NFC West: Isaac bruce

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- This year's Hall of Fame festivities wrapped up over the weekend with the annual preseason opener between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills.

For St. Louis Rams fans, the most memorable part of the weekend was the stirring Saturday night speech from former Ram Aeneas Williams. Williams has a close bond to St. Louis, where he still keeps a home and is pastor at a local church. Still, Williams is generally best remembered for his time with the Arizona Cardinals.

[+] EnlargeKurt Warner
AP Photo/Tom DiPaceKurt Warner and three of his 'Greatest Show on Turf' teammates will appear on the Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year.
But if things break the right way, the next few years could provide plenty of opportunities for Rams fans to celebrate and reminisce about the glory days. That's because four of the primary stars of the "Greatest Show on Turf" will first appear on the ballot beginning this year. Quarterback Kurt Warner, receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce and left tackle Orlando Pace are first-time nominees this year.

I spoke to a handful of voters on each player's chances. While it's a small sample size, here's the impressions I came away with and a link to the case for each player:

Warner -- The one thing that apparently could hold Warner back is there still seems to be some trepidation about his body of work, or lack thereof. But it sounds like Warner is going to get in, probably sooner than later and might even end up as a first-ballot entry. One thing that works heavily in his favor, aside from the prolific numbers he put up in a short time, is the fact he took two previously moribund franchises to the Super Bowl and won one in St. Louis. Of the four players here, he and Pace sound like the two most likely to go in first.

Hall of Fame look ahead: Warner

Pace -- Pace was one of the first big names of the golden era of offensive tackles in the NFL. Although I get the sense that voters don't see him as being quite as dominant as the likes of Jonathan Ogden or Walter Jones, there's still seemingly little doubt that he's going to go into the Hall of Fame. Some late-career injuries kept Pace from tacking on additional Pro Bowl appearances, but he's still remembered for his part in changing the idea of what a left tackle could be. It sounds like it might be a bit of a stretch for him to get in on the first try, but it seems like it will happen within his first two or three years on the ballot.

Hall of Fame look ahead: Pace

Bruce -- Like so many other receivers, there's clearly a question about when and how Bruce can break through with a projected logjam of candidates at the position. While that has cleared up a but in recent years with the additions of Andre Reed and Cris Carter, the list of viable wideout candidates is only going to grow. Names like Marvin Harrison and Tim Brown are still waiting and other statistical monsters like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens will be added soon. Bruce is likely going to have to wait a bit before he makes it, though the general thought seems to be that he will eventually get in.

Hall of Fame look ahead: Bruce

Holt -- Much of the opinion on Holt is similar to that of Bruce, especially when it comes to the logjam of wideouts who are angling for induction. However, Holt's consistency and dominance over a decade seem to resonate a bit more than some of the others. Even if his resume isn't as long as Bruce's or someone like Jerry Rice, a legitimate argument could be made that Holt was the best receiver in the league over the first decade of the 2000s. It sounds unlikely that Holt will go in right away and, like Bruce, will have to wait a bit but should get in at some point.

Hall of Fame look ahead: Holt
Kevin DysonAP Photo/Michael Conroy
We have a winner. The voters picked Mike Jones' game-saving tackle as time expired in Super Bowl XXXIV as the Rams' most memorable play.

While I can certainly understand why The Tackle emerged victorious, I would cast my vote in a different direction. To me, the most memorable play in franchise history came moments before Jones brought Tennessee receiver Kevin Dyson down at the 1-yard line. Wide receiver Isaac Bruce's 73-yard touchdown catch to give the Rams the lead in that game is my choice for the top play in Rams history, narrowly edging Jones' tackle and Ricky Proehl's 30-yard touchdown in the NFC Championship Game.

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Really, you can't go wrong with any of the three plays that were nominated here. All of them were integral in the Rams' pursuit of a Super Bowl title. To differentiate is difficult, but I would argue for Bruce's catch because it's the one play of the three where I can argue that without it, the Rams wouldn't have won the world title.

Proehl's catch, as great as it was, came with the Rams in reasonable field goal range. If Proehl doesn't make the play, the Rams can line up for a 47-yard field goal and still take the lead. That's no chip shot or guarantee, but there was still a way for the Rams to win the game. And while Jones' tackle saved the victory for the Rams, many forget that if Dyson had slipped past him, the Titans would have had to kick an extra point to tie the game (or if coach Jeff Fisher wanted to get crazy, go for two and the win). Theoretically, the Rams still could have won the game in overtime, though momentum clearly was swinging in the Titans' direction.

But ultimately, Bruce's play stands above the rest to me because it most properly defines the greatest era in team history. The "Greatest Show on Turf" was known for its quick-strike ability to score from anywhere on the field at any moment.

After blowing a 16-point lead in the second half, the Rams were on the ropes. The personality of that team came directly from its no-fear approach to offense and coordinator Mike Martz's propensity for keeping the gas pedal pressed down for 60 minutes.

With the Rams reeling, it was fitting that Kurt Warner, the supernova quarterback who came from nowhere, connected with Bruce, the mainstay superstar who had been through all the bad times, to give the Rams a lead they would not relinquish and a championship they'd forever cherish.
Isaac BruceAllen Kee/Getty Images
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This is the third of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in St. Louis Rams history. In the past two days, we have featured Ricky Proehl's 30-yard touchdown catch to beat Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship Game and linebacker Mike Jones' game-saving tackle as time expired in Super Bowl XXXIV. Please vote for your choice as the Rams' most memorable play.

Score: Rams 23, Titans 16
Date: Jan. 30, 2000 Site: Georgia Dome

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After jumping out to a 16-0 lead, the Rams seemed poised to coast to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV. But those hopes were soon dashed as the resilient Titans surged from behind to tie the game at 16 with 2 minutes, 12 seconds to go. The Rams looked tired, and the high-octane offense that had taken the league by storm all season appeared to be running on fumes.

But, as that offense had done all season long, it found the one final burst at just the right moment. With the Rams taking over at their 27-yard line, offensive coordinator Mike Martz had no intention of playing for a field goal. The Rams came out with three receivers lined up to quarterback Kurt Warner's right and one to his left with running back Marshall Faulk in the backfield. The play call was "Twins Right Ace Right 999 H Balloon."

For the uninitiated, those 9's are shorthand for simple go routes, with the receivers attacking the Titans deep down the field. Each receiver to the right found himself in man coverage, with Isaac Bruce on the outside of the hashes, furthest away from safety help against cornerback Denard Walker. At the snap, the Titans rushed four and the Rams line kept the pocket safe, with the notable exception of end Jevon Kearse pushing past right tackle Fred Miller. Kearse closed in on Warner, who released the ball at the last second.

The ball floated down the right sideline. Walker clearly was unaware it had even been thrown, let alone that it was underthrown, but Bruce knew. He made the adjustment to come back for the ball as Walker tried unsuccessfully to catch up to the adjustment. By the time the ball arrived, Bruce had room to run, but other tacklers were gaining ground. Bruce cut inside and raced to the end zone while looking up at the scoreboard to see if anyone was closing in. Instead, he saw left tackle Orlando Pace celebrating and knew he was in the clear.

The 73-yard touchdown gave the Rams a 23-16 lead they would not relinquish on their way to winning the Super Bowl.

While the trio of plays that got the Rams to the Lombardi Trophy all have their special place in history, it's hard to argue against Bruce's touchdown as the most important. Proehl's catch had a higher degree of difficulty, but the Rams could have theoretically still won because they were in field goal range when he made it. And for as great as Jones' tackle was after Bruce's touchdown, if he hadn't made it, the Titans would have been able to only tie the game. Bruce's touchdown provided the definitive winning points in the biggest game in franchise history. As memorable plays go, that is about as good as it gets.

Why Sammy Watkins needs to be a Ram

February, 23, 2014
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Sammy WatkinsAP Photo/ Richard ShiroClemson's Sammy Watkins could give the Rams the receiving threat they've been lacking since Torry Holt.

INDIANAPOLIS -- In 2012, the St. Louis Rams finally found themselves in position to draft the best wide receiver in his draft class.

They had the No. 2 pick in that draft and a clear shot at Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon before making a blockbuster trade with Washington. The move loaded them with picks but also cost them a shot at Blackmon.

It was a move the Rams could make because Blackmon wasn’t believed to be in the class of Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green or Julio Jones. He was best in class but not necessarily considered a surefire No. 1 receiver type.

Two years later, it appears that trade has put the Rams in position to land a receiver who is far closer to the Green/Jones class than any receiver who has come out in the past three years.

His name is Sammy Watkins, and he spent the past three years dominating the ACC as a member of the Clemson Tigers. In that time, he posted 240 catches for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns.

And Watkins is a player who, assuming everything checks out in terms of interviews, health and off-the-field issues, should be at the top of the Rams’ wish list in May.

In talking to a handful of scouts this week at the scouting combine, I heard almost nothing negative about Watkins. Here’s a small sample:

“He’s the real deal -- explosive, physical, strong, gets off the line of scrimmage, makes you miss. … He’s not a big 6-5 type of guy but he plays plenty big and he gets separation easily. … He should be a dominant player in the league and has the makeup to be a No. 1 guy. … The thing I love most about him is how competitive he is; he has a lot of dog in him and it shows up on almost every snap.”

Watkins showed no hesitation in declaring his desire to match those rave reviews and furthered his cause with an impressive 4.43-second 40-yard dash Sunday afternoon.

“What I love doing is dominating defenses,” Watkins said. “I think that’s what I bring to the game and I think that’s going to turn over to the NFL. When I come into the NFL, I think I can be that dominant receiver.”

Bingo. This isn’t about the Rams needing to draft a receiver. This is about the Rams needing to draft THE receiver.

They’ve taken a receiver in each of the past nine years. They’ve selected wideouts in every round, alternately hoping for a diamond in the rough to pay off and betting on a highly touted prospect to pan out.

For those who have followed the team in the five years since Torry Holt’s time in St. Louis came to an end, the lack of a top threat has been glaring. Since Holt and Isaac Bruce departed, the Rams haven’t had one. They haven’t even had one who's come close. No Rams wideout has reached even 700 receiving yards since Holt in 2008, nevermind 1,000 yards, which Holt hit in 2007.

Along the way, the Rams have been unable to find a top receiver for many reasons, not least of which includes some poor player evaluations, a lack of emphasis on the position and a little bit of bad luck.

For most of the past decade, the Rams have been one of the worst teams in the league. They’ve logged a 15-loss season, two 14-loss seasons and a 13-loss season, not to mention a 10-loss year in 2005.

Despite the lofty draft picks that go with those seasons, the Rams have never had the good fortune of having a high pick that corresponds to a season in which something as close to a can’t-miss receiver prospect has been in the draft.

In the 2007 draft, Georgia Tech’s Johnson was clearly one of the two best players. Had the Rams had one of those awful seasons before then, perhaps they could have taken the man now regarded as the best wideout in the league. Instead, they managed to finish 8-8, the only .500 record they’ve had since 2004.

Entering the 2010 season, the Rams were in the midst of one of the worst losing runs in league history. They’d posted a total of three wins in the 2008 and 2009 seasons but managed to take advantage of one of the league’s worst schedules in 2010 and nearly won the NFC West division before losing to Seattle on the season’s final day.

Instead of having a top-six pick in the 2011 draft with a shot at highly touted wideouts Green and Jones, the Rams picked 14th. They did just fine landing end Robert Quinn but settled for Austin Pettis and Greg Salas in Rounds 3 and 4 at receiver.

Sitting with the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, it appears the Rams are almost certain to have a shot at Watkins. The question is whether they’re willing to again spend a top-10 pick on the position, especially when they’ve consistently preached the need for patience with their young receiving corps.

While patience is a reasonable request given how young that group is, there’s nothing that says adding more competition and a potential true No. 1 wideout to the mix would do anything but help the cause.

General manager Les Snead, who in January said the Rams don’t “need” a No. 1 type of receiver, offered a little more flexibility when asked about it again on Friday.

“I'll say this: Any time in the draft, if you could add a really special player, that helps your team,” Snead said. “I think the biggest thing we need from the wide receiver group is experience, letting those guys get older. But, hey, it’s a deep wide receiver class. It seems like every time you get a pick, there may be a good wide receiver on the board.”

Players like Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, LSU’s Odell Beckham, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks and USC’s Marqise Lee are also considered potential first-round picks. Some might even turn out to be as good or better than Watkins.

But if Watkins is indeed the clear-cut best receiver in a strong class, why risk it? Considering how hard the organization has made it look to replace Holt and Bruce, wouldn’t simply drafting Watkins narrow the margin for error in evaluation or player development?

Maybe the Rams would love to trade down and still snag Watkins with a couple of more picks in their pocket. But again, if he really is that type of player, why not just make sure he’s a Ram?

“I don’t think you can ever say no because if that player can help you then pick him,” Snead said. “And competition is not a bad thing either, and having as many weapons as possible is not a bad thing either.”

Especially if that weapon is the one that’s been missing from your arsenal the longest.

Revisiting Rams' Mount Rushmore

February, 17, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In light of LeBron James' discussion of the NBA's version of Mount Rushmore last week, I took a shot at compiling a Rams version. I included players from all eras and found it a difficult exercise given the many great players and coaches through the franchise's history.

When all was said and done, I settled on a foursome of defensive end Deacon Jones, defensive tackle Merlin Olsen, running back Marshall Faulk and quarterback Kurt Warner. I gave a detailed explanation of each choice here but when boiling it down I looked at it from the perspective of telling the story of the franchise with four faces.

To me, that means having the defining eras of Rams football represented. The Fearsome Foursome and the Greatest Show on Turf are the most famous eras of the franchise. That isn't to take away from the guys who didn't play in those eras but I'm not sure the best story of the Rams can be told without those. Hence, both of those eras are equally represented on my Mount Rushmore.

But because this isn't something that comes with a definitive right answer, I wanted to open it up to my Twitter followers to see what they thought. In all, 38 people responded and the results were a little bit different than my quartet.

Here's the final tally from the kind respondents on Twitter:

Deacon Jones - 26
Isaac Bruce - 21
Jack Youngblood - 20
Marshall Faulk - 19
Kurt Warner - 17
Eric Dickerson - 16
Merlin Olsen - 12
Orlando Pace - 6
Elroy Hirsch - 4
Jackie Slater - 4
Norm Van Brocklin - 3
Dick Vermeil - 1
Torry Holt - 1
Henry Ellard - 1
Mike Jones - 1

Using those results of this relatively small sample size, the fans choice for a Mount Rushmore of Rams would be Jones, Bruce, Youngblood and Faulk.

I can't say I was surprised by the choice of Bruce and Youngblood, both of whom were right there with Dickerson as my toughest omissions. I was, however, a bit surprised to see Olsen trailing behind as much as he was. I suppose Jones gets the lion's share of the publicity for his work with the Fearsome Foursome but Olsen's accomplishments are matched by few players in the league, let alone in franchise history.

Really, you can't go wrong with any of the names above and all of those mentioned have rightfully earned a place in the memory of Rams and football fans everywhere.
Torry HoltAP Photo/Chuck BurtonAfter years of feeling unwelcome by their old franchise, former Rams greats such as Torry Holt are making their way back to Rams Park at the invitation of St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Standing between two fields at Rams Park watching practice on Monday afternoon was a group that might as well have been a part of a reunion for Super Bowl XXXIV.

Former Rams receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce chatted it up with former Tennessee cornerback Samari Rolle, who is working in the team’s coaching internship program. That trio was joined at various times by Lance Schulters, another former Titans defensive back in the internship program, La'Roi Glover, a former Rams defensive tackle and now the team’s director of player programs, and former Rams tackle Grant Williams.

The sight of former Rams is nothing new around the team’s training facility these days. Since Jeff Fisher took over as coach in Jan. 2012, he’s made it abundantly clear that he’s happy to welcome back former players who might want to offer some advice to his young team or who might just want to watch practice.

In the two weeks since camp started, other former Rams such as defensive back Aeneas Williams, safety Keith Lyle and linebacker Chris Draft have stopped by. It’s not limited to Rams alumni, either. In addition to Schulters and Rolle, former Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck was also in town for a couple of days.

While it might be nothing new for Fisher to open the doors to past Rams, it does represent something of a departure from how things were in the not-too-distant past.

“This is home,” Holt said. “I should feel comfortable and good when I come here. Myself and others, we did a lot for this organization. So it feels good to be able to step back out on this field and not be looking over your shoulder or feel like you’re stepping on anybody’s toes and then to be able to provide information for guys to improve their game. It’s not about us, it’s just about sharing what we’ve learned to make this organization better and try to bring back championships to this organization.”

That’s a feeling that Holt shared with plenty of other former Rams who didn’t feel welcome or comfortable about being at Rams Park on a regular basis.

In 2011, Rams Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood told ESPN’s Arash Markazi that he didn’t feel like he had any connection to the team he once played Super Bowl XIV with while nursing a broken leg.

"We are their legacy but they forgot us," Youngblood said then. "They don't have anything to do with us, really. I find that unfortunate because you look at other franchises, even those that have moved, and they use their alumni in their marketing and in their organization. They use their Hall of Famers as an example for the players who are there today. They use their alumni, but the Rams have cut us out of the picture."

At the time, the Rams had begun to make inroads in their alumni program, which has taken off in recent years. As part of those efforts, the Rams signed Holt and Bruce to one-day contracts so each could retire as Rams. Most notably they welcomed back 20 prominent players from their past to celebrate the team’s 75th anniversary last December.

Included in that group were a number of Los Angeles Rams, including Rosey Grier, Vince Ferragamo, Dennis Harrah, Jackie Slater, LeRoy Irvin and Youngblood.

That’s just the tip of iceberg. Holt is back in St. Louis this week in preparation for his work as a color analyst on the team’s preseason broadcasts. He joins another former Ram, Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, in the booth for those duties.

Fisher’s open-door policy should come as no surprise given his experience in the league. He’s entering his 28th year coaching in the NFL and his 18th as a head coach.

Surrounded by a veteran staff with plenty of experience of its own, Fisher is undeniably comfortable in his own skin. The paranoia that can sometimes accompany first-time head coaches has long since evaporated and Fisher clearly views the opportunity to bring in any former player with wisdom to share as a positive for a team that again figures to be one of the youngest in the league.

“It feels good to be back, it feels good to be welcome and Coach Fisher gets it,” Holt said. “He welcomes us. He knows the value and the importance of the guys talking to veteran guys who have been there, done it and done it at a high level because you can gain so much from that as a player. I’m thankful that I’m able to come back and coach Fisher is an excellent coach who understands the game, understands what it takes to improve his roster and he’s allowing us to help out.”
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Isaac Bruce holds nearly every meaningful receiver record in Rams franchise history and during his 16-year career earned a reputation as one of the game’s savviest wideouts.

When the Rams hired Jeff Fisher as coach in January of 2012, Fisher made it clear that alumni would be welcomed to Rams Park with open arms. Bruce was right at the top of the list.

[+] EnlargeIsaac Bruce
Douglas C. Pizac/US PresswireFormer Rams receiving great Isaac Bruce likes the team's young receivers. "I'm pretty impressed," Bruce said.
Considering the fact that the Rams don’t have a single wideout on the roster who has more than two full years of NFL game experience, any additional presence that can help receivers coach Ray Sherman is a welcome addition.

So Bruce has spent the better part of the past week observing, offering advice and generally serving as a resource for the young wideouts.

Bruce has been participating in many of the team activities since his arrival in St. Louis. He attends meetings, sits in on film sessions, works with players during practice and has even spent time getting in extra work with the young wideouts after those sessions are over.

“I think they wait on and listen to my opinion,” Bruce said. “I just tell the guys what I think and how I would run a route against this coverage or how I would attack the football versus that pass being thrown. They just sit on it and kind of wait for it. I sit in the back and I sneak up and then all eyes start looking at me.”

The Rams will keep five or six receivers on the final roster and Bruce offered me his thoughts on the five that are almost certain to make it.

“I’m pretty impressed,” Bruce said. “I think they’ve added some speed, some quickness, some separation, some guys who have a lot of room for growth but they are willing to make those steps to improve. I like the group as a whole.”

On Chris Givens: “To me, he’s not as herky jerky as he was last year,” Bruce said. “He’s made up his mind on who he wants to be as a football player. He’s a guy who can explode off the line of scrimmage. His transition from running the route to catching the football has gotten a whole lot better and his confidence is up.”

On Austin Pettis: “He is a starter right now,” Bruce said. “He’s not a guy who is just kind of glad to be here anymore. From what I see, I think he’s got the mentality of a No. 1 receiver and that’s big. If you are going to be a dominant guy in this league, I think that’s the right mentality to have.”

On Brian Quick: “That’s what we are working on right now is having him be more consistent,” Bruce said. “Like I said, for that guy we are just building an identity of just coming in every day and figuring out who he is and what type of football player he is and letting him know he can play at a high level and he belongs. I think that’s working out for him.”

On Tavon Austin: “The thing that blows me away is his willingness to learn,” Bruce said. “He’s pretty hungry as far as knowledge is concerned. From my background of playing this game, the more wisdom you have, I think the more success you’ll have, even over talent. Your talent starts to fade but the more you know, you can stay in this game a long time and have a lot of success.”

On Stedman Bailey: “The guy is from my hometown and he knows what it is to play competitively as far as football is concerned,” Bruce said. “I think the guy is going to make big plays. I keep telling him every day you are here for a reason. They drafted you for a reason so go ahead and tap into that potential and be all you can be.”

Bruce will attend one more practice Tuesday afternoon before departing Wednesday.

Evening Rams' practice notes

August, 5, 2013
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The Rams returned to the practice field Monday afternoon after a day off Sunday.

Unlike last week when they returned to the practice field on the heels of a day off, Rams coach Jeff Fisher was pleased with how his team did in bouncing back from a little down time.

“(It was) better than the last time we had a day off,” Fisher said. “Last time it took us awhile to get ‘em going. We talked about it and they came out and started making plays to start practice. I was pleased.”

The turnaround this week will be short as the Rams prepare to travel to Cleveland for the preseason opener on Thursday night.

As is the norm, there won’t be a whole lot of planning or scheming over the next couple of days.

“We are just going to carry some basic things into the game,” Fisher said. “We have to prepare for their defensive front out of fairness to our guys and the quarterback so we’ll do that and then try to keep things pretty simple.”

In other Rams' news:
  • Safety Matt Daniels came off the physically unable to perform list and returned to practice Monday afternoon for the first time this camp. He’s returning from a knee injury suffered against New England on Oct. 28 of last year but is unlikely to play Thursday night.
  • Receiver Nick Johnson (hamstring) and defensive tackle Al Lapuaho (hand) also returned for Monday’s workout.
  • Isaac Bruce, the team’s all time leader in nearly every receiving category, is still in town working with the team’s young receivers. Torry Holt, Bruce’s long time running mate, is also in town as he prepares to provide analysis for Thursday night’s broadcast. Former Rams tackle Grant Williams was also in attendance Monday.
  • Wideout Brian Quick has been up and down in camp but Monday was one of his up days. He caught a long pass down the middle in team drills in which he elevated over cornerback Quinton Pointer for a big gain and followed with catch deep down the sideline in a soft spot in the zone.
  • It was running back Isaiah Pead who made the catch of the day, outmuscling linebacker Alec Ogletree for the ball and tapping his feet in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown during red zone work.
  • Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who has had some major battles with receiver Chris Givens during camp, came up with an interception after battling Austin Pettis for a pass. Jenkins batted the ball a few times before ultimately hauling it in.
  • The Rams continue to take precaution with some of their veteran offensive linemen. Center Scott Wells, guard Harvey Dahl and tackles Jake Long and Rodger Saffold get regularly breaks during the course of practice in an effort to keep them fresh.
  • There will be one more practice Tuesday afternoon before the Rams depart for Cleveland on Wednesday.
Just a quick note here on a fairly significant milestone within the division.

Larry Fitzgerald stands 48 yards short of 10,000 for his career heading into the Arizona Cardinals' game against Buffalo on Sunday. He has averaged 67.4 yards per game this season. Fitzgerald has reached or exceeded 48 yards in 95 of his 129 regular-season games (73.6 percent).

The Bills have allowed 48 or more receiving yards to eight players through five games this season.

Five players have reached 100 yards against Buffalo in 2012: Wes Welker (129), Michael Crabtree (113), Vernon Davis (106), Rob Gronkowski (104) and Dwayne Bowe (102).

Fitzgerald is coming off an eight-catch, 92-yard game against St. Louis.

The chart shows the four youngest players to reach 10,000 career receiving yards before age 30. All four have played for current NFC West teams. Former Seattle Seahawks receiver Steve Largent ranks fifth. He was 31 years and 83 days old when he passed the milestone.

NFC West Stock Watch

September, 18, 2012
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FALLING

1. Injured money men. Injuries prevented some of the higher-profile players in the NFC West from helping their teams as much as anticipated. The list included Russell Okung, Zach Miller, Sidney Rice, Beanie Wells and Steven Jackson. Rice and Wells are healthy enough, their coaches have said, but both have been banged up recently. Neither played extensively Sunday. Rice played just more than half the offensive snaps against Dallas after playing 89 percent in the opener. Wells played 38 percent against New England. He has become a rotational player after topping 1,000 yards last season.

2. Rookie receivers. Second-rounder Brian Quick isn't playing much for the Rams. First-rounder Michael Floyd isn't playing much for the Cardinals. First-rounder A.J. Jenkins isn't getting onto the field for the 49ers. Those three rookie wideouts combined for nine snaps during their teams' victories in Week 2. None of this is particularly shocking. Rookie receivers often aren't ready right away. Of note: New York Jets rookie Stephen Hill has five receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns thus far.

3. Braylon Edwards, Seahawks WR. Edwards' stock took a hit when he couldn't handle the potential winning touchdown pass against Arizona in Week 1. Golden Tate's return from injury dealt another blow to Edwards, who went from 65 snaps against the Cardinals to nine during a 27-7 victory over Dallas. Tate played well.

4. Cardinals RB combination. Second-year running back Ryan Williams has lost a fumble in each of the Cardinals' games this season. The one he lost while running down the clock against New England nearly gave away a hard-earned Arizona victory. Williams is averaging 1.2 yards per carry through two games. Wells is averaging 2.8. Cornerback Patrick Peterson (17 yards) and receiver Andre Roberts (15) own Arizona's longest runs from scrimmage.

RISING

1. Ray Horton, Cardinals DC. The Cardinals have held Seattle (16 points) and New England (18) to one touchdown apiece through two games. Horton, Arizona's second-year coordinator, has been getting impressive results since the second half of last season. Arizona has held nine of its last 11 opponents to 20 or fewer points. Horton interviewed for the Rams' coaching vacancy last offseason. He'll get additional opportunities and more legitimate ones if the Cardinals continue on their current course defensively. Horton is getting great play from Calais Campbell and others. That helps, too.

2. Sam Bradford, Rams QB. Bradford completed all nine of his third-down passes, seven of them for first downs, while matching a career high with three scoring tosses during the Rams' 31-28 victory over the Washington Redskins. Bradford completed 26 of 35 passes for 310 yards, his fourth career game with at least 300 yards.

3. Danny Amendola, Rams WR. Twelve first-half catches and 15 for the game more than offset the fumble Amendola lost following his first reception. Amendola finished the game with 160 yards and a touchdown. He made five catches on third down. The 15 receptions tied a franchise single-game record shared by Flipper Anderson and Isaac Bruce.

4. Russell Wilson, Seahawks QB. Wilson followed up a so-so debut at Arizona with a far more efficient performance in the absence of the constant pressure the Cardinals generated. Wilson completed 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. He set a franchise rookie record for completion percentage in a single game (min. 20 attempts). Wilson, backed by Marshawn Lynch's 122-yard rushing performance, completed 8 of 10 passes for 71 yards and five first downs on play-action attempts.

Around the NFC West: Expert opinions

August, 17, 2012
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San Francisco 49ers coaches know they can trust Alex Smith to execute their game plan and lead the offense.

They appreciate the quarterback's temperament, too.

Greg Roman, the 49ers' offensive coordinator, explained the appeal during a conversation Wednesday.

"Extremely even-keeled," Roman said of Smith. "That was evidenced last year in a lot of the games when we needed to make some fourth-quarter comebacks to win. As a team and a coach, you can certainly draw on that because you know what you’re getting every day and you can plan accordingly."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Jim Harbaugh held up Smith as having become an "expert" in the 49ers' offense about a year ahead of schedule. Harbaugh: "He's very smart. He already has great ideas. He already is very creative. He already is knowledgeable in how to use everything in the system. ... He's way ahead of the curve. I think after a year, you really know it. It takes about two years in the system to be a real expert at it. He's cut that in half." Noted: It's pretty clear the 49ers are expecting good things from Smith this season. San Francisco faces most of the top quarterbacks in the NFL this season. How will Smith measure up?

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers' offense put together another strong day in camp.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox will not face an NFL suspension this season after missing 2011 during legal proceedings associated with a sexual-assault case. Cox was acquitted.

Also from Barrows: Alex Boone has worked to overcome alcohol-related troubles.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Randy Moss appears to be having fun and working hard, according to Smith.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles 49ers receiver Brian Tyms, who has overcome much during his journey to the NFL. Branch: "He was physically abused by both biological parents, and each incident prompted the Department of Children and Families to intercede. At 7, his mother, Jada Tyms, who had split with his biological father, hit him in a store and the incident was reported. His half-sister, Alysha Bernett, went to live with a grandfather and Tyms began his odyssey in group homes and foster care. After three years in group homes, his biological dad, Kenneth Stephens, was granted custody, but the arrangement in Seattle lasted less than two years. Deep into alcoholism, Stephens and Brian, then about 11, got into a physical altercation and his dad began choking him."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' new leadership welcomes back former players, a change from recent seasons. Torry Holt and Aeneas Williams have been at camp this week, offering tips to players. Holt: "It's good for guys to see the history of our organization because we've got a lot of history in this organization. I've talked about it before. When I was a rookie and a couple years in the league, Deacon Jones and Jack Youngblood, they'd come back and talk to us and just talk about the pride and the tradition of Rams football. And I mentioned that to the receivers in the (meeting) room. I said, 'There's a standard here in regards to the receiving position, all the way back to Henry Ellard, Crazylegs (Hirsch), Flipper Anderson, myself, Isaac (Bruce), Ricky (Proehl) -- the list goes on and on of guys that played the position at a high level. So keeping that standard, keeping that tradition alive, I think it's huge."

Also from Thomas: Sam Bradford downplays concerns over his ankle.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com sees progress from rookie receiver Brian Quick: "Quick is getting reps with the first team this week and he’s now put together perhaps his two best practices of his young career. He skied for a ball from Kellen Clemens in 7 on 7s and brought it down in the end zone then proceeded to catch everything thrown his way during the workout. Jeff Fisher said Quick looked like he did at his now famous workout at Appalachian State and said maybe Quick just likes the indoors. That could bode well since the Rams play indoors."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Terrell Owens enjoyed another strong practice: "Owens caught a half dozen passes today, including one where he got behind Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner and another where he fought his way through being jammed by rookie cornerback Jeremy Lane. Owens is playing flanker, although Pete Carroll has said he’d also like to look at the 6-foot-3, 224-pound Owens as a possible replacement Mike Williams at split end."

Also from Farnsworth: camp awards featuring Marshawn Lynch (offense), Richard Sherman (defense) and Robert Turbin (rookie) as top players.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times sees good things from Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung. Line coach Tom Cable: "The thing that's changed for him is how detailed he has become. I thought before, he was a really talented guy who knew he was talented. In this league, there's so much more to it. And I think with great respect to him, he has really succumbed to that. That it's not about where they picked me. It's not about what my talent is. It's about what I put into it. He has done a marvelous job."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says coach Ken Whisenhunt put the Cardinals on alert this week. Also, receiver Larry Fitzgerald addressed the team about stepping up its game. Somers on the QB situation: "John Skelton has been adept at avoiding pressure and buying himself time. But he missed a lot of open receivers in practice this week. Improving accuracy remains his priority. Kevin Kolb, in contrast, looks uncomfortable in the pocket, as if he doesn't trust his protection, or that a receiver is going to come open."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com is watching to see which cornerbacks step up over the remaining exhibition games. Urban: "Interesting that DC Ray Horton mentioned to Kent Somers no cornerback has really challenged William Gay for the starting spot opposite Patrick Peterson. I didn’t get the impression that was because Gay has been flawless either. It’s one of the reasons this game means a lot to the defense too -- where is that unit with the 2011 closing kick?"

Josh Weinfuss of azcardinals.com passes along thoughts from center Lyle Sendlein on the Cardinals' preseason struggles. Sendlein: "For whatever reason we’re locking up mentally when we’re getting out there. It’s things our coaches go over with us the day before and that’s why they’re so disappointed in us because they know we can do it. There’s a fine line of being relaxed and being uptight and I don’t think we’re uptight. I think we’re just trying to do too much. I know we are good and we will be good but the problem is we’re just trying to do more than (our) job and when you do that, you make mistakes and things aren’t executed the way they should be."
Middle linebacker David Hawthorne's experience in NFL free agency was not unique to him.

The market for running backs, safeties and inside linebackers has remained mostly soft as teams build their rosters from the outside in, the better to cope with an increasingly pass-happy NFL.

The Seattle Seahawks have been a bit of an exception, paying significant sums to a run-stuffing defensive end (Red Bryant) and a power runner (Marshawn Lynch). But they weren't going to value Hawthorne on the same level. Knee problems slowed Hawthorne last season. And Hawthorne, though productive when healthy, does not possess the specialized traits coach Pete Carroll values in players.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Hawthorne wanted to re-sign with Seattle, but the New Orleans Saints were offering better money. Hawthorne's agent, Russel Hicks: "He wanted to come back there. He got his NFL start there, but unfortunately Seattle did not make him a priority to bring him back and New Orleans made it a priority to get him signed. Personally I just wish they would have made a better attempt to bring him back, but they didn’t. And David does, too." Noted: Hawthorne has seven interceptions over the past three seasons. The Seahawks could miss his production. However, they have embraced opportunities to remake the position, parting with Aaron Curry and Lofa Tatupu previously. The team was more interested in keeping Hawthorne than keeping Curry or Tatupu, but not enough to pay him even in a soft market.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along thoughts from Hawthorne after the middle linebacker signed with New Orleans. Hawthorne: "From Day One, they were one of the first teams to contact me in free agency. I think they valued me and my body of work, and I had never played a snap for them. ... I had to make a decision based on my future."

Also from O'Neil: thoughts on the Seahawks' new uniforms. O'Neil: "Mock if you must. Compare them to the Nike football flagship that Oregon's college program has become, or invoke the Arena League or comic-book superheroes for that matter. But no one is going to mistake the Seahawks' new uniforms for anything out of grandma's attic."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with Todd Van Horne, Nike's global creative director, for thoughts on the new NFL uniforms. Farnsworth: "The jersey is 20 percent lighter and 50 percent stronger than what teams have been wearing the past 10 seasons."

Also from Farnsworth: "The Seahawks tried to re-sign Hawthorne before the free agency period began on March 13 and again after he had visited the Saints. But the sides could not agree on a deal."

Sports Press Northwest quotes Bills safety George Wilson thusly: "Why do the Seahawks get the cool uniforms? I like changing it up and not doing the expected. Seattle is really taking some risks in their uniform. But from hearing the other guys talk about it in the back, I think their uniform was the overwhelming player favorite in the dressing room."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says during a chat he thinks Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are both worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Also from Thomas: "Even with the signing of Jo-Lonn Dunbar from New Orleans, the Rams still have only four linebackers under contract. Most teams take 9 or 10 into training camp, and usually 6 or 7 into the regular season. So yes, the Rams need more bodies there. I think Lavonte David would be a good choice. He'd be a great value at the top of the third, but will he still be there at that point."

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com suggests Los Angeles might be less of a threat to lure the Rams away from St. Louis. Gordon: "The downtown L.A. stadium proposed by the Anschutz Entertainment Group offers decidedly unattractive financial terms to teams in other cities. Yahoo! Sports notes that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell advised billionaire Phil Anschutz to change those terms to move the project forward. Anschutz has thus far balked at Goodell’s suggestion."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com explains some of the reasons he came to appreciate Torry Holt. He passes along this 2007 comment from Holt regarding talkative wideouts: "Yeah, sometimes it’s just shutting up and just playing, not worrying about anything that is going on other than what you can control and that’s your job and your actions and your words. That’s one of the biggest lessons I would take from Isaac (Bruce). Sometimes you should just shut up. Tame your tongue and let your actions and what you do on the football field speak for you. That’s what he does."

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis says Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan likes the new Nike uniforms. Finnegan: "It is everything a player could want in a jersey. The older jerseys limited you. I can feel the difference just walking around. They are state of the art."

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic offers details on the NFL's new uniforms, noting that little has changed for the Cardinals. Young: "While the shrink-wrap-tight cut of the uniforms, exposed stitching and breathable fabrics reportedly are similar to the cutting-edge stuff that Nike has produced for college programs -- including Arizona State -- the new uniforms stay true to traditional designs and colors for most teams. Larry Fitzgerald modeled the Cardinals version of the new uniforms for NFL.com in the home red. We are told the team still will have the alternate black uniform option as well."

Aaron Wilson of Scout.com says James Sanders, a free-agent safety from the Atlanta Falcons, is visiting with the Cardinals. Sanders played previously for New England.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' Jed York showed qualities reflecting his uncle (Eddie DeBartolo Jr.) and father (John York) in securing a new stadium. Lynch: "Jed is impetuous just like Eddie, but has an awareness of financial reality like his pop."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' jerseys should look familiar, and not just for their design. Inman: "A main element for the next edition of the 49ers: The names on the back of the uniform. According to unofficial research (a five-second scan of the online roster), 52 players who had spots in last season’s locker room are still on the team. That includes every defensive starter (plus Aldon Smith, who’s tabbed to unseat Parys Haralson at right outside linebacker). Unlike so many recent 49ers offseasons in the past decade, the head coach returns. And, yes, you can assume Jim Harbaugh’s wardrobe won’t stray from last year’s staple: khaki pants, black fleece sweatshirt, black cap, red-pen necklace, wily scowl."

Also from Inman: an Alex Smith interview transcript.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' apparent interest in free-agent offensive lineman Jason Brown makes sense.

Ofelia Madrid of the Arizona Republic says receiver Dontavia Bogan, recently released by the 49ers, was arrested after scuffling with security guards in Arizona.
Torry Holt's formal retirement from the NFL -- as a St. Louis Ram, fittingly -- will touch off the usual discussions about Hall of Fame worthiness.

In the meantime, consider this an appreciation.

Holt was the NFC West wide receiver opponents feared most during the first five or six years following divisional realignment in 2002. He could beat defenses with his speed and then make spectacular, seemingly impossible plays on the ball against coverage.

Terrell Owens left the division following the 2003 season. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin were still ascending. Holt's teammate in St. Louis, Isaac Bruce, remained formidable, but Holt was increasingly the dominant force.

From 2000 through 2007, Holt strung together eight consecutive seasons with at least 81 receptions and 1,188 yards. That included two 1,600-yard seasons and four others with at least 1,300 yards. He averaged 19.9 yards per reception in 2000 and 106 yards per game in 2003, figures that led the NFL in those seasons.

My previous job as a Seattle Seahawks beat reporter provided a first-hand view for some of Holt's finest moments. His eight catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns against Seattle during a 2006 shootout at the Edward Jones Dome stands out. The Rams trailed 27-21 with three minutes remaining when Leonard Little forced a Maurice Morris fumble. Less than a minute later, Holt's 67-yard touchdown catch had the Rams in the lead.

Safety Michael Boulware had deflected the pass and nearly intercepted it. Holt somehow gathered the ball, a deep heave from Marc Bulger, and ran into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

"Until he caught it, I thought I was catching it," Boulware said at the time. "I'm still kind of ... I can't believe that he caught it."

Holt was a Seahawk killer in those days. He finished his career with 91 receptions for 1,247 yards and eight touchdowns in 16 games against Seattle. But Holt did not discriminate. He lit up Arizona with 101 receptions for 1,417 yards and nine scores in 15 games. Holt had 116 receptions for 1,542 yards and seven touchdowns in 21 games against San Francisco, a team he faced in the NFC West before and after realignment.

Purely by coincidence, I cued up that 2006 Seahawks-Rams game on Tuesday night when my kids asked if they could watch an old game on their DVD player before bedtime.

We watched Holt dominate, at one point catching a 9-yard scoring pass against Marcus Trufant before Trufant could even turn to locate the ball. After a while, my youngest son, 7, asked whether Holt was in the Hall of Fame. The question was premature, as Holt will not be eligible for another five years. But the case for him is a strong one.

Holt had more receptions and receiving yards than any player from 2000 to 2009. He was fifth in receiving touchdowns during that time, a respectable total that suffered because the Rams had other options. He won one Super Bowl and played in another.

The Rams have struggled to replace Holt in recent seasons. They hold the sixth pick in the 2012 draft and could select Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, if available. Holt, the sixth player chosen in 1999, set the bar high.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Thirteen modern-era NFL players were finalists for enshrinement Saturday in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Only one was named offensive or defensive player of the year during his career.

That was the Seattle Seahawks' Cortez Kennedy. His eight Pro Bowls, all-1990s selection and overall dominance made my job as his presenter quite simple. State the facts and let Kennedy's career do the talking. Picking the final five out of 15 modern-era finalists is always tough, however, because it usually requires leaving off worthy candidates.

[+] EnlargeCortez Kennedy
US PresswireNo doubt, Seattle's Cortez Kennedy was one of the most dominant defensive players of his era.
The 43 other selectors and I met for more than seven hours before identifying Kennedy, Chris Doleman, Dermontti Dawson, Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf as the class of 2012. Jack Butler made it as a seniors candidate.

A few thoughts on the process and the results:

  • This class made it through at a good time. Larry Allen, Michael Strahan, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Bryant Young, John Lynch and Steve McNair become eligible for the first time in 2013. Shaun Alexander, Derrick Brooks, Marvin Harrison, Rodney Harrison, Tony Dungy and Mike Holmgren join the list in 2014. Isaac Bruce, Edgerrin James, Walter Jones, Junior Seau, Chris Samuels, Kurt Warner, Ty Law and Orlando Pace are among those eligible beginning in 2015.
  • Former St. Louis Rams
    and Arizona Cardinals
    cornerback Aeneas Williams should feel great about cracking the final 10 in his first year as a finalist. Williams had 55 career interceptions and scored nine touchdowns. He was a big-time playmaker for bad and good teams alike.
  • The situation at receiver remains a mess and it's not going to get easier with Harrison becoming eligible in a couple years. Voters are having a tough time deciding between Cris Carter and Andre Reed. Both made the final 10 this year. Reed made the final 10 last year as well. Having both crack the final 10 this year made it harder for one of them to break through. Voters were more likely to choose one wideout when forced to pick only five players.
  • Former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. did not make the reduction from 15 to 10. I think it's tougher for voters to quantify how owners and even coaches -- think Bill Parcells, who missed the cut from 10 to five -- contributed to their teams' success. The discussions for Parcells (55-plus minutes) and DeBartolo (42-plus minutes) were more than twice as long as the discussions for other candidates. Hall bylaws prevented voters from considering the legal troubles and suspension that preceded DeBartolo's exit from the game.
  • DeBartolo was a finalist in part because he hired Bill Walsh, promoted a winning culture, cared tremendously for his players and helped win five Super Bowls. He spent this weekend with former 49ers player Freddie Solomon, who is in the final days of a battle with cancer. The 49ers' renewed success this past season also reflected well on DeBartolo, who has become a tremendous resource for current team president Jed York, his nephew.
  • Electing one pass-rusher (Doleman, who spent part of his career with the 49ers) to the Hall could give former 49ers and Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher Charles Haley an easier time in the future. But with Strahan joining the conversation in 2013, Haley faces stiff competition again. Former Rams pass-rusher Kevin Greene did not make the final 10 despite 160 career sacks.

It's been a whirlwind day. Hall bylaws prevent me from sharing specifics about what was said in the room during the proceedings. The Hall also asked voters not to reveal their votes outright. I voted for five of the six players enshrined on the final cut and supported others. As always, however, reducing to only five in the end required leaving off candidates I hope will make it in the future.

Jack Youngblood's ticked? A few thoughts

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
6:54
PM ET
Jack Youngblood's Pro Football Hall of Fame bio recalls a postseason performance featuring a sack, forced fumble, blocked extra-point attempt and 47-yard interception return for a touchdown.

That performance and others made Youngblood a favorite among Los Angeles Rams fans. As for the folks in St. Louis? Not so much. Their Cardinals were on the receiving end of that vintage 1975 postseason effort from the legendary defensive end.

[+] EnlargeJack Youngblood
Malcolm Emmons/US PresswireFormer Los Angeles Rams star Jack Youngblood on the St. Louis Rams: "We are their legacy, but they forgot us."
The Rams would move to St. Louis two decades later, creating a gap between the organization and players from the Los Angeles era.

The team thinks it has done plenty to bridge that gap and said so emphatically on its website Thursday, but only after Youngblood's latest diatribe against the organization.

"We are their legacy, but they forgot us," Youngblood told ESPNLosAngeles.com this week. "They don't have anything to do with us, really."

That is not true, according to a 697-word accounting the team published Thursday. That accounting said the Rams' recent efforts to connect with their past included jersey-retirement ceremonies for Deacon Jones and Isaac Bruce; game-day appearances by 10 retired St. Louis-era players, including Grant Wistrom and Orlando Pace; and game-day ceremonies honoring Eric Dickerson, Tom Mack, Merlin Olsen (through Olsen's son) and Youngblood himself.

"In an effort to recognize the great players who wore horns before the team’s move to St. Louis, the club has also honored all living Rams’ Hall of Famers from the Club’s time in Los Angeles," the website piece reads. "The first player to be honored was Jack Youngblood, who was honored at the Edward Jones Dome in October of 2009."

It's pretty clear the Rams took offense to Youngblood's comments and wanted their side of the story told. I asked Rams fans for their feedback on the matter and will break out some of those thoughts below.

"As a Rams fan since 1970, I am appalled at the things that are going on/have been going on at Rams Park," bigdaddyc9 wrote. "To outright cast off those legacy players is wrong. Since 'Spags' has been there, some very odd decisions on his part have made relationships with former players even more strained."

Coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney have indeed replaced some of the longer-tenured employees with ties to the Los Angeles days. But one of the better safeties in Rams history, Nolan Cromwell, coaches receivers for the team.

"The Rams have bigger problems than Jack Youngblood feeling left out," QBSamTheRam wrote.

Spoken like a St. Louis-era Rams fan, most likely.

"I'm from Orange County and grew up an avid Rams fan," paulbro23 wrote. "I felt completely betrayed and abandoned when they left Anaheim and moved to St. Louis, and have despised the team and the franchise ever since -- so much so, that I eventually switched my allegiances to the 49ers. ... I recognize it's a business, but they had no problem turning their backs on their SoCal fans, so why not do the same to their entire history here. I hope they go winless this year and remain among the worst teams in the league."

Another former Los Angeles-era fan, Lammergeier99, said he was a Rams fan during the George Allen days, then became a fan of the football Cardinals in St. Louis and Arizona.

"It was very odd that the Rams moved to St. Louis and that the Cardinals moved to Phoenix," he wrote. "I only wish that the Cardinals could somehow get the Rams' 1960s Defense right now. Kevin Kolb could then concentrate on learning the offense. You don't need to score points in bunches when your 'D' is holding the opponent down."

There's one thing even Jack Youngblood and the Rams could agree upon. I think.

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