When I went to bed on Sunday night, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. I was excited thinking about what the next day was going to bring. The only difference was I knew what I was going to see. The items would not come gift wrapped, but would come in the form of football players in Sam Bradford, James Laurinaitis, Ron Bartell and other Rams players.
I’ve been associated with the game of football since I started playing at the age of eight. I remember sitting with my father and uncles watching Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and Earl Campbell run the ball. I remember Ray Nitschke and Dick Butkus hitting and tackling anything that moved. I remember other legends like Anthony Munoz, Jim Plunkett, Raymond Berry, George Blanda, Fred Biletnikoff, Terry Bradshaw and I can’t forget Mean Joe Greene.
As I got out of my car, the players were exiting the weight room and were headed into the stadium at the Lindenwood University. I found myself eager to take a roll call of all the players in attendance. They ran on the field and were more excited than I was! Football is the ultimate team sport and these men where back together and excited to get going.
The new and obvious team leader and the face of the franchise for the Rams is quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford said, “Everybody I sent a text out to, replied I’m on board, I’m ready.”
The bell cow on defense is Laurinaitis, along with Ron Bartell, who helped Bradford organize of what is being called Camp St. Louis. Bradford went on to say that, “Several of us have been working together. It’s good to see all these guys, and we will be working out together in other locations as well.”
There were 30 players in attendance and several flying into St. Louis Monday night for Tuesday’s lifting and on-field drill work sessions. The following are some of the players that participated on Monday:
Quarterbacks: Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thad Lewis
Receivers: Danny Amendola, Donnie Avery, Brandon Gibson, Danario Alexander and rookie Greg Salas
Fullback: Brit Miller
Tight Ends: Billy Bajema, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun and rookie Lance Kendricks
Offensive Line: Jason Brown, Jason Smith, Jacob Bell, Hank Fraley and Ryan McKee
Defensive Backs: Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Craig Dahl, Justin King and rookie Jonathan Nelson
Linebackers: James Laurinaitis, Larry Grant, Chris Chamberlain, Bryan Kehl, Josh Hull, Maurice Simpkins and David Vobora
While Steven Jackson was not in attendance along with the defensive line unit (including top draft pick Robert Quinn, who one source said he is in Haiti, but I’ve yet to confirm that), it was a spirited practice session.
All players were sent through foot quickness drills (a circuit), ropes, short sprints run over and around dummies in individual drill work. While Bradford put his receivers through a fast paced route-tree session and followed that up with a group session, his timing and anticipation was very good, crisp and accurate. Before they ended the last segment because of the storm that rolled in quickly, a 7-on-7 drill with the defense shadowing was running very smoothly.
While no coaches were allowed to attend, the Rams players received motivation from Torry Holt and Corey Chavous. Ron Bartell was responsible for asking these two former Ram players to help in the instruction at Camp St. Louis. While it was not Tom Landry, George Halas or Vince Lombardi storming the sidelines, I was extremely impressed with the passion, patience, knowledge and wisdom that both Holt and Chavous passed on to these players.
While the players are doing a good job pushing and motivating themselves, the reality is that they are not even close to being in game shape. As a matter of fact, they are behind where they would be with their coaches hammering and pushing them. To a man they would all admit that. The important thing is that Bradford is teaching the offense (the Josh McDaniels playbook). Team unity is being built and a cool sense of togetherness was hanging in the air. Bradford, better known as the Big Easy, has a strong hold on this team, and they are in good hands.
I’m a football junkie and damn it, I miss football! I’m hoping the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals lifts this lockout so free agency can start, OTA sessions will get scheduled and the coaches and players can focus on what they love: playing the game of football.