NFL Nation: NFC West

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- One way or another, the St. Louis Rams are going to add a young quarterback at some point this offseason. With that in mind, coach Jeff Fisher wanted to talk to former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke.

"There's going to be a time whether its here in two months or three months or whenever that we're going to have a young quarterback," Fisher said at last week's combine. "I don't think there is anybody better qualified to coach a young quarterback than him."

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsChris Weinke will likely be working with Sam Bradford and a rookie from this year's draft.
So it was that Weinke arrived in Indianapolis as the director of the football program at IMG Academy and left as the Rams quarterbacks coach. In some ways, it's entirely possible that adding Weinke to the mix might be one of the best moves the Rams will make this offseason.

Although this is Weinke's first foray into coaching at the NFL level, the type of experience he does have might be more beneficial than if he had been working in the league for the past five years. Working at IMG afforded Weinke the chance to come to St. Louis with perhaps the most diversified portfolio of any quarterbacks coach in the league.

"At the end of the day, I've been able to touch a lot of different guys with a lot of different skill sets coming from a lot of different backgrounds," Weinke said. "You have to adapt and you've got to be able to understand the importance of every quarterback as an individual. You may be able to understand something visually or you may have to write it down. I need to know what my quarterbacks can handle. So I will coach every quarterback with certain fundamentals, let them have some flexibility within that but then understand how they learn because that's the most important thing."

Along the way, Weinke worked with Carolina's Cam Newton, who came from a system that asked very little in terms of regurgitation and playing under center. For eight weeks in 2011, while the NFL was in a lockout, Weinke spent his mornings teaching Newton the finer points of taking snaps and basics like how to take a play call and spit it out in a huddle rather than look to the sideline for a number or a signal.

When those sessions were done, Weinke would turn his attention to working with another incoming rookie, Christian Ponder. He helped both essentially install their new offenses while their pro coaches weren't allowed to even have contact with their rookie quarterbacks.

The list of quarterbacks to work with Weinke also includes Seattle's Russell Wilson, Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater and Miami's Ryan Tannehill, among others. The detailed Weinke draws on his many years as a quarterback -- he's kept every note and game plan he's ever taken from Pop Warner to now -- to adapt to whatever style of quarterback he's working with.

The key, according to Weinke, isn't trying to reinvent the wheel so much as tweak it to become more efficient.

"I think when you look at all the different styles I've seen, what i do is not try to create a robot," Weinke said. "That's not what I'm trying to do. I want these guys to be able to play with confidence. I'm not going to try to change somebody's throwing motion. That's not what I'm in the business of doing. I'm going to take it and maybe tweak it a little so we can maximize whatever the good Lord gave him. So at the end of the day, I always said when you were a kid and picked up a rock and threw it in the lake, that's your natural throwing motion and you've been doing that your whole life. So who am I to think now at 20, 21, 22 years old that I'm going to change that? That's not a very smart move."

Instead, Weinke's focus is on fundamentals, starting with footwork and building from there up.

"It's hard for a one-legged man to be in a kickboxing fight, right?" Weinke said. "So understand you have got to have balance. How do we throw the football with maximum power from a good platform and be consistent and throw with accuracy? At the end of the day, we all understand that you must throw the football with anticipation in the National Football League."

In St. Louis, most signs point to Weinke working with Sam Bradford. Bradford is the only quarterback under contract and though his agent Tom Condon is in a serious game of chicken with the Rams at the moment, it still seems likely he'll be in St. Louis when all is said and done. Weinke and Bradford had dinner before Weinke was hired and Weinke has nothing but good things to say about Bradford.

"Love him," Weinke said. "I look back and every guy that I've evaluated coming out of college, a few years ago when Andrew Luck came out, they said who would you compare him to? And the closest I would see is Sam Bradford."

But even if Bradford is on board, the likelihood remains that the Rams will spend a relatively high pick on a new quarterback. Before Weinke, it was fair to wonder whether they had the coaching staff in place to take on a project from a spread system like UCLA's Brett Hundley or Baylor's Bryce Petty and develop him into a functional NFL quarterback.

With Weinke in place, you'd be hard-pressed to find a quarterback bringing something to the table he hasn't already seen.

Rams, Kenny Britt should stay together

February, 26, 2015
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A little less than a year ago, the St. Louis Rams signed wide receiver Kenny Britt to a one-year "prove it" deal. You know, the one-year contract for a meager amount of money (in NFL terms) for a player who has injury concerns, off-the-field questions or a combination of the two.

Britt arrived in St. Louis with both, yet sought a fresh start with a familiar face. That familiar face was head coach Jeff Fisher, the man who chose Britt in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft.

[+] EnlargeKenny Britt
Denis Poroy/Associated PressKenny Britt's production last season with the Rams has earned him a bit more job security heading into the free-agency period.
The belief for Britt was that his reunion with Fisher could help him erase memories of the previous three seasons marked by dropped passes, injuries and questions about his approach to the game.

Meanwhile, the Rams hoped that Britt could give them a much-needed consistent threat in the passing game. Despite using multiple draft picks on wide receivers in the previous two offseasons, Fisher & Co. sought someone who could produce big plays and big numbers.

As it turned out, both sides mostly got what they wanted. Former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer made it clear how the Rams felt about Britt's addition near the end of the season.

"No. 1, he's just a joy to be around," Schottenheimer said then. "Comes out to practice every day high energy, intense, works, runs. I've been around a few receivers in my career that have talent like that and they don't want to work. This guy comes to work every day. He's a special talent, but he works his craft which is great. Certainly, had a huge game last week for us. A guy that we'd love to see back here."

Now, as Britt heads toward free agency for the second year in a row, the Rams probably won't have the benefit of bringing him back on another "prove it" deal.

Britt finished 2014 with 48 catches for 748 yards and three touchdowns. The yardage total was the second best of his career and those catches represent a career high. In the process, he became the first Rams pass-catcher since receiver Torry Holt in 2008 to even crack 700 receiving yards in a season.

Not that 700 yards should be some sort of impressive benchmark that means you've arrived, but in these parts it represents something in the vein of progress. It's enough to earn Britt a little more money and job security moving forward.

And if both sides get what they want, it'll happen in St. Louis.

"My wife loves it, I love it out here, I love this locker room, I love the people that are in this locker room, I love the people in the building, it's like an extended family to me," Britt said.

Discussions about a new contract began with Britt's representatives at the Senior Bowl in January, but to this point, a deal has not been struck. With free agency looming on March 10, there's a chance that Britt will get a chance to test the market.

By any measure, Britt has had his greatest success in the league playing for Fisher. It would behoove him to continue to do so, something he readily acknowledges.

"I always say it was a blessing for me to play with Jeff, especially in Tennessee," Britt said. "He's always been there, my whole career since I've been in the NFL, and after I finished my contract there we kept in touch and it's one of the main reasons I came here is because I liked him so much and I'd like to go win a ring with that guy, so I really fell in love when I met the guys in the locker room and the training staff and people around here."

From a Rams perspective, keeping Britt would serve multiple purposes. He proved a solid option in the passing game, one who should only produce more if given the chance to play with a quarterback like Sam Bradford for a full season. Retaining Britt would also make adding a receiver in the draft or free agency less of a pressing need.

Britt also proved a better-than-expected locker room leader and mentor for a group of young receivers. That was best seen in the steps forward for Brian Quick.

"He's that kind of player," Quick said. "That's why he's here. Just looking at him shows that I can do the same thing."

As it is for any possible free agent, Britt's future will be a business decision. Money will play a key role even if Britt insists otherwise.

"It's always about how you fit and how you feel," Britt said. "I was never a person that would go out there and play the game for money. I go out there and play the game for the guys that line up next to me and the guy that is in there each and every day going to work for guys like Jeff Fisher and the coaching staff. That's somebody I want to go win a ring with because he deserves it and I want to be one of the guys that helps."

Ensuring that possibility should be a priority for both parties.

About those daily Sam Bradford rumors

February, 25, 2015
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In the latest churn of the Sam Bradford rumor mill, reports surfaced Tuesday that the Buffalo Bills are considering making a trade offer for the St. Louis Rams quarterback.

As is becoming increasingly common in this age of social media, those reports were summarily shot down with reports that no team has actually really pursued a trade for Bradford. The Buffalo rumors came on the heels of rumors that the Cleveland Browns had similar interest in Bradford. And those rumors followed speculation that Bradford had been given permission to seek a trade.

[+] EnlargeSt. Louis Rams, Sam Bradford
Tom Gannam/AP ImagesUnder Jeff Fisher, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has shined against NFC West foes.
In addition to all of that, there have been other reports that Bradford does not want to take a pay cut and instead of being traded would prefer to be outright released.

For what it's worth, Rams coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have dismissed most of those rumors. Fisher went so far as to call the trade permission rumor as "inaccurate" at last week's NFL scouting combine.

"When we've had him, he's 5-2-1 in our division," Fisher said. "And we weren't very good when we got here, so we're counting on him. I'm betting on him and if that doesn't happen, then we'll win games with somebody else."

So what do we make of all this? It's not unusual at this time of year and in these situations for these types of rumors to run rampant.

We do know the Rams would like to bring Bradford back at a cap number below his projected $16.58 million and a base salary less than his expected $12.985 million. We also know there isn't an agent in the league -- especially one representing a high-priced quarterback -- that would like to take a pay cut for a client.

That means it's in the best interest of Tom Condon, Bradford's agent, to do all he can to get the best deal possible out of the Rams. Rumors of other teams willing to trade or sign Bradford to big-money deals theoretically only drives the price up. It also doesn't mean any of those possibilities are real or an agreement won't eventually be reached.

If, indeed, some of those rumors materialized into legitimate offers then perhaps the Rams could consider it. While the Rams have repeatedly made it clear they are committed to having Bradford in 2015, it doesn't mean that a big offer wouldn't change their mind. Any player can be had for the right price, especially one coming off two consecutive torn ACLs.

But it's also worth noting if these teams were legitimately interested in Bradford, it stands to reason the Rams would have similar interest in keeping him. It's not like the Rams have a better option waiting in the wings and the list of available quarterbacks in free agency or ones they could realistically get in the draft don't offer a clear upgrade, either.

Simply put, Bradford is every bit as valuable to the Rams, probably more so, than he would be to other teams. It's Condon's job to figure out what that happy medium is. So even if at this very moment Condon would prefer not to take a pay cut for his client, it doesn't mean he won't after he gets a chance to gauge what Bradford might get if he were to come available.

And from a Rams' perspective, there's not necessarily a pressing need to get something done with Bradford. They need cap space but have other ways to obtain it by releasing players like tackle Jake Long, center Scott Wells and/or defensive tackle Kendall Langford or converting some of end Robert Quinn's base salary to signing bonus.

People close to Bradford insist he wants to stay in St. Louis in 2015. The Rams insist they want to keep him. What shape that takes will reveal itself in time but in the meantime, don't be surprised if the rumors persist.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Like quarterback Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams left tackle Jake Long is currently in the process of coming back from a second torn anterior cruciate ligament in as many seasons. Also like Bradford, Long is due a large salary cap number in 2015 and cutting him would provide the Rams with much-needed wiggle room heading into free agency.

Unlike Bradford, however, there haven't been as many open votes of confidence that Long will return to the Rams in 2015. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Long is due to count $10.5 million against the cap next season with a base salary of $9.25 million.

[+] EnlargeJake Long
Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesThe Rams are discussing options with tackle Jake Long if he's healthy enough to return.
Releasing Long outright would save the Rams $8 million against the cap or as much as $9.25 million if they designate him a post-June 1 cut. Considering Long's recent injury history, releasing him seems like an obvious choice.

But at the NFL scouting combine, Rams general manager Les Snead acknowledged that dialogue with Long is also open and coach Jeff Fisher said that the Rams are discussing other options.

"There are possibillities, yes," Fisher said. "They've been discussed."

Fisher has already made it clear that Greg Robinson will stay at left tackle moving forward, meaning the options for Long are three-pronged.

First and foremost, Long's return would seem dependent on coming back at a reduced rate. The Rams figure to be up close to the salary cap, though they have ways to create space by releasing some players, Long included. It's unlikely, though, that Long would be able to come anywhere near his current salary if he hit the open market because of his injury history.

Which brings us to the next piece of the puzzle: where Long might fit in. Fisher has previously said Long could potentially move inside to guard but he could also become a candidate to flip to right tackle depending on what happens with unrestricted free agent Joe Barksdale. Barksdale will likely test the market and figures to draw his share of interest.

Of course, neither of those issues matters if Long doesn't return to health. There was a time when it wasn't even certain Long wanted to go through another rehab but he's been progressing recently.

"Jake's doing well," Fisher said. "You know he spent all the way up to a few weeks ago at the facility rehabbing. He's out in California working out and is doing well. I don't know what it looks like. If he comes back and is 100 percent then he'll have a chance to be a part and contribute to what we're doing. But there's some time between now and then."

Snead echoed those sentiments, saying that Long has "turned a corner" in the past month or so. Bringing Long back at a reduced rate wouldn't -- and shouldn't -- preclude the Rams from drafting a tackle this year if there was one they liked.

In two seasons in St. Louis, Long has been a valuable locker room guy and was helpful for Robinson in his first year. Even if he can't start, if he could be brought back to provide some veteran depth (assuming he's willing), it would give the Rams something they lacked in 2014. Last year, the Rams offensive line started the regular season without a backup with any meaningful experience.

"I can say this about Jake Long: you want that human being on the football team," Snead said. "He’s a football player, he makes you a lot better. As he rehabs, if he can get back to Jake Long previous knee, he can help the team win."

There are plenty of options for the Rams when it comes to Long's future with the team but it's a decision they'll have to make sooner than later.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As rumors, speculation and everything in between continue to pile up on the possibility of the St. Louis Rams and/or the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers moving to Los Angeles, it can be difficult not to get caught up in any of it.

Barring a surprising (though not shocking) shift change in which Rams owner Stan Kroenke or one of the other owners attempts to go rogue and move to Los Angeles in 2015, nothing figures to be settled until next year. Which means it's best for all involved to focus on what they can control in the meantime.

Fisher
That includes Rams coach Jeff Fisher. After reports surfaced Thursday night that the Chargers and Raiders are planning to team up for a new stadium in Carson, California, should efforts for new stadiums in their current markets fail in 2015, Fisher was asked about what he's been hearing on the possibility of the Rams relocating.

"If I don't know anything, then when someone asks me and I say I don't know anything, then I'm telling the truth," Fisher said. "So, my focus, and of course this is coach-speak, is on this year and our football team in St. Louis. And as things come up, nearly on a daily basis right now, they're going to continue to change and whatever happens, happens. But I love St. Louis, we've got a great fan base. We've got some work to do as we go through this process, however it ends up, but our focus is on 2015."

In theory, that's probably the best approach for everyone to take, but it's much harder in practice because, as Fisher said, there will be new developments and rumors popping up all the time. But Fisher has no reason to say anything but what he said given the situation he's entering in 2015.

This is the fourth year of the Fisher regime in St. Louis, and so far that hasn't yielded so much as a winning season. There needs to be progress on the field for the future of the team to even matter much to Fisher and Co. So taking the pragmatic approach while also offering praise for the fans of St. Louis is a logical response.

"Those that came out saw some really good football games," Fisher said. "The true fans that know what we're doing see improvement."
INDIANAPOLIS -- In searching for a new quarterbacks coach, St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher wanted experience. But not necessarily coaching experience so much as playing experience.

So it was that Fisher interviewed three candidates who all played quarterback in the NFL for varying lengths of time and with a different range of success. Fisher spent time with Jeff Garcia, Steve Walsh and Chris Weinke in searching for a replacement for Frank Cignetti, who was promoted to offensive coordinator.

"Those were the three," Fisher said. "What do they have in common? They're all former players. My decision, or our decision, to go that direction stems from the fact that Cigs was the quarterback coach. He has a great understanding of the position. He's outstanding, so why not get somebody in that's played the game? The respect level from a player standpoint for those that have played the game is very high, especially right now."

[+] EnlargeSt. Louis Rams, Sam Bradford
Tom Gannam/AP ImagesNew Rams quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke has already developed a relationship with presumed starter Sam Bradford.
Fisher said he was impressed with all three candidates, but in the end it was Weinke who won him over. During the interview process, Fisher even set up a meeting between Weinke and Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. The duo went to dinner and hit it off right away.

"Sam is very, very excited about, at that time, the possibility of Chris becoming our quarterback coach," Fisher said. "I was very, very impressed with Jeff, as well as with Steve. I think both of those guys, I hope that they end up in this league at that position because they are very, very talented."

In Weinke, the Rams are getting a young coach widely regarded as one of the emerging quarterback minds in the game. Although he's never coached in the NFL, he's been the Director of Football at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, since 2010. There, Weinke worked with quarterbacks of all shapes, sizes and styles. The list includes names like Seattle's Russell Wilson, Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater and Carolina's Cam Newton.

And the quarterbacks who go through IMG to train for the NFL draft often were so pleased with what Weinke did to help them that they'd regularly go back for more.

“It was a huge factor,” Fisher said. “What he’s done over the last four, five years, not only with preparing quarterbacks for the draft but also a lot of guys have gone back. A lot of the (NFL) veterans are going back down there and working with him.”

What they get with Weinke is a former player who has a deep understanding of what it means to play the league's toughest position. Weinke won a Heisman Trophy at Florida State and went on to seven NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers. In Weinke's final season in 2007, he actually worked with Cignetti, who was then the 49ers quarterbacks coach.

Unlike other position coaches, Fisher believes the connection between the quarterback and the coach has to be extremely close. While the NFL requires all players to put in plenty of work during the week, the quarterback is the one who keeps the longest hours, watches the most film and has the most responsibility on Sundays.

“One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the quarterback position itself over the years is very, very difficult to play,” Fisher said. “And the pressure on that position is extraordinary. It’s not Sundays. It’s Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And it can become crippling if you don’t approach it that way. Chris understands that.”

It's an understanding that, sooner than later, Weinke is going to have to pass on to some new quarterbacks to enter the building. He's already established a relationship with Bradford, who will be the starter this season barring a shocking turn of events or another injury, but the Rams are likely to bring in another young quarterback at some point as well.

Weinke's history of working with pocket-style passers, scramblers and all things in between just might open up some new possibilities for how the Rams address the position. He has also spent time working with a couple interesting free-agent quarterbacks like Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman.

"There's going to be a time, whether it's here in two months or three months or whenever, that we're going to have a young quarterback," Fisher said. "I don't think there is anybody better qualified to coach a young quarterback than him. It was a great fit. He did an outstanding job. He's got a really good thing going, and this is a leap of faith for him to leave IMG and to leave the high school program, but I think it's a perfect fit for us."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Coach Jeff Fisher met with the media Friday at the NFL combine. Here's what we learned about the St. Louis Rams:

Bradford
Bradford
1. Bradford is staying. Seriously: As if it weren't already clear from Fisher's comments last week and the words of general manager Les Snead on Wednesday, Fisher again reiterated that Sam Bradford is going to be his quarterback in 2015. Much like with the hiring of Frank Cignetti as offensive coordinator, Fisher turned to Bradford for his opinion on hiring Chris Weinke as the quarterbacks coach. Bradford and Weinke dined together last week and Bradford's positive review helped pave the way for his hire.

Fisher called reports that Bradford was free to seek a trade "inaccurate." It's hard to imagine that Fisher would continue asking for Bradford's input on the hiring of staff members if he wasn't going to be in place in 2015.

Long
2. Options for Jake Long: Offensive tackle Jake Long is also coming back from a second consecutive ACL surgery and also in line for a potential pay cut. In Long's case, a reduction from his $10.5-million salary cap number is all but a certainty but it's also not out of the question that he, too, could be brought back.

The Rams have already committed to Greg Robinson as the left tackle moving forward, which means Long would have to change positions. Those are discussions the Rams are already having. It's possible that could involve guard, but keep an eye on right tackle. If Joe Barksdale departs in free agency, Long might represent a cheaper, veteran option.

"I don't know what it looks like," Fisher said. "If he comes back and he's 100 percent, then he'll have a chance to be a part and contribute to what we're doing. There are possibilities that we've discussed."

3. Why Weinke fits: Fisher officially acknowledged Weinke's hiring Friday and appeared to be pretty excited about it. He said he spoke to three candidates: Weinke, Jeff Garcia and Steve Walsh. See a pattern there? All three were former NFL quarterbacks, something Fisher valued in whoever was going to take over the job.

In the end, Fisher said he wanted to have a quarterbacks coach who had played the game but also had some experience developing quarterbacks. Weinke had the most experience in his time at IMG Academy, where he worked with players such as Russell Wilson and Cam Newton.

"His experience at IMG was a huge factor, what he's done over the last four or five years," Fisher said. "Not only preparing guys for the draft but also a lot of guys have gone back. The veterans have gone back down to work with him. There's going to be a time whether it's two or three months from now where we're going to have a young quarterback. ... It's a good fit."

4. Plan B for Bradford?: As Fisher alluded to, the Rams plan to add at the quarterback position, probably in the form of a drafted rookie but the specific plan for the options that come in behind him has yet to reveal itself. Fisher made it clear that is a fluid situation.

"We don't know what that looks like right now, but I'll let you know," Fisher said. "That could be a veteran, it could be a draft choice, it could be a combination, it could be Austin [Davis], it could be Shaun [Hill]."

Also worth filing away, Weinke has worked with a pair of free-agent veteran quarterbacks in Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder. And the Rams have made it clear they're going to add at the position.

5. Robinson's surgery: Fisher revealed that Robinson had toe surgery earlier in the offseason but doesn't expect it to be much of an issue moving forward.

"He had some offseason surgery, so he's in the building every day," Fisher said. "And he comes to the building every day not worrying about going on the practice field and making a mistake. He comes in the building every day learning how to be a pro.

"He's had to take a deep breath, rehab and learn. I think you'll see significant improvement."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The big boys have now all pulled up their seat at the table, and the NFL's version of high-stakes poker (as though the NFL would have any other type) has kicked into overdrive.

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday night that the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers have agreed to work together to build a $1.7 billion stadium in Carson, California, just outside of Los Angeles. The Chargers followed by releasing a joint statement with the Raiders on their website.

So here we are with three teams all angling to get to Los Angeles -- though if you want to be technical, the St. Louis Rams have never come out and actually said that -- with two potential stadium sites in the market and a potential stadium also being bandied about in St. Louis. What happens next is anyone's guess, and by anyone, I mean the NFL.

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Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsThe Rams and owner Stan Kroenke are among at least three NFL teams reportedly considering a relocation to Los Angeles.
Though Thursday's news was probably met with some enthusiasm by Rams fans hoping the team stays in St. Louis, it's a safe bet that the folks at Park Avenue in New York were even happier.

We know the league wants to return to Los Angeles, and we know the league would like to find stadium solutions for all three teams in need of new digs. Now they could easily have multiple options in Los Angeles buoyed by a St. Louis project that has been put on the fast track.

From the NFL's perspective, the appeal of the Carson project is obvious. It would take care of two California teams by offering a California solution for both. Though they would have to move, it wouldn't require either team to move halfway across the country. It would also take care of the two teams that have been desperately seeking stadium relief for the longest amount of time.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis stadium project took another positive step Thursday with the announcement of an agreement for expedited and cheaper construction. Though Rams owner Stan Kroenke might prefer to be in Los Angeles, he's the only owner of the three that has a potential golden parachute if he's left on the outside looking in on Los Angeles.

But make no mistake, this is a parlor game that is a long way from reaching its conclusion. As in most cases, much of what happens is going to come down to money. The Chargers and Raiders haven't revealed much of what the plan for financing the stadium proposal would entail, though apparently there is going to be some sort of a split between the two teams.

In St. Louis, there is a need to get the public financing squared away, something Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said he hopes to have in place by fall. And there is the not so little matter of getting an owner -- in this case Kroenke -- to offer up about $250 million as well as the $200 million from the NFL's G4 loan.

Which brings us back to the NFL. The league is going to have to do plenty of diligence over the next few months (year?) to figure out what the best possible situation is. That means determining the best site for a Los Angeles stadium and which teams would be the best fit for the market. That runs deeper than just who is offering the quickest and easiest return to Los Angeles.

And conspiracy theorists will bring out any number of possible end games that might seem like pie in the sky, but given the twists and turns that have already taken place, just about anything is still in play.

Asked Friday about the Los Angeles rumors, Rams coach Jeff Fisher offered the pragmatic answer you would expect, but also the one that is probably best for all parties to take moving forward: wait and see.

"My focus -- and of course this is coachspeak -- is on this year and our football team in St. Louis," Fisher said. "As things come up, really on a daily basis right now, they are going to continue to change. Whatever happens, happens, but I love St. Louis. We've got a great fan base. We've got some work to do."

They're not the only ones.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Finding options to solve the St. Louis Rams' quarterback question isn't hard. Finding a realistic, legitimate answer is.

"Let's be real," general manager Les Snead said. "The pool of quarterbacks for anybody, that's usually the slimmest of pools of any of the players."

It's the hardest position to project, which is exactly what the Rams and nearly every team in the NFL are forced to do. In the past decade or so, the college and professional games have moved in opposite directions.

College quarterbacks ring up video-game numbers playing in wide-open, spread offenses that ask them to make one read and get rid of the ball. The production is eye-popping, but it leaves a clear void in terms of NFL readiness.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Allen Kee/ESPN ImagesBryce Petty had a prolific career at Baylor, but never called a play in a huddle.
Meanwhile, the NFL has become a quarterback-driven league in which signal-callers capable of making pre-snap reads and going through multiple progressions has become not only preferred, but mandatory. Because fewer college quarterbacks are coming from pro-style offenses, the type of quarterback prepared to contribute right away is becoming an endangered species.

Without a deep pool of refined candidates to choose from, teams often find themselves selecting prospects and hoping they develop. Problem is, teams have become less and less committed to actually doing the developing. More often than not, those young quarterbacks are thrown into the fire. When they fail, teams move on to the next one.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

"It’s a cycle that needs to be broken," Snead said. "Here’s how it’s got to happen. You take a guy from one of those systems, you’ve got to take him and then you’ve got to tell [everyone], ‘Guys, we’re not playing him this year.’ But it’s OK. I don’t care what happens. You need to unwind the system because he’s been speaking French to where I speak Spanish. He can do it, it’s just I think it’s a lot easier transition to let him unwind first and then start rewinding his brain."

From the Rams' perspective, that's a process that probably would have been best implemented in 2014. Had the Rams used a higher pick on a quarterback last year, they could have one who has spent a year in the system and would be closer to ready than just about any they can reasonably get this time around.

The Rams now find themselves in a position where they are searching for a young quarterback who can contribute in the event Sam Bradford can't stay healthy. If they choose to do that in the draft, it's all but certain anyone they add won't be able to play right away.

This year's draft features Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, whom many consider the top two in the draft. There's a perceived drop-off after the pair, but even Winston and Mariota come with question marks. In Mariota's case, it's those same questions about transitioning from a wide-open college system to playing in the NFL.

Neither Winston nor Mariota figures to be available to the Rams at No. 10 overall, which means they're going to have to find help elsewhere. UCLA's Brett Hundley and Baylor's Bryce Petty, both of whom had formal interviews with the Rams scheduled this week, are considered next in line, but also face endless questions about their ability to make a transition into the NFL.

Petty might offer the best example of a system quarterback attempting to make that move. Until last month's Senior Bowl, Petty had never even had a play call relayed to him over a headset, having to spit it back out in a huddle.

"Honestly, it’s got to be hard for them to diagnose and project anybody, really," Petty said. "You really got to just get in there and be with them and talk X's and O’s with them. For me, it’s a great opportunity being here, being able to talk to them now."

Hundley's learning curve won't be quite as steep, but he will still be asked to do more than make one read and take off running.

"I think going over film with them is huge," Hundley said. "I think these formal interviews that we get to do and get to sit in the classroom and talk to them, that’s when we get the opportunity to express our reads, our thoughts, and go over it with them in detail. I think that’s a big time to show what you’re looking at, you know your stuff."

But the reality is there simply aren't enough quarterbacks who do know their stuff or, more to the point, have proved capable of executing it. That is why the Rams are all but certain to again hand the reins over to Bradford. Snead and the Rams envision adding plenty of insurance at the position in hopes that they can strike gold. But in this, the fourth year of the Snead and Jeff Fisher regime, they don't have much time to see that through.

"There’s a lot of stones to turn over," Snead said. "What you’re alluding to, people don’t want to give you really good QBs, so a lot of times you’ve got to go find them.

"There’s stones out there, but when you turn them over, there’s nothing under them."

Scouting combine schedule: Friday

February, 20, 2015
Feb 20
9:00
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL scouting combine continues Friday with plenty more on the docket. Workouts officially begin with the offensive line scheduled to go through the paces and there's plenty left for the media to do as well.

Here's a quick breakdown of what's to come on Friday:

Player media availability

Friday offers the first chance to speak to some of the defensive prospects in attendance with linemen and linebackers on the agenda. There also are a few big names left from Thursday's skill position group that are expected to come through. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston headlines that group. He didn't talk Thursday because his medical examinations ran long.

For those interested in the defensive group, the big discussions will likely center on the pass-rushers. Missouri's Shane Ray, Nebraska's Randy Gregory, Florida's Dante Fowler Jr. and USC's Leonard Williams are just a few of the names that will draw great interest from the media.

Coach and general manager news conferences (all times ET)

11 a.m.: Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams coach

Noon: David Caldwell, Jacksonville Jaguars general manager

3 p.m.: Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks coach

For the Rams

General manager Les Snead spoke to the media on Wednesday and Fisher will take his turn Friday. Fisher will probably cover much of the same ground and it's safe to assume he'll field even more questions about quarterback Sam Bradford and the team's situation at the position as a whole. Also, it will be Fisher's first chance to discuss the addition of Chris Weinke as quarterbacks coach.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Observed and heard at the NFL combine on Thursday:

1. Weinke headed to St. Louis: The St. Louis Rams are hiring former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke as their quarterbacks coach. Weinke will replace Frank Cignetti, who was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator last week.

Weinke is an intriguing addition for the Rams. While he hasn't been an NFL quarterbacks coach before, he brings extensive experience working with NFL quarterbacks from his time at IMG Academy. He's worked with top signal-callers such as Russell Wilson and Cam Newton and has earned respect from many corners of the football world for his record.

This is a good, calculated hire by Rams coach Jeff Fisher. Weinke is an outside the box, creative hire who should inject some new life into the quarterbacks room and the offense. It's needed on both counts as the Rams attempt to get the offense rolling in 2015.

[+] EnlargeHundley
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Rams are slated to interview former UCLA QB Brett Hundley during the NFL combine.
2. Hundley has plenty to prove: UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley has been widely regarded as the third-best quarterback prospect in this year's class behind Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston. But that's a description he doesn't take too kindly to.

Hundley told assembled media Thursday his goal is to be the No. 1 overall pick and believes the quarterback class as a whole is underrated. Winston and Mariota are probably out of the Rams' range (barring a trade up), leaving them to sort through the other prospects. Scouts have told me that Hundley is going to be a major work in progress but Weinke might be the type of coach who can get the most out of him.

After his time on the dais, Hundley told me that he has a formal 15-minute interview set up with the Rams this week. That doesn't guarantee anything in terms of his draft status but it does show there's at least some level of interest on the Rams' end.
3. Snead praises Kroenke: Not that you'd expect anything different but when Rams general manager Les Snead was asked about owner Stan Kroenke not engaging his fans, Snead offered praise for his boss.


"I give him unbelievable thumbs up," Snead said. "[He's] competitive. ...The guy wants to win. Even in St. Louis, you're a lower revenue team. Never once has there been a problem with not being able to stay in and compete. And hey, the guy knows sports. He's got a lot of sports teams. There's a rational patience to him, where you can tell him your process, and he'll let you evolve and see if it works."

4. Chargers aren't worried about relocation: There has been plenty of discussion about relocation to Los Angeles and the San Diego Chargers this week. Obviously, it's a situation that everyone in St. Louis is also monitoring closely because of similar conversations involving the Rams.

Despite the growing tension between the Chargers and San Diego, general manager Tom Telesco said the football side isn't allowing it to seep into their work.

"I don't think so," Telesco said. "I know what our job is. Our job is to put the best football team on the field that we can and stay focused with that. I let the politicians and lawyers work on everything else. We'll work on the football. I don't see it as a distraction at all as of right now. So we're just focused on doing our job."

5. Neither are the Raiders: Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio is new to his team but before accepting the job, he asked Raiders owner Mark Davis about Oakland's version of relocation rumors.

"I asked point blank what Mark Davis, what his thoughts were on the potential of relocation and he indicated to me that it was his desire to keep the team in Oakland and that they're working hard to do that," Del Rio said. "That's his commitment to look at it that way. I'm from the area. I can coach anywhere but I'm from there and it would be great to keep it right there. Hopefully we can get that done."

In the meantime, like the Chargers, Del Rio will keep his focus on the football.

INDIANAPOLIS -- In terms of draft capital, there's been no wealthier team than the St. Louis Rams in the past three years.

Since making the blockbuster trade with the Washington Redskins before the 2012 NFL draft, the Rams have made multiple trades and received enough compensatory choices to make a combined 28 picks in those drafts. Even in 2013, when the Rams actually traded some of their picks to move up for receiver Tavon Austin at No. 8, they still had seven selections.

This year, however, things figure to be quite a bit different. Compensatory picks won't be divvied up until next month's owners meetings and the Rams could receive a choice or two. But for now, they only have five picks to work with in this year's draft.

"I feel like we're drafting on a diet," general manager Les Snead said. "So I don't know how that's going to go. But I think we've evolved to the point where the glaring needs are probably less and less. We're always the kid in the candy story, you're going to want a lot. The 'wants' are always going to be there. But we're getting to the point where we've got to use each pick strategically in trying to build our football team."

The Rams dealt their fourth- and sixth-round selections to Tampa Bay for safety Mark Barron during the season and their original seventh-round choice went to Atlanta as part of the trade down that yielded linebacker Alec Ogletree in 2013. As it stands, they hold picks in each of the first three rounds, one in the fifth round and New England's pick in the seventh round from a trade for receiver Greg Salas.

Of course, since trades are what got extra picks for the Rams in the first place, it's entirely possible they could make more trades to add more picks as the draft nears. To this point, neither Snead nor coach Jeff Fisher have ruled out the possibility of a trade, even if it meant moving up and having fewer picks.

"I think you always plan now that you’re going to have five and you could always, the only way you are getting more picks is trading back," Snead said. "You can plan somewhat for that but you have got to have a dance partner. I think the way you sell that is, OK, that plan is there, there’s multiple players at one (spot) and if there’s multiple then maybe you trade back and get picks. That’s a game-time decision."

Given the team's needs, particularly on the offensive line and at quarterback, it also could become something of a dangerous game where they try to shoehorn needs into their few picks at the expense of more talented players.

That's become something of a common occurrence when it comes to quarterbacks where teams will overextend themselves to get one. Snead said he hopes to avoid falling into such a mistake.

"You have got to value the quarterbacks the way you do any position," Snead said. "If one’s there and you think he’s got a future, I think it would definitely be time to take him. I don’t think that would be a waste at all."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The St. Louis Rams are hiring a former NFL quarterback to coach their quarterbacks. But it might not be the one you expect.

A week after Rams coach Jeff Fisher interviewed Jeff Garcia for the vacant quarterbacks coach job, he decided to hire Chris Weinke for the job. ESPN's Derek Tyson tweeted the news Thursday morning.

Weinke comes to St. Louis after spending the past four years working for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He interviewed with Fisher last week before Fisher spoke to Garcia about the opening.

At IMG, Weinke spent his time tutoring quarterbacks of all ages from all over the country. Weinke has worked with a who's who of NFL quarterbacks in his time at IMG, including players like Seattle's Russell Wilson, Carolina's Cam Newton and Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater.

Weinke spent seven seasons in the NFL, mostly with Carolina before finishing in San Francisco. That came after winning the Heisman Trophy in his final season at Florida State. In 20 career starts, Weinke completed 54.4 percent of his passes for 3,904 yards and 15 touchdowns with 26 interceptions. He retired after playing two games for the 49ers in 2007.

Weinke replaces Frank Cignetti as quarterbacks coach. The Rams promoted Cignetti to offensive coordinator last week.

Laken Tomlinson praises Aaron Donald

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19
10:30
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INDIANAPOLIS -- There is no doubt the St. Louis Rams could use an upgrade at guard. Whether through the NFL draft or free agency, it's near the top of the list of offseason priorities.

If the Rams choose to go the draft route, Duke's Laken Tomlinson could be an option. The 6-foot-3, 323-pound Tomlinson was one of the best and most consistent performers at January's Senior Bowl, and his stock has soared in the eyes of the media analysts and pundits (for what that's worth).

Should Tomlinson fall into the Rams' laps, he'll have a chance to square off against the player he deemed the best he's ever faced on a daily basis.

"The toughest D-lineman I played against in my career was Aaron Donald," Tomlinson said.

Donald played his college ball at Pittsburgh before the Rams made him the No. 13 overall pick in last year's draft. Donald went on to post nine sacks on his way to NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and a spot in the Pro Bowl.

Put simply, Donald was also one of the toughest players for NFL linemen to block, something to which Tomlinson clearly relates.

"He's a really, really tough guy to block," Tomlinson said. "Really quick, fast-twitch, powerful guy. He moves well for a big-bodied person."

The Rams have been active talking to offensive linemen this week, and although it's uncertain if Tomlinson received a formal 15-minute interview, it's a safe bet that at least someone from the Rams will spend time with him before he leaves Indianapolis.
INDIANAPOLIS -- St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher offered strong support for quarterback Sam Bradford last Friday as he introduced Frank Cignetti as the team's offensive coordinator. On Wednesday, general manager Les Snead did the same at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Bradford
Bradford
Amidst reports that the Rams gave Bradford permission to seek a trade, Snead was asked repeatedly where he sees Bradford in the team's future. And each time, his answer was clear.

"I did say deleting him is not our answer," Snead said. "I don't know that that (trading him) solves our riddle. ... He's a good player. If some team was interested I certainly don't blame them. But I'll stick to what I said earlier, deleting him is not the answer."

If indeed the Rams believe that to be true -- and everything they've said and done this offseason would indicate it is -- then reports of a trade have little to do with actually trying to trade Bradford and everything to do with helping to gauge what his price tag will be for 2015.

As it stands, Bradford is scheduled to count $16.58 million against the cap. The Rams have made it clear that's a number they would like to reduce. And though in-person discussions with agent Tom Condon might not happen this week, the line of communication between the two sides is open.

"We’ve had dialogue with Sam and his people so you might need to talk to his people about that," Snead said.

So, what then, does either side have to gain by allowing Condon to see Bradford's value in potential trades? Well, the Rams wouldn't say no if a team came and blew them away with an offer but the more likely outcome is that Condon's side can use the time to figure out what a realistic price for Bradford would be if he were to hit the open market.

Once that's established, the two sides could then use that number to come to a fair agreement to keep Bradford in St. Louis. In short, there's still some work to be done in terms of bringing Bradford back at an agreeable price but the fact remains that barring a major upset, he'll remain in St. Louis with plenty of other options behind him.

"So let's don't delete him," Snead said. "I don't think that's the answer. I think the answer is providing insurance in case we do go through more bad luck. Let's rehab (Bradford). Let's see if he can reach his potential. But let's do insure the position."

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