Author: Tony Softli

NFC West: Niners are the team to beat

As I evaluate the final 53 man roster for each of the NFC West teams, I see several question marks and some glaring weakness. San Francisco 49ers. Coach Singletary is preaching to his football team, with a good mix of youth and veterans, “staying focused and win one game at a time, while maintaining consistency”. The 2009 team took a turn for the worse with a 2-6 stretch run that ultimately derailed their playoff hopes. As the NFL is a quarterback driven league, Alex Smith must play at a high level in order for the Niners to achieve their goal of winning the division. He played very well in the back end of 2009. They secured the offensive front by drafting Idaho’s Mike Iupati (OG) and Rutgers Anthony Davis (OT), both in the first round. Defense for San Francisco will set the tone and carry this team into the playoffs. They have built their defense thru the draft, while filling hot spots through free agency. They have playmakers on the edge with Michael Crabtree (WO), Josh Morgan (WO), Pro Bowl TE Vernon Davis, and Ted Ginn Jr. is the key to their return game. If Frank Gore can stay healthy, this is a potent offensive attack, and will take pressure off of Smith. On defense they are extremely talented and a fast, hard hitting bunch led by Pro Bowler...

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The coach from Whitinsville, Mass.

Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnulo is known as Spags among his family, friends and NFL peers. In 2009, in his first few days on the job, Spags immediately infused the Rams with discipline, direction and wisdom. The first order of business after assembling his coaching staff was getting his message out. That message? TEAM first! He delivered his address to the organization. Explaining to ALL what they should expect from him as the Head Coach. He wanted to know how he could help each and every department. He spoke about TEAMWORK, DISCIPLINE and TOGETHERNESS. Steering everyone eye to eye, he wanted it understood that it was extremely important that everyone moved in the same direction. That was paramount. Each person would play a very important part of building this championship foundation. The speech was from the heart and every word was meaningful. I was in my third season with the Rams organization; Spags was the first Head Coach or Front office Executive to address the organization with direction – so refreshing! He continued to meet in small groups with each department as promised. When photos of former Rams players were pulled off the hallway walls leading to the player lounge and locker room, it stirred up a hornets nest, but for no reason. All the photos in that area of Rams Park were littered with individual shots. His message...

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Bradford brings hope but SJ39 carries load

With the emergence of Sam Bradford, hope for the future travels through the halls of Rams Park. With every performance of the young franchise quarterback, there is enough juice or electricity to light up the hallways of the Russell Training Center. But with all the excitement stirring up huge predictions for the 2010 season, the workhorse that will carry the load is SJ39, Steven Jackson. This physical and talented running back led the NFC with 1,416 yards, and started fifteen games while dealing with disc issues in his lower back. He displayed toughness and the heart of a true warrior. The two time Pro Bowl running back and All Pro selection is a true threat for defenses and makes for some long nights for defensive coordinators game planning efforts to defeat or slow down Jackson each and every Sunday. After his back surgery, SJ39 reshaped his physique, dropping weight while adding muscle during the off season. His chiseled frame stands 6’2 242 pounds with only 5% body fat. Changing his workout regimen this off season, lifting twice a day once in the morning and afternoon, with running sessions and agility drills between. He even swam with sharks as part of his conditioning – I’m kidding! He did swim with sharks but not for conditioning, while vacationing in Africa and taking in some World Cup Soccer action. Jackson has shown...

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Big Easy in St. Louis

In my fifteen year tenure in the National Football League, my travels have taken me as far north as Maine, to the sunny state of Florida, east to Raleigh, and out west to Southern California. College scouts are assigned areas of the United States or regions. When hired by the Carolina Panthers in 1995, I was given the Southwest region (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North/South Dakota along with Wyoming and Colorado). While the great state of Texas is a region in and of itself, I spent a lot of my travels in and out of Oklahoma City. I have scouted several outstanding players from the Sooner Nation over the years, but in 2007 it was a different experience. As I scouted the seniors on my prospect listing, I eye balled a few juniors as well. I couldn’t take my eyes off this young quarterback wearing #14. God forbid you ask about underclassmen – that is taboo and scouts have been run out of schools for less than that. I overheard the coach shout corrections to him, “Sam make your reads.” As he stood tall in the pocket, very poised and confident, the right armed QB started spinning the ball down field. I created a “Futures Book” in 1996. My first entry was Ricky Williams from the University of Texas and years later was named the Heisman Trophy winner. I...

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Sleepless in NFL Front Office

With the last preseason game on the horizon, the Rams look forward to their young talent competing against the Baltimore Ravens at the Edward Jones Dome. As the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) protects their clients, these modern day gladiators are pushed to the brink of muscle failure, and when you can’t perform you’re no good to them. The union makes sure the players’ rights under the current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) allow them protection despite the pressure from coaches, teammates and the front office. The bottom line is that players must play with pain, minor injuries, broken bones, swollen joints, partially torn ligaments, or worse. They all risk long term injury. Hey Gladiator – ask yourself one question. “How much do you love the game?” Tony Softli is in his first year as a 101 ESPN NFL Analyst. Softli was formerly the Vice President/Player Personnel of the Rams. You can hear Tony throughout the week on The Bob Stelton Show, The Bernie Miklasz Show, The Fast Lane, and on Rams Game Day on 101...

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