Monday, May 12, 2008

Holt adjusts to life without Bruce

By Jeff Gordon
Sunday, May. 11 2008

Physically, Torry Holt feels pretty good these days. His knees feel fresher than they did a year ago at this time.Emotionally, Holt seems a bit wounded. As P-D football writer Jim Thomas reports, Holt wasn’t thrilled about Isaac Bruce’s unceremonious departure via free agency.

Bruce is an iconic figure in the history of this franchise, dating back to Los Angeles. Was there nothing more the franchise could do for him? Why didn’t the Rams take care of Bruce like they took care of Marshall Faulk, who kept collecting checks long after he was done?

While chatting with reporters Saturday at Rams Park, Holt made it clear how much he missed his friend and mentor.“It is really different,” he told the group. “You could always count on Isaac to come in and be ready to roll and be ready for the season. Not to see his locker and not to see him out there on the football field and not to see him in the stretching and the drills . . . he is always the one in the front of the line and getting things going, so it is definitely different and is going to take some getting used to.”

This explains why he didn’t back off earlier comments about the possibility of finishing his career back home in Carolina. In fact, he reiterated them to reporters Saturday.“The real story is that I have this year and next year and hopefully I can finish those years out,” Holt said. “Then I will see where I am at. I will see where I am at physically and emotionally and financially. Then, if they would like to do something here I will consider it. If not, then I will have the option to go and explore and give my services somewhere else. “If that happens, Carolina will definitely be my first choice. There is no question about it. I have 2008 and 2009 left to play and that is what I plan on doing.”

That was a warning shot from one of the cornerstone players on this team. Holt fired it with purpose.Could anybody blame him for remaining skeptical of the current regime? Last season’s 3-13 fiasco took a toll on him. His frustration boiled over on the Rams sidelines.He was in no mood to hang around Rams Park more than necessary during this offseason. “From a mental standpoint, I just wanted to relax and get away from the building and get away from football for a while so I can come back with a fresh mind and give the guys and my teammates what it is they need to go out there and try to win some more games this year and try to get our first playoff berth in a while,” Holt said.

As for the ’08 season. Holt still seems in wait-and-see mode. When reporters asked him about second-round pick Donnie Avery, Torry managed to contain his enthusiasm.“He has to just keep going,” Holt said. “I don’t really have any impression of him right now. Obviously he has some quick-twitch fibers, which is really good. He wants to be good. Hopefully during training camp he will show me something.”Al Saunders’ return ought to perk up Holt up IF the new coordinator has the freedom to use his full scheme. Saunders worked closely with Holt here during the “Greatest Show on Turf” era.“It is good to have Al,” Holt said. “He came in with instant energy. He has put an emphasis on resetting the standard of the way we play offense here, which is really good.

What is really good to see is that a lot of the guys are buying into what he is trying to get accomplished, which is good for us.”Saunders has a big job to do. He must rebuild the confidence and enthusiasm of quarterback Marc Bulger, who took a terrible beating last season.He must oversee the reconstruction of the offensive line, with so many players coming back from injuries.

He must get some mileage out of receiver Drew Bennett, who was utterly ineffective last season -– largely due to injuries. He must groom rookie receivers Avery and Keenan Burton, two kids capable of re-energizing the offense. And Saunders has to get Holt going full-tilt again, physically and emotionally. “We are starting in the right direction,” Holt said. “Obviously, we have a long way to go, but guys are really taking heed to what (Saunders) is saying and doing out there and actually trying to get done what he wants them to get done as an offensive unit.”

Stay tuned . . .

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