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  • Rams set for start of OTAs

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    The silly season is over. As of Tuesday morning, the focus of the National Football League has shifted from the rumors, speculation and innuendo that go with free agency, the draft and the trade market back to the meat and potatoes.

    “The football part of it, being on the field, smelling the grass and having the fields lined and the ball being tossed around and guys being confident in what they are doing,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo on Monday. “And we have guys that were hurt last year that get to resurface so we get to watch them now. It really is the first time together so we get to start molding this all together.”

    For the Rams, it all starts at 10:40 Tuesday morning when the majority of the team will step on the fields at the Russell Training Center for the first Organized Team Activities (OTAs) of the offseason.

    It will be the first of 19 such practices scheduled to take place in the next few weeks, culminating with a final workout on June 17 and a full squad minicamp the previous weekend. For those unfamiliar with the OTA concept, think spring football for college teams or spring training for baseball players.

    Unlike those endeavors, though, OTAs aren’t about practicing at full speed with all of the available equipment.

    In other words, the Rams will not be wearing pads (per league rule) and there will be no full contact periods during the practices.

    Instead, the OTAs provide the players with an opportunity to meet and get to know some of their new teammates as well as begin getting acquainted or re-acquainted with the system and the playbook.

    In the case of the Rams, Spagnuolo expects a departure from what the OTAs were like last year.

    “The very first year it was so much about kind of getting guys to understand how we wanted to practice, the tempo and how fast and the organization of it,” Spagnuolo said. “Because when a whole new staff comes in, the players don’t know what is expected and you feed it to them so you spend a lot of time on the actual organization and operation of practice.”

    In year two of the Spagnuolo era, the tempo has already been set. The bulk of the players on the roster were either in St. Louis last year or have played in a system similar to what is already in place here.

    “Now that we have gotten through that and we have veterans here that know how we operate and do things, I am looking forward to these OTAs being all about getting the football right,” Spagnuolo said. “And by that, I mean if we run a play that isn’t right, we will go back and repeat it. Last year we had to worry more about keeping the tempo of the practice and making sure everybody got a certain number of reps. The practices won’t be as long but we have to make sure we do it right. That will be one of the things we stress.”

    It can also mean the next step in an important series of steps for the players looking to recover from injury. Running back Steven Jackson (back surgery) and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (shoulder surgery) are among those who will not be able to participate as they continue to rehabilitate.

    However, the Rams will have some formerly injured players back in the mix including the likes of offensive tackle Jason Smith, defensive tackle Gary Gibson and receivers Laurent Robinson and Brooks Foster. All of those players will be back at full speed after an offseason of recovery.

    Even players who aren’t fully recovered such as end C.J. Ah You, cornerback Bradley Fletcher and receiver Keenan Burton will be able to do some work on a limited basis as they continue their recoveries from injury.

    The only other player who will not be able to participate is rookie receiver Mardy Gilyard, whose inability to play has nothing to do with an injury.

    According to league rules, a player cannot practice with his team (save for a rookie minicamp allowance) until the graduating class at his school has completed the semester. Because Cincinnati is on the quarters system, Gilyard is not eligible to come to St. Louis until June 16.

    In the meantime, receivers coach Nolan Cromwell will stay in touch with Gilyard and strength coach Rock Gullickson will likely pay a visit to Cincinnati to ensure Gilyard is staying up to speed.

    “What we don’t want to have happen is to come in right on the 16th without having done anything and we go out there and try to get him to stay up to speed with what we are doing and he gets hurt,” Spagnuolo said.

    Of course, Gilyard would have already faced a difficult task in staying up to speed just like the rest of his rookie brethren will upon the start of the practices.

    Spagnuolo says the layout of the offseason is meant to ease the rookies in during the rookie minicamp that was held oat the end of April. There, rookies get the full attention of the coaching staff and can learn along with the rest of the first-year players.

    Upon the start of the organized team activities, that changes.

    “At some point, you have got to throw them in the fire and that’s where they are right now,” Spagnuolo said. “Now they get to go against guys five, six, seven, eight years older than them, real men that have been through it that know it and are not going to wait around for them. Everybody on this football team is hungry to win football games. They can’t wait for a bunch of rookies that aren’t ready to go. They have to get up to speed."

  • #2
    Re: Rams set for start of OTAs

    Got a little tingly reading that. Heeeeeere we go.....

    Just confirms your excellent point in the coaching thread, Maui, that this staff , like the players, should be better this year.Or at least in a better position to be better.

    Sucks about Mardy. But it sounds like that kid is used to working without a net.I hope Fletcher, Burton, & CJ are close. Three promising young guys & injured a long while back.I hope The Rams are just being cautious.

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      Rams Wrap Rookie Mini Camp
      by Azul e Oro
      From Rams site:

      By Nick Wagoner
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      At the conclusion of Sunday’s morning practice, the Rams wrapped up their first and only rookies-exclusive minicamp of 2010.
      And for the first time, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo implemented a new format to the camp similar to ones he’s been a part of in his previous NFL stops.


      This year, the Rams had 67 players in camp and with the exception of six; all were rookies with no NFL experience. That format served two purposes.


      One, it allowed the youngsters to get acclimated to the NFL process on the same playing field without having to play catch-up to the veterans.


      Two, it allowed Spagnuolo and his coaching staff to do what they love most: teach.


      “I thought really, all in all, it really wasn’t all that bad,” Spagnuolo said. “There was a lot of teaching. There was a lot more individual time for that reason. I thought they did a pretty good job.”
      The setup of the camp was a departure from what’s been done in previous years in that the Rams brought in more than 30 “three-day tryout” players.


      Those players were signed from various colleges around the country and brought in for a look-see that could potentially garner them a free agent contract with the team.


      And though most of the coaches would admit that their eyes drifted toward the draft rookies and priority free agents in the early part of camp, they had plenty of opportunities to form opinions on the lesser known tryout players.

      “I have got a feeling that some will,” Spagnuolo said. “We talked a little about it last night. I know they are hopeful. I know we are hopeful. A lot of teams do their mandatory camp this weekend so they have the vets and the rookies in right after the draft. I was exposed to this and kind of liked it. It gives us a chance to maybe find somebody we might not have.”



      Because Spagnuolo wanted the focus to be on developing and identifying skill sets, the Rams didn’t force feed a ton of the playbook on either side.


      Rather, the Rams spent a lot of time working on individual drills with some team stuff mixed in. On Sunday, for example, the Rams did some red zone work to see how the rookies would react in a more intense situation.

      For their part, the players seemed to enjoy the slower learning pace provided by the format though the biggest lesson they learned was that going slow isn’t going to be acceptable when the veterans arrive.
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    • Bralidore(RAMMODE)
      Offseason Program Pushes Rams Forward
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      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.”
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      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.
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    • 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...
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      by eldfan
      St. Louis Rams making progress as team after minicamp

      May 3, 2009 - Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo talks with quarterback Marc Bulger at the end of practice during the Rams' second minicamp. (Chris Lee/P-D)BY JIM THOMAS
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      With the draft behind him, most of the roster shaping complete, and two minicamps under his belt, Steve Spagnuolo is feeling more and more like a football coach these days.

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      Even the veterans are still getting used to Spagnuolo's personality and practice-field demeanor.

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    • r8rh8rmike
      Rams Ready To Heat Up Final Minicamp
      by r8rh8rmike
      Rams Ready to Heat Up Final Minicamp
      Wednesday, June 3, 2009

      By Nick Wagoner
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      Temperatures in St. Louis have been on the rise in recent weeks, culminating in the hottest organized team activity the Rams have had on Tuesday.

      As coach Steve Spagnuolo walked off the field following that work out with his team, he couldn’t help but comment about how hot it was on the field, saying he figured it was a taste of training camp for the Rams.

      While the temperatures on Tuesday soared, they still dangle well below what this summer will provide but if nothing else Spagnuolo is hoping to use the weather to give his players a little taste of what awaits them in training camp during this weekend’s final team minicamp.

      “One thing about the weather being the way it is right now I think it is good that we have back-to-back practices on a particular day,” Spagnuolo said. “Right now there’s just one (practice) a day, which gets us a little bit in the flow of what it will feel like in late July and August. I think in that regard it will be a little cardiovascular. They’ll be able to feel some of the things we’ve tweaked to kind of make it appear that we’re in training camp just with what we’re doing with our practices. Hopefully, it will ease us right into that.”

      In his first offseason as a head coach, Spagnuolo has taken each step with the same like-minded focus of working one event, one day at a time with the ultimate goal off in the distance.

      At the first minicamp back in April, Spagnuolo emphasized the need to see his players in a competitive (though unpadded) environment that would allow he and his coaching staff to see the players in person and make judgments on what was already in place heading toward the NFL Draft.

      The second minicamp that took place at the beginning of May brought about a different intent, this time with the idea of incorporating rookies into the mix while not stunting the growth and learning the veterans had during the first minicamp.

      This time around, Spagnuolo hopes the team can put the finishing touches on the installation of the new offensive and defensive systems and begin focusing on more opponent-specific work.

      “As a matter of fact where we’re headed into next week and definitely into the last week we’ll start focusing on the NFC West teams,” Spagnuolo said. “So there won’t be any installation. It will just be things that we think we might be using in the season. We’re definitely headed that way.”

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      -06-04-2009, 09:30 AM
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