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Offseason Program Pushes Rams Forward

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  • Offseason Program Pushes Rams Forward

    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.”
    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 workout. That can include chest, arms, shoulder, neck and core body exercises.
    On Tuesday, the players work the lower body, doing a variety of leg lifts that hit on all parts of the leg and foot.
    On Wednesday, the heavy lifting is set aside and the team does what is called a “functional” day. On that day, the team heads to the indoor field and do functional movements like ankle stability, joint stability, hips, shoulders and stretching.
    Thursday is the final workout day of the week and a little of everything from the previous three days is incorporated to that day.
    “We stuck mostly to what we did last year,” Spagnuolo said. “We kept that mold because I thought it worked out pretty good. And I think Rock and Chuck do a great job with the players. We haven’t had has much football intertwined, not as much team installation in these offseason period because we have OTAs coming up and we didn’t want to burn them out. There has been a lot of individual football and a lot of weightlifting and conditioning.”
    Of course, it wouldn’t be a Rams program, if there wasn’t room for innovation and creativity.
    Most athletes are always on the lookout for something that can break up the monotony of the usual weight room and football field workouts.
    And though MMAthletics offers just that for players in search of an edge, it actually provides training techniques that are old school in practice.
    The Rams received their introduction to the ways MMA fight training can translate to the football field as Fox Sports football reporter Jay Glazer and MMA star Jay Hieron have brought their unique workouts to the Russell Training Center.
    “More than the average guy I already appreciate the discipline, toughness and technique that goes into what they do,” end Chris Long said. “When you play a sport with a lot of technique, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know you have to learn every detail of your sport. This has exceeded my expectations.”
    Glazer and Hieron arrived in St. Louis early last week. Hieron, a UFC and Strike Force veteran holds a 19-4 record in the welterweight division and has fought some of the most notable athletes in the sport, including George St. Pierre.
    Glazer and MMA superstar Randy Couture teamed up to develop the company back in 2006 with the idea that many of the hand techniques and requirements to succeed in the fight case can be effective tools on the football field as well.
    Long, who was already in contact with Glazer, contacted some of his teammates and told them about the opportunity that would be available this week.
    After completing their normal football workouts, Long says he and his teammates spent 90 minutes the first day learning the basics.
    “Even the warm-ups are tiring because you are using muscles you don’t normally use,” Long said.
    After that, the players spent about 20 minutes shadow boxing, working their hands, stretching their hips and core with kicks and other exercises.
    Then, the workout really begins as Glazer and Hieron teach various disciplines such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay-Thai, boxing and submission fighting.
    As the week went on, more curious Rams poked their head in and wanted to get involved.
    “It’s good to mix it up,” Long said. “We think Rock and Chuck do a great job and they know athletes are always looking for opportunities to train different ways and mix it up.”
    By the end of the first week, the Rams had to be broken into a variety of groups to accommodate everyone. Each group is given a curriculum based on position
    That curriculum is about teaching ways to attack opponents and ultimately “impose your will” on them, according to Glazer.
    Some of the benefits of the MMA training include loosening up the hips and core of the player, teaching the player to add strength and violence to their moves and teaching them about the importance of leverage.
    “You can bench press 500 pounds but if you can’t move somebody, what good is that?” Glazer said. “It gives them a huge advantage in the game.”
    While the MMA workouts are optional, it’s been a hit with many of the players including tackle Jason Smith, who said he never knew he had a breaking point until he began doing those workouts on top of the workouts he was already doing.
    “It was a way to make something available to them, strictly voluntary,” Spagnuolo said.
    “Some of the guys really jumped on board and they love it. It’s another way to condition, it’s another way to get your body right and anytime you can put something a little different in there to get rid of the monotony of just going in the weight room and getting out on the field and running, I think is good.”
    As much as anything, Spagnuolo hates being stagnant. He is constantly moving and looking ahead to the next thing.
    In the next couple of weeks, the Rams will finally get the opportunity to move out of the offseason conditioning program and on to the football stuff. That includes 14 Organized Team Activities and a weekend-long minicamp that will feature five more practices.
    With so many players coming off serious injury, it might have been a concern about what type of condition the team would be in when those practices start but with nearly every recovering player, the reports have all come back glowing with many even deemed to be ahead of schedule.
    “(Head athletic trainer) Reggie Scott and his crew in there have done a great job,” Spagnuolo said. “I think overall guys feel like they are ahead of schedule. Everybody wants to get back in. The Roger Allens, the Bradley Fletchers, the Chris Masseys, they want to get back out there.”
    It was no coincidence that those were three of the players invited to Maria’s Café on Monday afternoon.
    Three weeks ago, Gullickson tested the Rams in a bench press contest in which players were divided into three groups according to size. The three players who did the best earned invites to lunch.
    Soon after, there was another test meant to challenge how quickly players could perform a bench press exercise. Three more players earned the right to have lunch served by Spagnuolo, Flajole, Shurmur and McMahon.
    “It’s nice to be rewarded for working hard,” defensive tackle Gary Gibson, who was partial to the meatballs, said. “It was a good reward right in the stomach. We had no idea; Spags dropped it on us last week.”
    It’s the work that’s been done in recent weeks that has Spagnuolo and the rest of the coaching staff excited about what they’ll see.
    “I think the guys are bonding as a team which is what you want in the offseason,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s part of the reason you get them all back here. I think the second time around, the guys all understand what is expected, where we are trying to get to.”
    The next place the Rams are trying to get to is May 18, the first day of the OTAs and the first opportunity for the returning players, the new free agents and the rookie class to come together under the Rams’ banner for workouts.
    And for as much as Spagnuolo enjoyed dishing up food to his players, there’s nothing he likes more than being on a football field doing what he does best.
    “We are itching for it,” Spagnuolo said. “All of us, players, coaches, everybody involved. The game is played on the field. We are anxious to get everybody here, the rookies and the vets and really get a look at what the 2010 team is going to start to look like.”

  • #2
    Re: Offseason Program Pushes Rams Forward

    Great article. Very happy with the results. I would love to see the Rams scrap a couple of wins late in games next year just to show that working hard in the offseason pays off.


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      It is within the confines of that room where football players and football teams are made. It’s where the difference between making the tackle in the fourth quarter and having that extra step for a deep go route can be made.

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      As another offseason training and conditioning program comes and goes, the Rams have seen plenty of change in the way business is done in this room. It’s a change they hope will help translate into bigger, faster, stronger players that will help them do what every team wants to do at this time of year: win more football games.


      Overseeing it all is strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson and his assistant Chuck Faucette.

      When the Rams hired Steve Spagnuolo as head coach in January, they parted ways with former strength coach Dana LeDuc. Like with any other spot on his staff, Spagnuolo carefully scanned the possibilities to run the show in the weight room.

      That search led him to Gullickson, whose name alone could give you a pretty good idea of what he does for an occupation.

      “You just think about that name and what he will bring to the weight room,” cornerback Tye Hill said. “He’s just the Rock.”

      Named after Rocky Marciano, the only undefeated heavyweight champion in boxing history, Gullickson came to St. Louis with quite the resume.

      This season will be Gullickson’s 10th in the NFL. Most recently he was the strength coach at Green Bay from 2006-2008. He was named the NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in 2007 for his work with the Packers. Before Green Bay, he held the same position with the Saints from 2000-2005.

      Gullickson began coaching at Moorhead State, Minnesota, in 1978. He also had stops at Maryville State, North Dakota; Montana State, Rutgers, Texas, and Louisville before going to the NFL.

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    • RamWraith
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      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...
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    • Bralidore(RAMMODE)
      The 2010 Rams are here: Offseason Workouts
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      The School of Rock is back in session.

      After a two-month break from all things football, the Rams re-convened at the Russell Training Center on Monday for the start of the offseason conditioning program under the guidance of strength and conditioning coaches Rock Gullickson and Chuck Faucette.
      For head coach Steve Spagnuolo, having the players back in town signaled new beginnings.

      “It’s now the 2010 St. Louis Rams and it really begins today,” Spagnuolo said.

      Upon their arrival back in St. Louis for the start of the program, the assembled players were broken up into groups pending position and size. But before the dumb bells were touched, Spagnuolo took an opportunity to assemble his team and pass along an important message.

      “Every day has got to be a new day, no matter what,” defensive end Chris Long said. “Coach Spags talks about erasing the past so that’s what we as players kind of have to do whether it was good or bad we have to erase it and go forward. Certainly we can reflect on some of the things we learned but as far as we are concerned we are 0-0 just like every other team.”

      So it was that any memory of the 2009 season was officially wiped away by Spagnuolo and the Rams on Monday morning as they begin anew in preparation for the 2010 season.
      For the better part of the past two and a half months, Rams players went their separate ways. Some went home to be with family and friends. Some took vacations and everyone recharged their battery for the first step toward next season.

      Linebacker James Laurinaitis went on the “Buckeyes Cruise for Cancer,” an annual trip featuring prominent former Ohio State athletes, that raised more than $400,000 for the Stephanie Spielman cancer awareness fund.
      Laurinaitis also got a new dog and spent most of his time working out in Columbus with former Ohio State teammates.

      “I feel kind of useless if I’m not working out or doing something,” Laurinaitis said.

      Receiver Donnie Avery went home to his family and friends in Houston. After taking about a week to clear his mind and rest his body, he set about the task of getting himself into prime shape for what he hopes will be a breakout third season.
      Avery spent his time working out with fellow NFLers such as Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers in the Houston area with the goal of adding weight to his frame.

      In 2009, Avery played at about 184 pounds but says he gave up eating red meat, added more vitamins and chicken to his diet and gained about 14 pounds with an eye toward becoming a more durable player.
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      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.”

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      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.”


      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.

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    • Bralidore(RAMMODE)
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      "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...
      -01-04-2010, 07:44 PM