Minus Williams, Rams adjust accordingly
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Before the news broke, Sam Bradford claimed he had no idea the New Orleans Saints were running a bounty pool. The St. Louis Rams played the Saints the last two years, although Bradford missed last year’s upset over New Orleans with an injury, and there was no suggestion of any over-the-top behavior.
Then again, Bradford said the scandal that cost the Rams their new defensive coordinator wasn’t a total shock.
“Guys on defense are out there to hit the ball carrier,” Bradford said Tuesday after the first day of a two-day voluntary minicamp that also was new coach Jeff Fisher’s first day on the field. “There’s no doubt in my mind guys on defense are after big hits, and they should be. I would be, too. As far as bounties, I wasn’t aware of it.”
Minus Williams, running the defense thus far appears to be a collaborative effort.
On the first day, players noted instructions seemed to be coming from everywhere. That includes Fisher, who figures to be more hands-on than he might have anticipated. Fisher said the staff has been efficient picking up the slack for Williams, suspended indefinitely by the NFL for his role in the bounty scandal during his time with the Saints.
“You know, it’s gone smooth and the staff has done a great job adjusting,” Fisher said. “So, things are going fine. For obvious reasons, I’ll be a little more involved than I had planned, but that’s OK.”
The likely choice to make the calls on game day is assistant head coach Dave McGinnis, who has extensive experience as a defensive coordinator, but players haven’t been told how the chain of command will function. Both McGinnis and secondary coach Chuck Cecil have been defensive coordinators under Fisher.
The Rams did not make their defensive assistants available for interviews Tuesday. The team said Williams isn’t expected to speak for “several months.”
“You’re hearing stuff from a couple different people, but they’re all speaking the same language,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “People have either been brought up in this defense or have played in variations of it. You get bits and pieces from everybody.”
Back from a one-year absence after a mutual parting of the ways with the Tennessee Titans, Fisher orchestrates it all. He seemed excited about being back on the field, even if it’s for a pair of low-key, 11⁄2-hour workouts in shorts and helmets.
“This is fun, this is what I missed,” Fisher said. “This is where we all belong, out here getting better.”
Players were advised not to go full-out and impress the staff. The last thing the Rams need coming off a 2-14 season and three-year stretch in which they totaled 10 victories is injuries due to excessive April exuberance.
The lone absence the first day was safety Darian Stewart, who was taking an exam in pursuit of a college degree.
The Rams have a former Saints player on the roster, signing linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar to a free agent deal. Fisher said he’d heard nothing from the NFL about any potential problems and didn’t think it was a good idea to “call and ask.”
“He’s a very, very good young man and a very talented player,” Fisher added.
Although Dunbar denied any involvement in the bounty scandal, he noted the things he enjoyed the most about the NFL were the violence and camaraderie.
“I love how physical the game is,” Dunbar said. “It’s something I’ve always been a fan of ever since I was a little kid. I love the violence and being around my guys.”
The Rams have signed 10 players in free agency, largely addressing defensive deficiencies, starting with a big three of cornerback Cortland Finnegan, defensive tackle Kendall Langford and center Scott Wells. The latest additions are Dunbar, defensive end William Hayes and defensive tackle Trevor Laws.
The Rams had the No. 2 pick in next week’s draft, but traded it to the Washington Redskins for the sixth overall pick, the 39th overall and first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. Wide receiver is perhaps the Rams’ greatest need.
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