Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rams’ Suitor Found Wanting

Just want the Rams need: Doubts are being cast about whether prospective buyer Shahid Khan will win NFL owners’ approval. So much for the feel-good stuff after Sam Bradford’s workout.

Just listen to what ESPN’s Adam Schefter told a St. Louis radio on Monday regarding Shahid Khan’s pending ownership proposal.

"My sense is that approval for ownership is far from a slam dunk, and it’ll surprise me if ultimately he’s approved. And I would guess that he’s not going to be the next owner of the St. Louis Rams."

This follows a report by Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal that the league has concerns about Khan’s debt load. Kaplan says Khan would be borrowing against Flex-N-Gate, the automotive parts company he owns.

"Mr. Khan has not completed his financial arrangements, and until then, any discussion about it would be pure speculation," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Kaplan.

All this, according to ProFootballTalk.com, brings into question whether Stan Kroenke, a Rams minority owner under the current regime, can step up to match Khan’s offer—or tell Khan to buy his 40 percent stake in the team.

Team heirs Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez want out.

Dave Checketts, owner of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, remains in the picture in a bid group that PFT.com says includes former Rams star running backs Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rams Begin Offseason Program

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

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.

“Coach told me he wanted me to come back healthier and stronger and heavier,” Avery said. “I think I’m getting bigger, eating healthier and working harder in the weight room and it should help get rid of some of those injuries I’ve had.”

That’s just a small sample of what the Rams have been doing on their individual breaks but the days of working out on their own have now passed.

For the next 14 weeks, these players will be attacking the offseason with a few goals in mind.

There are, of course, plenty of tangible benefits such as the basics of getting bigger, stronger and faster on the football field. But perhaps there is no benefit greater than the intangible one that goes with the team building that can happen during the offseason.

From the time of his arrival in St. Louis, Spagnuolo has emphasized the virtues of building chemistry in the locker room. That doesn’t happen overnight and it starts on days like Monday.

“I think the tightest bonds are formed in the offseason program without the pressures of winning and losing, without the pressure of another game coming up,” Spagnuolo said. “There’s a lot more time they can spend with each other outside of football which I think is good.”

A typical day in the offseason program isn’t nearly as strenuous as a regular season day. Players report to the Russell Training Center and spend about four hours at the facility each day.

In that time, they are allowed only a certain amount of time with the coaches where they can work on football-related things. That includes watching film, getting a refresher on the playbook or even getting a feel for some of the new things that are being added in 2010.

When that part is done, the focus shifts to Gullickson and Faucette, who have tailored workouts to each player with an eye toward maximizing their performance on the field.

“Rock wants us to be like him when we grow up,” Avery said, laughing. “He’s a typical strength coach but he goes over and beyond to make sure you are at your peak so you can perform. He has a couple of new things this year to try to get the best of our abilities.”

Gullickson and Faucette work hard to ensure there are new and different aspects to the workouts to help keep the players’ interest and keep up with trends in the field. That also includes working with new head athletic trainer Reggie Scott on rehabilitation methods so that everyone is on the same page.

Spagnuolo says that a good majority of the injured players from last season have already been cleared to participate in the program and the few that haven’t are well on their way in rehabilitation.

“There’s only a few of them that are not at the rehab standpoint where they can be transitioned right into the actual strength program,” Spagnuolo said. “But for the most part, they will do whatever they can.”

From a coaching perspective, it’s just nice to have the players back in the building.

“Getting up this morning was a little bit easier,” Spagnuolo said. “I am ready to get up every morning when the alarm goes off anyway but I had the Christmas Day feel to see all those faces again. I like it when the players are around. That’s when you feel like a football team. There is no team without the players. They need their time away but it’s great to have them around.”

In the next three months or so, the Rams will gradually increase the workload. After the draft, the team will have a rookie minicamp at the end of April with organized team activities set to begin in May.

There will be a full squad minicamp in June with OTAs wrapping up the offseason program around the middle of that month.

Between now and then, plenty will happen as new faces are added to the mix and new ideas kicked around by the coaches. But the process of becoming a better team has only just begun.

“I think you’re anxious, excited to get going,” Laurinaitis said. “It’s exciting to see what these guys are going to do. I think we have a lot of good players on our team and I think that we are a young squad overall so the most important thing for us is that the young guys we have get better. That’s the thing. Each individual has to make himself that much better. It’s fun to be back in a team setting working with them, challenging and competing. That’s what it’s all about.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rams' move makes it obvious that Barron is on the market

INDIANAPOLIS — The process of making tender offers to the Rams' 13 restricted
free agents has taken an unusual twist for offensive tackle Alex Barron, a move
that can only be interpreted as the club is dangling him as trade bait.

Under league rules, the Rams must pay Barron 110 percent of his 2009 salary, or
$2.73 million in 2010. That's a dollar amount that entitles the Rams to a
first-round draft pick as compensation if they decided not to match any outside

But here comes the curveball: Although they have to pay Barron at a first-round
level, they don't have to ask for first-round draft pick compensation.

And they're not.

According to multiple league sources, the Rams informed Barron's agents Sunday
night that they will be asking for only second-round draft pick compensation
when they turn their tender offers into the league office later this week.

In essence, the Rams are throwing out a fishing line to the rest of the league,
with Barron as the trade bait.

It's another deep year for offensive tackles in the draft. Early indications
point to Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, moving to
left tackle next season. Some of the Rams' best right tackles since the team
moved to St. Louis were middle-round picks. Ryan Tucker was a fourth-rounder;
Fred Miller, a fifth-rounder.


Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy realized football might be his calling
at an early age growing up in Oklahoma City.

"One time in little league play, I tackled three people," McCoy said.

At the same time. In other words, he tackled the entire backfield.

"The quarterback, he didn't know who to give it to, so I just grabbed
everybody," McCoy said. "It was right then that I was like, 'I might (be able)
to play this.' Everybody just looked at me like, 'Did he just grab three
people?' That right there should let you know how big a kid I was."

McCoy said he was 11 at the time. By the time he was 12, McCoy said, he weighed
238 pounds.


Growing up in Portland, Ore., Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh realized
his future probably wasn't as one of the largest soccer players in little
league history.

"I got a ton of fouls," Suh said. "That's kind of the reason why I moved away
from soccer, because I got too many red cards."

With his soccer background, Suh said he wouldn't hesitate to try kicking a
field goal in the NFL if called upon.

"I did it in high school," Suh said. "Why not?"


Contrary to some Internet speculation, the agents for Marc Bulger are not
pressing the Rams for a decision on the future of the veteran quarterback,
league sources familiar with the situation told the Post-Dispatch.


Tennessee's Eric Berry looked surprised when asked Sunday if he planned to work
out at the combine.

"I'm working out here. I'm doing everything," said Berry, the highly regarded
safety. "It's the combine, not a fashion show."

— Speed-wise, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller lived up to his billing,
unofficially posting sub 4.3-second times in the 40. But Mississippi running
back Dexter McCluster ran a disappointing 4.58.

— Florida quarterback Tim Tebow had a 38 1/2-inch vertical leap, which is
believed to be a combine record for quarterbacks.