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  • Rams Learn Lessons for Future

    "For 16 weeks this year, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has had a laser-like focus on one thing and one thing only: the next game.
    That tunnel vision trickled down from Spagnuolo to the rest of the team and any discussion of something beyond the next contest was immediately dismissed upon mention.
    When Spagnuolo woke up Monday morning, though, he was left with the sobering realization that there won’t be another game to plan for until the start of the 2010 season, months and months away.
    “I wish we were getting ready to play another game,” Spagnuolo said. “I just want to play another game. When you lose, you crave and you hunger for the next opportunity to win. I talked about this a lot during the year. There’s nothing like being in a locker room of an NFL team after winning just because of everything that goes into it during the week and what the guys do together, just the craving for that feeling. Unfortunately, we will have to wait however many months that is to get that feeling again.”
    So it is that Spagnuolo and the rest of the Rams have already turned the page on the 2009 season and begun their preparations for the next step. Those steps include preparing for the start of the free agent period, scouting and evaluating college prospects and then making the first selection in the 2010 NFL Draft.
    But before any of that can happen, the Rams will review what happened in 2009 and glean as many lessons as possible from what happened to improve their performance on the field in 2010.
    To each man in the Rams’ locker room, those lessons were different but the overlying theme remains the same.
    “Through all of the adversity we went through, unless I am missing something, the team, there wasn’t anybody jumping ship, pointing fingers, going off the deep end and that is a credit to them,” Spagnuolo said. “To me, that is the biggest thing.”
    Indeed, through the difficulties that inherently come with a 1-15 season, it would have been easy for any player or coach to go off the reservation and explode be it in the media, on the field or anywhere else.
    Beyond that, though, even when the chips were down and the Rams were long-since removed from contention for the postseason, the team continued to fight and battle as though it were in the thick of the race for the playoffs.
    While simply having a good attitude and remaining competitive when it’s tough won’t win you any games it is certainly a big part of the fabric of successful teams.
    “I learned something about the guys on this team,” defensive end Chris Long said. “We don’t have any quitters. You see it every week on television. You watch teams and things aren’t going well and people quit sometimes. I don’t feel like we quit. We have to get the football ironed out. That’s execution and stuff like that but I don’t fault anybody for their heart or their intensity or their optimistic attitude going into every game.”
    From the moment Spagnuolo took the job, one of his first missions was to build a team. It’s a task that comes with very little in the way of tangible evidence aside from wins. The process of building a team from the ground up can be long and painstaking.
    At the midway point of the season, Spagnuolo said he believed the effort and attitude of his team was perhaps the best way to judge how that process was coming along.
    By the end of the year, Spagnuolo and the rest of the team believe that at the very least that foundation has been put in place moving forward.
    “I knew it wouldn’t be an overnight thing,” cornerback Ron Bartell said. “I got into it for the long haul so I knew it would take time. We haven’t been right the last couple of years so I wasn’t looking for overnight success so I signed a long term deal. I am here for the long haul. We still have the right people in place. I totally and firmly believe that. I think I made the best decision for me and I still think we can turn this thing around.”
    Of course, sometimes the best lessons learned can be the ones where you learn about what you need to learn next.
    In 2009, the Rams played seven games where the final score came was within a single possession (eight points or less) when time expired. In numerous other games, the Rams were able to battle for a half or three quarters at a time but were unable to close the deal.
    Along the way, the Rams won just one of those close games but they got a first hand look at what it takes and what the next step is in finding a way to turn those losses into victories.
    “We have got to learn how to win in the fourth quarter,” defensive tackle Clifton Ryan said. “At the eight minute mark of the fourth quarter yesterday it was 7-6 and we just collapsed. That has been kind of our M.O. throughout the season. Once we learn to do that, we will win games. We will beat the Saints and guys like that we have played so tough this season. Until we learn to do that and mature during the course of the season, things won’t happen like that.”
    The lessons to be gleaned from this season go beyond the locker room, too. For the decision makers at the Russell Training Center, entering this offseason will be a much different process than a year ago at this time.
    Last January, general manager Billy Devaney was faced with the monumental task of finding a new coach, bringing a coaching staff together, finding a contract negotiator, evaluating and scouting college talent, evaluating, courting and signing free agents and then going through a NFL Draft.
    This time around, the focus can be exclusive to upgrading the talent. The next step is to evaluate the players already on the roster and determine what the most pressing needs are.
    Last year at this time, the types of players being looked at had to be adjusted to the new coaching staff to fit the new schemes. Now, the coaching staff is in place and has learned all that needs to be learned about the guys already in place.
    “It’s been great being around these kids the whole year,” Devaney said. “They have been positive, their attitudes have been great. I think that’s what we take more than anything from this season, the kind of guys we have brought in, the guys here that we held over. It’s been a fun, good group to be around. It’s different today with them out of the building. Especially a season like this one, it’s like ‘Thank God the year is over.’ But there are guys that just can’t wait to get going. We don’t need any down time to catch our breath. We want to get going as soon as possible.”
    As the players cleaned out their lockers and parted ways until the offseason conditioning program begins on March 15, they said their goodbyes knowing that there will be more changes made to the roster.
    Spagnuolo made it a point to meet with nearly all of the guys on the team with specific instructions and words for the each of them.
    And then everyone went their separate ways until the process starts all over again in March. When that reunion happens, the most important lesson of all must be implemented.
    “I think for anyone that returns back next year, you just can’t let that happen again,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “I hope the guys on this team don’t get used to this feeling. Don’t forget it, but don’t get used to it, either. It’s all about going forward and turning this thing around and doing whatever it takes in the offseason to turn this around.”"--Courtesy of Nick Wagoner, St. Louis Rams.com

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  • Alec22
    Rams Staying the Course
    by Alec22
    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    By his own admission Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo can often have the sound of a broken record.

    Each week, win or lose, rain or snow, no matter the circumstance, Spagnuolo squares his jaw, focuses on the task at hand and approaches every game the same way.

    More than halfway into his rookie season as a head coach, Spagnuolo has never strayed from the team-first ethos he installed from the day he arrived in St. Louis way back in January.

    In the face of plenty of adversity, Spagnuolo has uttered nary a discouraging word and anyone looking for a full-throated, raging outburst should look elsewhere. And a little prosperity hasn’t had the opposite effect, either as Spagnuolo hasn’t come close to any type of braggadocio.

    “I have had my moments (of frustration),” Spagnuolo said. “But I think there’s a professional way to do it. I think everybody in this business should be respected for the jobs they have. I think any business is about respecting each other. I don’t see any reason to go off the cuff. I keep that to myself. Part of what we talk about as a team is being a poised team. You can’t be a poised team if the head coach isn’t poised.”

    Regardless of the record, if there’s one thing that has remained constant in this first year under Spagnuolo’s guidance it’s his and his team’s uncanny knack to remain unfazed by any possible distractions.

    Spagnuolo’s message reaches to the team, too. There have been no locker room or sideline blowups, only players staying relentlessly positive and focusing on the single goal of coming together as a team with the sole focus of finding ways to win football games.

    “Being a guy who has been here with the Rams now going for five years,” safety Oshiomogho Atogwe said. “Some of the younger guys and some of the vets need to see loyalty and faithfulness from the guys that have already been here and that’s going to carry over throughout the locker room so you just build a team that is really focused on one goal and one purpose and being one.”

    BUYING IN

    At Spagnuolo’s initial news conference when he was introduced as the head coach, he made it clear the way he and general manager Billy Devaney wanted to build the team back into a winner.

    Topping the list was finding a way to build a team that was all about team. A team that would fill the locker room with players that care as much about the guy next to them as they do themselves.

    Spagnuolo put the Rams through a rigorous training camp that had them tackling in full pads from day one and continued to put the emphasis on building the team concept every day.

    It was easy enough for the players to buy into the system then because they knew Spagnuolo’s impressive resume coming from winning programs in Philadelphia and New York.

    “I think...
    -11-04-2009, 12:32 PM
  • RamWraith
    Rams Turn Toward Minicamp, Draft
    by RamWraith
    Friday, March 27, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    With April and the NFL Draft closing fast, the Rams are turning their attention away from free agency and the events of March and toward the annual selection process.

    But before getting in to all of that, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and his coaching staff is about to get its first look at the players already on the roster on a real, actual football field.

    That has been a long time coming for Spagnuolo, who after he was hired on Jan. 17. The Rams are less than a week away from the first of three minicamps with Spagnuolo at the helm.

    The first opportunity comes Thursday when the team opens a three day minicamp that will involve all of the players currently on the roster.

    Although it won’t be the best way to determine what he has, it will give Spagnuolo and staff the opportunity to see players up close in a semi-competitive environment.

    “I still think and I truly believe this – to me I really kind of hold any kind of judgment until you can actually get on the field and work with them,” Spagnuolo said at last month’s scouting combine. “That’s the true tell. I will take it even further, even though we are about to go through the mini camps and the OTAs, you can learn a certain amount of things in those practices but let’s remember the game is played with pads on and it’s a violent game so you can’t really make those decisions until then. This is a long process and we just take it step by step and draw our conclusions at the end of it.”

    The first step in building the team – or as Spagnuolo likes to call it “laying the foundation” began about two weeks ago when the team kicked off its offseason conditioning program.

    Attendance at those sessions has been almost perfect with the lone exceptions of running back Steven Jackson (who was excused the first few days for the birth of his child) and receiver Derek Stanley (who is still recovering from a serious knee injury). Jackson returned last week and participated in every workouts since.

    The Rams have been hard at work in the weight room and conditioning for most of the past two weeks before wrapping it up for a little bit yesterday. The team is off until they are required to return to town for the minicamp next Wednesday.

    With a new staff in place, players got a crash course in the new way of doing things under Spagnuolo, including a more free-weight, core body emphasis in the weight room courtesy of new strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson.

    “The first couple of days you could see a change in his approach,” cornerback Ron Bartell said. “Overall, I think guys are just really excited. You can’t get overly excited yet because the season’s so far away, but guys really have something to look forward to this year. Guys have different reasons and there are certain things...
    -03-28-2009, 05:15 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Keep Effort Up
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams Keep Effort Up
    Monday, December 21, 2009


    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    As the ball came shooting out of the hands of Houston running back Arian Foster following a 13-yard catch and run, the eyes of rookie Rams defensive tackle Darell Scott immediately got large.

    It was as though Scott was about to sit down to a big meal, which, coincidentally, was something he’d been physically unable to do even had he wanted to in the days leading up to Sunday’s 16-13 loss to the Texans.

    Scott reacted immediately and hauled all of his 6’3, 312 pound frame as fast as it could go from near the line of scrimmage the 20 or so yards required to pounce on the ball.

    Ultimately, Scott fell on it at the Rams’ 8 but the fact that Scott was well enough to chase it down at all was nothing short of a testament to the effort these Rams are still putting in despite the 1-13 record attached to their name.

    “You talk about an effort play from a game that I don’t know if he even ate anything the three days before it,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “That was a pretty good indicator of what those guys have inside of them.”

    Effort doesn’t amount to a whole heck of a lot in the NFL. In fact, it’s probably the minimum requirement for what it takes to win an NFL game. Most teams that find themselves playing into January start with effort as the baseline and build from there.

    As with most things in life, when something goes wrong, the easy thing to do is give up, regardless of how well compensated you are or whatever prestige might go with a particular endeavor.

    For the Rams, that opportunity to call it a day has presented itself time and again this season. Yet, for many reasons, they have refused to pack it in and go quietly into the offseason.

    “That’s what I expressed to them in the locker room,” Spagnuolo said. “That means a great deal to me, the staff. I know it’s not easy especially for the vets. It’s not an easy thing to go through, not for any of us and yet they are able to dust themselves off, come back to work on Wednesday and get ready to play a game.”

    While that hard work and effort has amounted to just one win and a whole lot of respect from Spagnuolo for the players, those efforts aren’t going completely unnoticed around the world of football.

    To wit:

    CBS analyst and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher on the Rams: “The Rams are playing hard every week, and that is a reflection of their coach. I've been watching film on them and they are playing hard. As coaches, we are judged on wins and losses, but at this time of year, you're tired and beat up, and if a team is still putting out a good effort it's a tribute to their coach.”

    Or this excerpt from Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in his Monday Morning Quarterback column on cnnsi.com: “I love...
    -12-22-2009, 07:23 PM
  • eldfan
    Rams Building Recipe for Late Season Success
    by eldfan
    Rams Building Recipe for Late Season Success
    By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer



    As one of the people in the Rams locker room with experience playing big games in December, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo knows plenty about what it takes not only to play in those contests but also what it takes to win them.

    And though the recipe for late season, playoff push success doesn’t require anyone to re-invent the wheel, it’s a recipe that not every team has.

    While Spagnuolo’s 2010 Rams are still putting all of those ingredients together, Sunday’s 19-6 win against the Cardinals in Arizona gave his team an idea of what it’s going to take down the stretch to reach the postseason.

    In a locker room that following wins has been alternately joyous, boisterous and downright giddy, the feeling after Sunday’s victory was much more businesslike and blue collar.

    “That’s a good sign,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s how it should be. Because as soon as you wake up the next day it’s on to the next one. That’s what this business is all about. You get too wrapped up in yesterday you miss out on today’s opportunity so the players have been good like that to their credit. That’s a big time compliment for this team.”

    Following Sunday’s win and all of the action that took place around the league on Sunday, the Rams remain in a tie for first place with Seattle at 6-6 and riding a two-game road winning streak heading into a difficult matchup this weekend at New Orleans.

    There’s no doubting that taking on the Saints will be a tall order, especially at the Superdome, but Spagnuolo believes that if you look closer at how his team won against the Cardinals, you can see the signs of a team that understands what it takes to win those types of games against good teams.

    Almost from the day he was named head coach, Spagnuolo has emphasized the fundamentals of the game and doing all of the little things necessary to get wins. That means limiting penalties, winning the turnover battle, converting on third down on offense and getting off the field on third down on defense.

    In Sunday’s win, all of those details broke the Rams way. They were penalized just twice for 15 yards. They turned the ball over just once and came up with a pair of takeaways. They converted six-of-17 on third down and held the Cardinals to just one third-down conversion in 11 tries.

    “We do always talk about winning the turnover ratio and protecting the football, especially at this time of year,” Spagnuolo said. “But I am probably most proud of the football team if the lack of penalties is a reflection of disciplined football that’s a good thing. Smart, tough football, when you play it together usually you have got a chance to win some football games.”

    Those are some of the more tangible elements needed to win, especially late in the season but there are...
    -12-07-2010, 02:11 PM
  • Bralidore(RAMMODE)
    Offseason Program Pushes Rams Forward
    by Bralidore(RAMMODE)
    Wearing a black “Fahgeddaboutit” kitchen apron Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and coordinators Ken Flajole, Pat Shurmur and Tom McMahon served up a special lunch on Monday afternoon.
    That quartet formed the wait staff for “Maria’s Café,” an impromptu Italian restaurant set up in the back lobby of the Russell Training Center and run by the coach’s wife, head chef Maria Spagnuolo.
    Twelve players were able to partake in the extensive menu, which included meatballs, lasagna, friend chicken, baby back ribs and a variety of other dishes. And though the spirit of the event was done in fun, it was actually a reward for many hours of sweat given over the past couple of months in the team’s offseason conditioning program.
    “I think it’s good for the guys to see the coordinators and head coach serve them,” Steve Spagnuolo said. “That added a little twist to it and I get to see my wife on a Monday. And they can pick on the waiters so it worked out pretty good.”
    COMING TOGETHER
    After a major makeover to their weight room and offseason conditioning program brought on by strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson was a big hit with Rams players last year, the Rams continued to look for ways to build on the bonds formed in last year’s program.
    Technically, the offseason conditioning program – which began on March 15 – is optional. But you’d never know it from the amount of participation the Rams have had during the past month and a half.
    Spagnuolo estimates that the Rams are right in the range of 90 percent participation among the players on the roster, not far off from the number they posted last year. The few that haven’t been around have been working out on their own, have been in and out because of other commitments or recovering from injury.
    “I think it’s been great,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “Guys have been getting in here and working hard and this is a big part of what we do. I’m a big believer in the saying that failure to prepare is preparing to fail. I think everyone has come in and done a great job.”
    Before last year, the Rams’ weight program underwent a major overhaul under Gullickson and assistant strength coach Chuck Faucette. That included a complete revamp of the weight room itself as well as a shift in philosophy.

    In recent seasons, the Rams used a strength and conditioning program that was more geared toward specific movements with less emphasis on strength training and building muscle and bulk.
    Under the new regime, the emphasis has shifted to power lifting. That means more Olympic style lifts such as hang cleans, squats, dead lifts and a variety of heavy presses.
    The average week for a Rams player during the offseason consists of four workout days, each with a specific area to work on.
    Mondays start with a complete upper body...
    -05-11-2010, 06:46 PM
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