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  • Saipaia will have his hands full at tackle

    Saipaia will have his hands full at tackle
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Forget about "Ocean's Twelve" and "Bridget Jones." The only film Rams tackle Blaine Saipaia watched this past week starred Carolina's Julius Peppers. The proper rating would be PG: plenty good.

    "He does a lot of things well," Saipaia said. "He can chase the ball down, he's got great speed, he's got good power. He's just an all-around good player."

    Although Peppers, who played basketball as well as football at the University of North Carolina, is in just his third NFL season, he already is regarded as one of the league's premier defensive ends. Job one for Saipaia on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte will be keeping the 6-foot-6, 290-pound Peppers away from quarterback Chris Chandler.

    That's a daunting task for any right tackle: Peppers, the 2002 NFL defensive rookie of the year, has 28 career sacks. With nine this season, he ranks eighth in the league.

    Compounding Saipaia's challenge is the fact that he's played in exactly five NFL games, with one previous start. That was three weeks in Buffalo, when he stepped in for the injured Grant Williams and received generally favorable reviews afterward.

    Williams is out again with a shoulder problem, and coach Mike Martz seems committed to Saipaia for now - and perhaps for the long haul.

    "I have great confidence in him," Martz said. "He's a guy that I looked at all year, throughout the season, and felt like he was going to be one of our feature starters here eventually. When it was going to happen, I didn't know. But he has the athleticism to line up on the edge and block a guy like Peppers, with his feet and his strength and all of those things."

    Saipaia, a 6-3, 315-pound Colorado State product, said: "Obviously he's a good defensive end and I've got to really be on top of my game. But ... I just try not to put too much pressure on myself. If I can stay consistent and just use the proper techniques that the coaches have been drilling in our heads, it should work out."

    Holt needs tickets

    Rams wide receiver Torry Holt, a Greensboro, N.C., native who played at North Carolina State, had to round up extra tickets for Sunday's game. "Probably 20 to 25," he said. "It's always exciting going back home and playing in front of friends and family. I'm thankful for the opportunity."

    Turley is a mystery

    Saipaia, who signed Sept. 8 as a free agent, probably wouldn't be in the Rams' mix if not for the back injury that ended Kyle Turley's season before it began.

    Turley, the Rams' starting right tackle last year after he was acquired in March 2003 from New Orleans, underwent back surgery in the offseason. He reaggravated the injury at training camp and was placed on injured reserve Aug. 28. Martz said this week that he hadn't heard from Turley in months.

    "I have no idea where he is or whether he wants to play or can play," said Martz, who added that after Turley left Macomb, Ill., for further evaulation of his back, "He wouldn't answer any of my calls. I called him probably 20 times, and he never answered a call. When I finally did talk to him, he was very short, very abrupt. He didn't want to talk, and that was it."

    Martz, Fox go back

    Martz and Panthers coach John Fox shared an office at Rams Park in 1996, when Martz was the team's wide receivers coach and Fox was working as a consultant for Steve Ortmayer, then the general manager.

    "He didn't have a place to sit; they had him at a table in some meeting room or something like that," Martz recalled. "I said, 'You're going to have to use a phone. If you want to talk to your family or you want do to this and that, when I'm in meetings or on the field, just use my office.' So he did."

    Fox is in his third season with the Panthers, the defending NFC champions. "I always felt like he'd be a head coach - and a terrific head coach," Martz said. "He's very, very intelligent."

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Rams ready to plug Saipaia in at right tackle
    by RamWraith

    [email protected]

    ST. LOUIS - As the St. Louis Rams' starting right tackle, Blaine Saipaia isn't exactly shivering in his cleats about the prospect of going against Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers.

    "You have to respect the man, but just because you respect him doesn't mean you have to fear him," Saipaia said.

    Saipaia (pronounced SY-puh-EE-uh) bounced around the NFL for four seasons before signing with the Rams on Sept. 8. He's been on the practice squads for the New Orleans Saints, the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, waiting and hoping for the opportunity that he's now getting with the Rams.

    "I am going to go out there and play like there is no tomorrow because there has been times in my career where there was no tomorrow," Saipaia said. "You have to cherish it every time you get to go out and play."

    Saipaia is the Rams' fourth starting right tackle since Kyle Turley aggravated a back injury early in training camp.

    Turley was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. Martz said he's unaware of Turley's future plans because he hasn't heard from him.

    "I have no idea where he is or whether he wants to play or can play," Martz said. "I have no idea about any of that. I have not seen him."

    Martz complained about Turley failing to return his telephone calls a couple of weeks after the seven-year NFL veteran left training camp.

    "He wouldn't answer any of my calls," Martz said. "I called him probably 20 times, and he never answered a call. I finally did talk to him, he was very short, very abrupt. He didn't want to talk, and that was it."

    Asked if Turley might retire after the season, Martz said, "You're asking the wrong guy. You have to ask Kyle about that one."

    Turley's absence has left a void at right tackle that the Rams have had trouble filling.

    Grant Williams and Scott Tercero both struggled at times at the position. The two also were hit with injuries as Williams has battled shoulder and elbow problems and Tercero was lost for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

    "I'm well-aware of that," Martz said of right tackle being a problem spot. "You look at the situation where everything else is settled and ready to go, and we're unsettled there.

    "Hopefully, we can get settled in now with Blaine. He's going to struggle at times, but he is a tough guy who is competitive and he has great feet."

    Martz said Saipaia has the kind of athleticism to be able to effectively block Peppers.

    "He's a guy we looked at and felt like he was going to be one of our future starters here eventually," Martz said Saipaia. "Just when it was going to happen, I didn't know....
    -12-10-2004, 03:59 PM
  • RamWraith
    Turley's injury keeps hurting Rams' offensive line
    by RamWraith

    Associated Press

    ST. LOUIS - It's been more than four months since Kyle Turley shut himself down for the season with another back injury, and the St. Louis Rams are still feeling the repercussions.

    The biggest hole on the offensive line has been Turley's vacated right tackle spot. Grant Williams has been beaten repeatedly in recent weeks, and he was burned for the sack that knocked quarterback Marc Bulger out of last week's 16-6 victory over the ***** with a sprained right shoulder.

    Now, it's up to unheralded Blaine Saipaia to help keep 39-year-old backup Chris Chandler healthy until Bulger returns, perhaps in two weeks. Williams was benched in the second half last week in favor of Saipaia, and coach Mike Martz has named Saipaia the starter for Sunday's game at Carolina.

    Saipaia has a tall order, trying to handle one of the NFL's best pass rushers. Julius Peppers has nine sacks, two off the league lead.

    "Blaine obviously understands the opportunity that's ahead of him," Martz said. "He has the athleticism to line up on the edge and block a guy like Peppers.

    "The experience is going to be a bit of a factor, so we need to help him. Hopefully we can settle in with Blaine."

    Saipaia came in on the Rams' off-day on Tuesday to study Peppers' moves.

    "He's a speed guy and does a lot of moves where he can transfer his speed to power," Saipaia said. "With his speed, he can catch a lot of people off-balance.

    "If I stay balanced and stay with him, I should be OK."

    Keeping Chandler in one piece is paramount for the Rams (6-6) considering the alternatives. The backups are rookie Jeff Smoker, a sixth-round pick, and well-traveled Jamie Martin, who had been unattached since being released by the Jets in October 2003.

    It's unclear which quarterback would be the backup this week. Martz was adamant about not using Smoker earlier in the week, given his lack of experience and Martin's rust, but later in the week hedged on his choice.

    Martz also said Smoker has picked up the offense faster than he had anticipated.

    "He's got a lot more in him, he's retained a lot more, and looks a lot more at ease with what we're doing than I would have thought," Martz said.

    Saipaia has one career start, at Buffalo on Nov. 21, when he also stepped in for a banged-up Williams. In that game, he played well initially but struggled against the pass rush and blitz in the second half.

    He expects to do better with his second chance.

    "I'm not so hyperactive now that I've actually had a chance to get in there and get some time," Saipaia said. "I'll give it the best shot I can, but I think I'll be a little more relaxed and focused.

    -12-10-2004, 04:01 PM
  • RamWraith
    Penalties for hitting QB give line fits
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    The Rams trailed Super Bowl champion New England by two points just before halftime Nov. 7 when defensive end Leonard Little was called for roughing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The 15-yard penalty extended a possession that resulted in a field goal, and the Pats cruised to a 40-22 victory.

    The call infuriated Rams coach Mike Martz as well as Little, who felt that the hit was unavoidable and legal. "I didn't hit him up high, I hit him in the chest area," Little said. "If it was helmet to helmet, then I could see them making a call. But hitting him in the chest and the stomach area ... I mean, what can I say?"

    Their ire was fueled further because an earlier hit by linebacker Mike Vrabel on Rams quarterback Marc Bulger wasn't flagged. Martz phoned Mike Pereira, the NFL's supervisor of officials, the next day to air his discontent.

    On Sunday it was more of the same when the Rams drew another dubious roughing-the-passer penalty. Tackle Jimmy Kennedy dropped San Francisco quarterback Tim Rattay just after he released an incomplete pass on third-and-7 at the *****' 7-yard line.

    Asked Monday if he were baffled at the way the roughing rule is being interpreted, Martz said: "Baffled wouldn't be the term I would choose. There were six of them that were the same hit (on Bulger) in Buffalo ... same hit, same thing, and it doesn't get called. But we get that every week with these quarterbacks.

    "I'm angry about it and frustrated. I don't understand it. I've complained about it. I don't know what to tell you."

    Saipaia will start

    Martz announced Monday that Chris Chandler would start on Sunday at Carolina while Bulger's bruised right shoulder mends. Martz also said that right tackle Grant Williams, who gave up the sack on which Bulger was injured, had lost his starting job.

    Blaine Saipaia entered Sunday's game late in the third quarter after another Williams mistake nearly resulted in a sack of Chandler. Saipaia will be in the lineup vs. the Panthers, Martz said.

    "There's a lot of things I like about Blaine," Martz said. "He has great feet, he's very strong, he has a terrific punch in pass protection. He's very athletic, can be off-balance and recover and make the block. He's a good run blocker. I think he has all the tools to develop into a really good player"

    Williams has been playing with several nagging injuries that "really diminished his strength and his ability to take on some things," Martz said. "You can see it when you watch him set. He tries to compensate. ... He began to struggle out there, and we needed to get him out of the game."

    Saipaia, 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, made his first NFL start Nov. 21 in Buffalo because Williams was banged up....
    -12-07-2004, 05:40 AM
  • RamWraith
    Saipaia gets shot to start at RT
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas

    Blaine Saipaia, starting right tackle.

    "As of today," Saipaia said. "It could change tomorrow."

    Truer words were never spoken. Because of Rex Tucker's calf injury, it's just the latest twist in the ongoing saga of "As the Blaine Turns."

    In what has been a dizzying training camp and preseason, Saipaia has practiced at all five offensive line positions - from left tackle to right tackle, and all points in between. But because of Tucker's injury, Saipaia now finds himself back where he was at the end of the '04 season - the team's starting right tackle.

    "I like being in the starting lineup," Saipaia said. "But I'll play wherever they need me to play."

    Saipaia said switching from spot to spot on the line has been taxing at times.

    "It's definitely been a lot mentally," he said. "But you know what? I love playing. So I'll do whatever I have to do to get on the field."

    Saipaia, 27, has been nothing but persistent when it comes to his NFL career. The native of San Diego played his final college football game at Colorado State in 1999, but didn't play in his first NFL regular-season game until the 2003 season finale with the Oakland Raiders.

    Before that, Saipaia bounced around with New Orleans, Tennessee, Oakland and Denver, but the farthest he got at all those stops were a few practice squad gigs.

    But Mike Martz and the Rams' front office saw something they liked in Saipaia, picking him up on Sept. 8, 2004 following his release by the Raiders.

    "He's a very tough guy," Martz said. "He's very competitive. It's unusual in that he can play - or has played for us - all five positions. He's good enough to start, obviously, at guard or the right tackle position. He finished up last year ... playing very well."

    Saipaia, 27, started seven regular-season and playoff games last season at right tackle, in place of the injured Grant Williams. He gets another chance Sunday in Arizona in place of Tucker, who suffered a right calf injury against San Francisco.

    "He will be out in this game," Martz said, referring to Tucker. "They did an MRI on him, and he's got what they call a Grade 2 sprain."

    Martz said he wasn't sure how long Tucker would be sidelined. It's probably going to be more than a week, but it's not a season-ending type of injury. Tucker was walking - make that limping - around Rams Park on Wednesday with a boot on his right leg.

    So it's Saipaia, with Matt Willig next in line if Saipaia struggles or is injured. As for rookie first-round draft pick Alex Barron, he took a small step toward eventually becoming the team's starting right tackle by getting his first practice...
    -09-15-2005, 02:25 PM
  • RamDez
    Martz expresses some doubts about Turley's health
    by RamDez
    Martz expresses some doubts about Turley's health
    By Bill Coats

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - As training camp grinds on, the nicks and bruises are starting to pile up. Several Rams spent at least part of the time on the sideline Saturday, as the team resumed two-a-day practices.

    Other than center Dave Wohlabaugh's recovery from hip surgery, none of the injuries appear to be serious. Yet concern is surfacing about offensive tackle Kyle Turley's back, which was operated on in the offseason and kept him on the sideline for minicamp in May.

    On Tuesday, shortly after the players reported to Western Illinois University, Martz scolded those who questioned Turley's fitness. "Kyle's fine. I don't know where this stuff starts," Martz said. "Kyle's injury, that's been resolved for quite some time. He looks like he's in terrific shape."

    On Thursday, Martz said, Turley sat out contact drills because he has some atrophy in a leg caused by numbness from the previous disc injury. Turley participated in Friday's single, full-pads practice, but he missed most of Saturday's drills, and Martz expressed some apprehension.

    "Kyle's got some strain in his back. They're going to look at it through some pictures," Martz explained. He said there were no plans to return Turley, 28, to St. Louis for evaluation but was unsure how long Turley would be out.

    Others limited by minor injuries were tight end Cam Cleeland (hamstring), linebacker Tommy Polley (sprained toe), defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (back spasms), safety Rich Coady (back spasms), offensive guard Ryan Schau (sprained back) and cornerback Robert Cromartie (hamstring).

    Chandler says Martz runs unique camp

    Seventeen-year veteran Chris Chandler has been to training camp with eight NFL teams. But he has never seen one quite like this.

    Chandler, signed as a free agent in March to back up starting quarterback Marc Bulger, said Martz "challenges everybody mentally as well. The physical part of this camp is one thing, but just all the installation at night and all the stuff we put in every day for the next practice, it's a lot more than any other place I've even been. It's as much exhausting mentally as it is physically."

    Which is saying a lot, because other than 42-year-old punter Sean Landeta, Chandler, 38, is the oldest among the 80 players in camp at Western Illinois University. Still, after four days of vigorous workouts, the 6-foot-4, 224-pound University of Washington product is showing no signs of advanced age. He has also proved that there's plenty of strength left in his arm.

    Though Chandler is learning a new offensive system, Martz said he is adapting quickly. "You know that most everything you do with him, he's going to be able to absorb and retain,"
    -08-01-2004, 06:29 AM