the season on the practice squad, could be promoted to the 45-man game-day roster.

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    • eldfan
      St. Louis Rams Team Report
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      New Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo promised his team the first few days of training camp would be "a bear," and while the weather wasn't too hot and the two-a-days had just one practice each day in full pads, the intensity was high as well as the hitting.
      During the first two morning practices, the ones in full pads, there were about 30 plays with live tackling.

      After the first day, Spagnuolo said, "We need to find out quickly - you've got to remember again it's a whole new staff and a lot of unknowns - really the only way to find out is to put them in those kind of situations. As we go along here every day we will decide how many of those periods will be live. It was really two periods and about 30 plays of live."

      When questioned further by the media, Spagnuolo winked and said, "Do you think it was tough? I didn't think it was that tough. It was physical."

      Of course, Spagnuolo did admit to something else: "I'm doing this every time. I've got my hands behind my back (crossing fingers)."

      Said linebacker Will Witherspoon, "Usually you don't go live that first day of pads but it's good. You really want to get the feel of hitting again, striking guys again. That was kind of the key point of it and getting the feel of hitting through a guy. It was great. I think it was good for everybody to come out here and just get moving and get in the momentum of the game."

      Added cornerback Ron Bartell, "One thing I have learned over the years is that it's a lot easier to be hard on guys and then kind of back off than it is to be light and try to get hard on guys again. I think he knows what he's doing. He knows when to let up. Right now, it's day two so I think we'll be fine."

      The hitting even included running back Steven Jackson.

      "He's got to get hit, everybody else has got to get hit," linebacker Chris Draft said. "We have got to get ready too. Right now, that's what we have. We have our chance to get out here, run to the ball and be able to tackle the ball. It doesn't matter who has it."

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    • eldfan
      Rams Team Report
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      Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo didn't realize the half of it when he reported Monday that quarterback Marc Bulger was "pretty banged up."
      Spagnuolo went on to describe how Bulger had had an MRI in the morning for a hamstring/groin problem, would have baseline testing Tuesday for a potential concussion and would be having another MRI in late afternoon because of some swelling in his knee.

      That left leg MRI revealed that Bulger had a tibial plateau fracture, and he will miss anywhere from three to six weeks. The previous week, it was reported that Bulger had banged his knees, and since no one is able to pinpoint when the fracture occurred, it's possible it might have happened Nov. 15 against the Saints.

      A tibial plateau fracture occurs on the top surface of the tibia or shin bone where it meets the knee. The injury can be more serious if there is displacement or if it affects the middle of the knee or on the inside because of the weight-bearing nature of the bone. The size of the fracture is also important.

      Spagnuolo described the injury as "a hairline fracture" and said it is likely that the injury is to the lateral or outside part of the knee. It isn't out of the question that Bulger could be OK to play in three weeks.

      It appears the Rams' plan is not to place Bulger on injured reserve, even though the team is currently 1-9. Kyle Boller will start Sunday against Seattle, with rookie sixth-round pick Keith Null the backup.

      For this week, the apparent plan is to go with two quarterbacks. If another quarterback is added after this week, it likely would be Brock Berlin, who was with the team in training camp.

      There are also questions about whether Null will be provided an opportunity to play at some point. Bulger's salary is scheduled to be $8.5 million in 2010, and he would count $10.5 million if there is a salary cap next year.

      NOTES, QUOTES

      —In his third game for the Rams, wide receiver Brandon Gibson was targeted on 17 Marc Bulger passes, catching five for 61 yards. Afterward, the focus was more on the missed connections than the receptions.

      Asked about miscommunication on a couple of plays, Bulger said, "Yeah, there was more than a couple. I think that's going to happen with a young receiver. I'm not going to put it on him. It's just a matter of us working together. The more time we spend together, the more on the same page we will be."

      Gibson agreed, saying, "My biggest thing is not leaving plays on the field, and that's what I did today. I'm frustrated at myself because I know I can play at a high level. I think we've just got to get on the same page, me and Marc.

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      -11-25-2009, 09:26 AM
    • eldfan
      Rams Report
      by eldfan
      USA TODAY

      During the 2010 season, Rams running back Steven Jackson spoke often about how important it was for the offensive line in front of him to have continuity.
      It is something the Rams' line has rarely had over the last decade. When it has, the result has been obvious. Even last season, though the Rams had a losing record, there was still improvement from the year before.

      The five players on the line started all but one game the entire season. From 1999-2001, when the Rams had a cumulative regular-season record of 37-11, the opening-day starters on the line missed a total of seven starts in three seasons.

      In 2002, there were several injuries on the line, and the record slipped to 7-9. It went back to 12-4 the next season when the all five linemen started every game.

      Of course, the biggest disaster for the Rams was 2007. Coming off an 8-8 season in 2006, there was optimism heading into the next year. Jackson had led the NFL in combined yards from scrimmage. Quarterback Marc Bulger passed for over 4,000 yards, while receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce each went over 1,000.

      But the attrition in the line in '07 started in training camp and extended into the first few weeks of the season. The casualties were Orlando Pace, Mark Setterstrom, Richie Incognito, Todd Steussie and Adam Goldberg, all by the fourth week of the season.

      By the end of the season, 13 different players had started games on the line at 18 different positions. Bulger was beat up like a rag doll, and the record was 3-13. He really never recovered.

      Now, the shuffling will likely be happening again on the line. Right tackle Jason Smith has already missed four games because of post-concussion symptoms and appears headed to injured reserve. Left tackle Rodger Saffold tore a pectoral muscle lifting weights last Friday and is done for the year.

      His replacement, Mark LeVoir, suffered a pectoral injury against Seattle that won't require surgery but will keep him on the sideline for at least two games and maybe four. Rookie Kevin Hughes replaced LeVoir in that game, and the Rams signed tackle Thomas Welch off the Buffalo practice squad this week, but neither is expected to start.

      The Rams are expected to play their best five guys, even if it means moving a guard to tackle. Both Jacob Bell and Harvey Dahl have played some tackle in their career, although it hasn't been for a while. Goldberg has also played left tackle in the past, and Jason Brown, who was benched two games ago at center, has played guard. Some NFL personnel people have thought Brown might be a better guard than center anyway.

      Also keep in mind that four of the Rams' final six games will be played against teams (Arizona, San Francisco twice and Pittsburgh) that play 3-4 defenses.

      Brown said he's not sure what the line will look like Sunday because he expects...
      -11-24-2011, 06:32 PM
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