Change of Venue For Rams Could Be Needed Incentive
ST. LOUIS (AP) _ New town, new coach, new attitude.
St. Louis Rams coach Rich Brooks doesn’t carry any of the negative baggage from the West Coast, and he wants to win now. Even though the Rams are a sorry 23-57 in the first half of this decade, he seems to believe a postseason appearance isn’t just a pipedream for the transplanted franchise.
``I’m not going to be a very happy football coach if we’re not in the playoffs this year,″ Brooks said the day before the Rams began their first training camp as a team from the Midwest.
``Realistic? Probably not. Maybe not,″ Brooks said. ``But that’s my goal. That’s, I think, our team’s goal, and I believe it’s something we’re going to work real hard for.″
General manager Steve Ortmayer says almost the same things.
``There’s a point in time in a player’s career, maybe when he’s in grammar school, junior high, perhaps high school, maybe even in college, where giving your best is what it’s all about,″ Ortmayer said.
``That is not what it’s all about here. What it’s all about here is winning.″
It may be just hype, considering the Rams’ 4-12 record last season. And it is July, after all. But the players appear to believe it.
``It’s got to be one of our goals,″ quarterback Chris Miller said. ``If it’s not, you know, you’re selling yourself short.″
Last year, seven of the Rams’ losses were by seven or fewer points as they played out the string in Anaheim, Calif., trailing the NFL in attendance. But in the first week of training camp in their new home, it was difficult for players not to be energized.
People were cheering the team buses on their way to the temporary practice field, cheering again as the players made their way to the field, and mustering still more enthusiasm for every completed pass.
That, said backup quarterback Mark Rypien, could be what gets the Rams out of their rut.
``Who knows? Maybe it’s that 12th man,″ Rypien said. ``Maybe it’s that dome we have down there. Maybe it’s Busch Stadium and the 120-degree heat index that might be the pusher.
``We’re not looking back, we’re looking to the future now. You look at last year, what this team accomplished, they’re very close to being a 9-7, 10-6 ballclub. Gosh, this is an exciting moment for every Ram that has been a past Ram and every Ram that will be a future Ram.″
Maybe it’s those packed houses. FANS Inc., the civic group that wooed the Rams to town, sold 74,000 personal seat licenses for 46,000 season tickets in the new $260 million stadium.
``We’re pumped up, knowing we’re going to have some fans in the stands,″ running back Johnny Bailey said. ``I know I’m pumped up about it.″
Up and down the line, optimism prevails.
``You’ve got to look at it this way, every year is a different year,″ said cornerback Torin Dorn, who signed a free-agent deal in the offseason. ``I mean, who’d have thought San Diego would have been in the Super Bowl last year?″
Well, almost everywhere. Rookie offensive tackle Zach Wiegert was only sort of impressed with the attendance for the first two days of training camp, with 2,500 showing up on Monday and 3,500 on Tuesday.
``It reminds me a lot of Nebraska, but I don’t know if we’ll ever have fans as great as that,″ Wiegert said.
Wiegert’s the exception with that backhanded compliment. Not even two-a-day workouts can destroy the mood.
``This is a great time in my life,″ safety R.J. Kors said. ``This is a great opportunity. It’d be nice to say you were there for the inaugural season. To be a part of it will be special for everybody.″
So special that almost everybody was ready to go on Monday, the first day of two-a-days, although the first full-squad workout wasn’t until Friday. There’s an extra jump in everybody’s step and smiles on the players’ faces as they take the field as they fulfill the feverish desire of fans who have an NFL team to root for again after a seven-year absence.
``In my mind, this shows they want to get this turned around, too,″ Brooks said. ``The Ram franchise is in a major state of changing, and the players have to change, too.
``They have to change attitudes, they have to change how they perform, how they practice, how they respond to adversity and accountability and all of those things. Those things have to change, or we won’t be an improved football team.″
Bailey, for one, says it’s about to happen.
``This is a brand-new atmosphere and I think the guys are excited that somebody cares,″ Bailey said. ``I’m excited to get it going, see if we can bring some life to this team.″
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