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Rams' Mark Barron says he can shoulder his role as a veteran linebacker

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  • Rams' Mark Barron says he can shoulder his role as a veteran linebacker

    Rams' Mark Barron says he can shoulder his role as a veteran linebacker
    By GARY KLEIN
    JUN 28, 2018 | 11:10 AM

    Shortly after the 2017 NFL season ended, Rams linebacker Mark Barron underwent shoulder surgery. A month later, doctors removed bone spurs from his left heel.

    The procedures and ensuing rehabilitation kept Barron sidelined for offseason workouts and minicamp.

    So Barron won’t be backpedaling or sprinting through drills when he holds a free youth football camp Saturday in his hometown of Mobile, Ala. But he will be on the field at Sage Park, where a turnout of as many as 200 boys and girls is expected.

    “I’ll be moving around from station to station,” he said in a telephone interview, “talking to the kids and trying to motivate them.”

    Barron, 28, could find similar circumstances with his young teammates during the upcoming season.

    The Rams made blockbuster moves in March and April, acquiring several veteran players with Pro Bowl resumes. Cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib arrived via trades, and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh signed as a free agent.

    The shuffle also included the departures of a couple of veterans: inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and edge rusher Robert Quinn.

    Those moves leave Barron, who has six years of experience, surrounded by young linebackers in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme.

    Third-year pro Cory Littleton will flank Barron at inside linebacker, with second-year pro Samson Ebukam filling Quinn’s role. The starter at the other outside linebacker spot will be determined during training camp.

    “They’re very mature guys,” Barron said of Littleton and Ebukam. “They’ve taken on their roles, they take them very seriously, so their approach to the game is the way it’s supposed to be.

    “Once I get back out there and get in the huddle with these guys, whatever is needed, whether it’s communication or whatever I need to do, is what I’ll be doing.”

    Barron, who carries a salary-cap number of $10 million this season, understood the moves that sent Quinn and Ogletree to other teams — “This league is a business,” he said — and the Rams must replace their leadership. But Barron is happy with the roster makeup.

    “We’re in a great position to make a Super Bowl run,” he said.

    That’s a welcome scenario for a player who made his first playoff appearance last season after the Rams won the NFC West and finished 11-5 under first-year coach Sean McVay.

    Barron, the seventh pick in the 2012 draft, began his pro career as a safety with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was traded to the Rams during the 2014 season, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams converted him into a hybrid linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.

    Barron flourished in the role and signed a five-year, $45-million extension before the 2016 season, which turned out to be Jeff Fisher’s final season as coach.

    When McVay hired Phillips, there were questions about how Barron would fit in a 3-4 scheme and whether he could withstand the physical toll of playing inside linebacker.

    To make sure he would be ready for the season, Barron was held out of most training camp drills last summer and did not play in preseason games. Once the season began, he said coaches, trainers and the strength and conditioning staff “did a great job” of working out a limited practice plan that kept Barron available for games.

    Despite playing much of the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and bone spurs in both heels, he became one of the defense’s top playmakers. He intercepted three passes.

    “I was playing through injuries the whole year and still performed well, but it’s always in the back of your mind: How would I be able to perform if I felt 100%, if I felt good,’” he said.

    After the Atlanta Falcons eliminated the Rams in the wild-card round of the playoffs, Barron had the surgeries. Soon after, general manager Les Snead began remaking the defense to more specifically fit Phillips’ needs. Quinn and Ogletree were apparently deemed expendable. Barron was not.

    Barron’s inability to participate in offseason workouts with the younger linebackers was not a concern, Phillips said.

    “When Mark gets back, I know he’s a leader,” Phillips said.

    Though his heel is “up and down some days,” Barron said his physical condition was improving. The Rams are aiming for him to be ready for on-field activity “somewhere in the middle” of training camp, which begins July 26 at UC Irvine.

    “I’m on track with where I’m supposed to be,” he said.

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  • MauiRam
    Versatile Rams linebacker Mark Barron is thriving in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme
    MauiRam
    Gary Klein


    Rams linebacker Mark Barron intercepts a pass in front of teammate Nickell Robey-Coleman during a victory over the Cowboys on Oct. 1.
    (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

    Wade Phillips’ impending arrival as the Rams’ defensive coordinator last January caused several players minor anxiety.

    They were excited, of course, about Phillips’ track record of success, but uncertain how they might fit into his 3-4 scheme.

    Mark Barron, at a seemingly undersized 6 feet 2 and 225 pounds for an inside linebacker, was not among the nervous.

    “I wasn’t worried about it all,” Barron said. “Just tell me what you need me to do, what’s my responsibility, and I’m going to go and try to find a way to make plays within that scheme.”

    Barron, 28, has done that for a Rams team that is 7-2 and atop the NFC West heading into Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

    He has 63 tackles and three interceptions, both team bests.

    “You feel him,” coach Sean McVay said. “He’s all over the field.”

    Barron’s playmaking has helped the Rams lead the league with 19 forced turnovers, including 12 interceptions and seven fumbles.

    In last week’s victory over the Houston Texans, Jared Goff’s long touchdown pass to Robert Woods was the third-quarter play that blew open the game and sent the Rams on their way to a 33-7 blowout.

    But Barron’s interception late in the first half positioned the Rams for the breakout.

    After the Rams failed to generate a first down with a fake punt, the Texans took over and moved inside the Rams’ 20-yard line with a chance to build on a 7-6 lead.

    Barron intercepted a pass to quell the threat and returned it 15 yards to set up a drive that led to a field goal to put the Rams ahead going into the break.

    And he did it wearing a cast on his left hand because of a thumb injury.

    “If I’m going to step on the field and play with it, I can’t be out there making excuses,” Barron said. “You got to find a way.”

    Barron has thrived for the Rams since moving from safety to a hybrid role a few seasons ago. It was one of several position switches he made since he began playing football in youth leagues.

    Barron mainly played running back, wingback and receiver in high school in Mobile, Ala. But during his senior season, to help the defense, he also moved to linebacker and safety.

    In college at Alabama, he played safety for two national championship teams and was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the seventh pick in the 2012 draft.

    The Rams acquired Barron for two draft picks in a 2014 trade deadline move, and he finished that season at safety.

    But in 2015, after outside linebacker Alec Ogletree suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 4, former Rams defensive...
    -11-18-2017, 01:20 PM
  • RamWraith
    Barron Poised for a Breakout
    RamWraith
    Thursday, August 3, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    A year ago around this time, Alex Barron was at home in Orangeburg, S.C., awaiting a contract offer from the Rams that would meet he and his agent’s desires.

    This year, though, things are much different for Barron. After a 16-day holdout that was trumped among first-rounders only by Chicago running back Cedric Benson, Barron reported to St. Louis on Aug. 11, 2005.

    For all intents and purposes, Barron is actually participating in his first professional training camp.

    “To tell you the truth, when I got here last year they had already played the Bears and camp was about over with,” Barron said. “This is actually like my first camp. It’s all right. It’s something everybody has to go through every year to get ready for the season.”

    The time Barron missed last season probably cost him a shot at being the starter at right tackle for the entirety of his rookie season. Soon after the Rams used the 19th pick in the draft on Barron, he was declared the starter by coach Mike Martz.

    But Barron fell behind during the holdout as he initially had trouble switching to the right side after playing a lot of left tackle at Florida State. He also was way behind on the playbook because of all the missed installation periods. So, Barron was declared inactive for the first two games of the regular season.

    “It was kind of difficult,” Barron said. “I was learning the plays, learning the system and coming from college (adjusting) to the speed of the game and things like that.”

    Finally, on Sept. 25 against Tennessee, Barron got his first action, replacing a struggling Blaine Saipaia at right tackle. Barron manhandled Titans’ defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch repeatedly and recovered a key fumble in the fourth quarter. He had staked his claim to a starting job he would not relinquish the rest of the season were it not for a hand injury.

    Barron went on to start 11 games, playing in 12 and acquitted himself well against the likes of the Giants defensive end Michael Strahan. Still, Barron was not content with his debut season.

    “You can’t really ever be satisfied,” Barron said. “As a team, we had some different things goal wise and individual. You can never be satisfied you just look to the next year to get better.”

    For Barron, one aspect of getting better meant working diligently in the offseason to improve his physical stature. He played last season in the 315-320 pound range, but estimates that he somewhere below 310 pounds right now. In the opening days of training camp, Barron has looked slimmer yet stronger.

    To get to the level that he wants, though, the real task for Barron will be improving on the mental aspects of the game. Silly errors plagued Barron as a rookie and it’s something he and coach Scott Linehan hope to improve...
    -08-03-2006, 07:54 PM
  • RamWraith
    Barron Learning on the Job
    RamWraith
    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    As Orlando Pace addressed the media after being named to his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl on Wednesday, he joked about bringing rookie right tackle and fellow bookend Alex Barron with him to Hawaii to get a taste of the proceedings.

    Every one got a little chuckle out of the joke, with the possible exception of Barron. By most accounts, though, maybe Barron should lobby for a trip just to get used to the atmosphere.

    “I think he’s going to be spectacular,” interim coach Joe Vitt said. “I really do. He’s athletic. I think when he has a whole offseason in the weight room with power lifts and getting stronger, I think he’s going to be a premier tackle. I really do.”

    In other words, it might not be long before Barron joins Pace on the annual journey to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. Barron probably isn’t ready for all of that, but he might not be far off.

    Considering the amount of things Barron has dealt with as a rookie, he might be well on his way to a long and prolific NFL career. Nary a rookie in the league has an easy first season. There are always speed bumps along the way such as adjusting to the speed of the NFL, learning proper techniques and handling the sudden fame and money that go with being in the league.

    Barron learned all he needed to know about the business side early on. After the Rams chose him with the 19th pick of the first round, Barron was held out of training camp for most of the first month.

    Even before Barron had signed his name to a contract he had struggled mightily in the team’s mini camp. He was trying to learn the right side and seemed overwhelmed by the playbook.

    After arriving at camp, Barron worked to get better, but was at a distinct disadvantage because he wasn’t used to working exclusive on the right side and his absence had rankled the coaching staff. Barron fell on the depth chart behind the likes of Rex Tucker, among others.

    Tucker won the job coming out of camp and it seemed that Barron would be on the bench learning for most of the year with coach Mike Martz going so far as to say that would be a good thing.

    Even when Tucker suffered a calf injury against the *****, Barron remained on the left side and inactive for games.

    Blaine Saipaia handled the right tackle job against Arizona and Tennessee, but because of the injuries on the line, Barron finally started to get worked in on the right side in the week leading up to the game against the Titans in week three.

    Barron was active for the first time that week and with Saipaia struggling, he got his chance late in the third quarter. Barron wasted no time asserting himself, rag dolling defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch on his second play and coming up with a huge fumble recovery soon after.

    With that...
    -12-22-2005, 02:52 PM
  • eldfan
    It's time for Barron to blossom
    eldfan
    When he'd leave the modest ranch house on Hillcrest Avenue in Orangeburg, S.C., young Alex Barron usually was headed for the outdoor basketball court nearby.

    It was — and still is — his favorite sport. He was good at it, too.

    Good enough to average a double-double at Wilkinson High, good enough to be invited to walk on at Florida State, and good enough, the 6-foot-7, 302-pound Barron insists, to have made a splash in college, and possibly the NBA. MORE RAMS

    "Truth be told, I think I would've been OK," he said. "I'm not here to say I would've been an all-star for 10 years or anything like that. But I know I'd have done pretty good in college."

    After a pause, Barron added softly, "But that's not the road I chose."

    In reality, the road chose him. It's led him to a new position — he's the Rams' first new full-time left tackle since 1997 — at the best possible time. Barron, 26, is in the final season of the original five-year, $9.2 million deal he signed in 2005, when the Rams took him in the first round of the draft.

    If his play this season suggests that he could rank among the league's top linemen, Barron, who became the Rams' first-team right tackle in his rookie season, stands to cash in — big time. Left tackles, charged with protecting a righthanded quarterback's blind side, are among the game's most valued, and best-compensated, performers.

    "He's talented, and he deserves it," his kid sister, Lasaundra, insisted. Barron doesn't feel entitled, though.

    "I try not to put any added pressure just because of what year it is for me," he said. "But I'm not going to lie and say I haven't thought about it. Why wouldn't I want to be in the conversation with the top tackles in the league? That'd be stupid."

    HOOP DREAMS

    They still talk about "the play" in Orangeburg, a quiet, working-class hamlet of about 12,500 near the center of the state. The basketball fieldhouse at Wilkinson High was packed as the Bruins took on archrival Irmo.

    A teammate missed a free throw, and Barron soared after the loose ball. Here's how Barron described what happened next to The State, the newspaper of Columbia, S.C.: "I got the rebound, kind of squirmed and went up and let it go. I kind of turned around, so it was almost like a 360, but not all in the air."

    The climax was a rim-rattling slam dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy. "The place exploded. They about took the roof off," said former coach Geb Runager, who was in the stands.

    Barron's father, also named Alex (they have different middle names), was Wilkinson's coach. "It was just unreal," he said. "I looked at my assistant coach and said, 'He could've been doing that all along.' ...

    "I just thought he pretty...
    -08-23-2009, 09:48 AM
  • RamDez
    Barron Begins Crash Course
    RamDez
    Monday, August 15, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    While the lights were out at Rams Park this weekend because of a power failure, a trio of offensive line instructors was spending its time trying to help the lights come on in the head of rookie tackle Alex Barron.
    As most Rams enjoyed their Saturday afternoon off after their win against Chicago on Friday night, the offensive line’s newest arrival was getting acquainted with his new coaching staff.
    No other players were present at Rams Park as offensive line coaches John Matsko and John Benton and Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater gave Barron a crash course in everything from technique to the offense to foot work.
    For the better part of the day, Matsko, Benton and Slater took turns drilling Barron on different things. Matsko did an hour on pass protections, Benton handled run blocking and Slater drilled technique. Then, the trio went through it again. It was a quick, tireless introduction to training camp.
    “They did a great job working with me this weekend,” Barron said. “The other guys were off. I just got a little extra work in during the days. It helped out a great bit. It caught me up to some of the things that had been going on in camp, some new plays, different techniques and stuff.”
    Barron’s work was cut short by a loss of electricity that occurred around 4 p.m. Saturday. But by that time, Barron had already dived in head first. It brought the teaching session to an abrupt halt, but it was Barron’s first crack at working out in St. Louis after a two-week holdout.
    Barron continued the workouts through the weekend, but he still has a ways to go. Barron played left and right tackle at Florida State, but it was more of a strongside versus weakside type of change than making the permanent move to the right side. That seemed to give him an advantage coming in, but Matsko said it is natural for Barron to be uncomfortable when he is so used to being the left tackle.
    “I like him if he has got a chip on his shoulder,” Matsko said. “Mentally, he was very sharp when he was here. The challenge that he had came when he was on the right side was being dominant with the left hand when he was in pass protection.”
    That all goes back to technique and that was an area Barron struggled with at the team’s mini-camp in June. Barron looked somewhat lost on the right side and got beaten repeatedly in pass rush drills. After each practice, Barron looked worn down and tired.
    “I think it might have had something to do with the combination of being in the situations he was in and working with the ones and the multitude of plays he was trying learn and then trying to master the technique,” Slater said. “I think it was the combination of all of that more than anything else.”
    But the rookie was much improved in his first practice Monday morning. Working at his more natural left tackle spot, Barron held his own in the morning workout...
    -08-15-2005, 04:26 PM
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