More questions than answers
This is the 10th in a series of postcards Sports Illustrated's Peter King will e-mail from his annual NFL training camp tour.
Monday night, Aug. 6, 2001
Team: St. Louis Rams
Site: Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio. I always love coming to the cradle of football. Paul Brown coached here.
Five observations from the game that you just can't get anywhere else:
1. The first big question for Ram Nation in this game: Can Joe Germaine show enough so you're not petrified of an injury to Kurt Warner? Hmm. I thought Germaine looked a little tentative, a little jumpy. His first pass was a short-and-safe 11-yarder to Torry Holt; the second a 14-yard cross to comeback tight end Ernie Conwell. Then Germaine threw the ball int the ground and nearly a pick near the goal line. Next series: His arm was knocked awry on his first pass attempt. He'll need to look better.
2. Second big question: Any good signs for the rebuilt defense? Way too early to tell. Safety Adam Archuleta was running a little wild out there. Aeneas Williams looked extremely quick. The Rams got a good push out of their defensive front. But the Dolphins made too many plays over the middle of the field against St. Louis' young linebacker group (Miami picked up 131 first-quarter yards, many against the interior gut of the Rams defense when first units were in), which must stop. Rookie linebacker Tommy Polley overpursued. Fellow rookie Brian Allen also looked quick. The best defensive rookie? Appeared to be tackle Damione Lewis who,on his way to a sack of Ray Lucas, swatted away Dolphins guard Ben Adams like a fly .
3. Well-traveled wideout Yo Murphy is a candidate to make the Rams, which reminds me of the great scene in Bucs camp two years ago, when Murphy was a roster hopeful. Walking out to practice one day, Murphy was greeted by a shout of "YO! Murphy!"
4. Apropos of nothing, I think Dick Hantak is an excellent referee. When he's working a game, he keeps an excellent flow going, and you can see the respect the players have for him.
5. Most underrated offseason acquisition by the Rams: Special teams coach Bobby April. Fiery, believable, inspirational -- and with great NFL knowledge.
Opinion/factoid that might be interesting only to me: April wanted to improve the quality of his pregame special teams meetings with his players, so he had a club official drive him to a Canton-area Kinko's, where he plugged in his laptop and produced a couple of quality PowerPoint presentations.
Factoid II: I highly recommend Seabiscuit, by Laura (No Relation to Shea) Hillenbrand. I don't even like horse racing, and I'm not a history buff, but I couldn't put this book down. Terrific.
The food: Another strange meal. Just made a 3:45 p.m. Southwest flight from Baltimore to Cleveland (after seeing the Ravens Monday morning and chatting up their people until 2:30-ish), so I managed this dinner of champions at a shopping center in North Canton:
Dear NFL Junkie ...
A moment, please, to praise a really good man who passed away Monday. New England quarterback coach Dick Rehbein, 45, died of a heart-related condition in Massachusetts. He was hard-working, of course. But I liked him because he took time for his family, particularly his softball-playing daughter, and you don't always see that with NFL coaches.
Now for a few words on the Rams.
It's hard to make judgments based on a first preseason game, when the regulars are playing about three snaps (that's how many Kurt Warner played), but this is the overwhelming conclusion I came away with tonight:
The Rams are in trouble without Trung Canidate.
Strange thing to say, because he's not exactly a household name -- even in his own household. But he's the insurance policy for Marshall Faulk, and I'm beginning to think more and more that Faulk needs an insurance policy. Canidate made the two most sparkling offensive plays among the Rams hopefuls tonight, and then he was tackled awkwardly near the Miami sideline. His left knee caved in. It looked as if he strained his groin. His right leg was stretched awkwardly to the side. When I saw it, I thought: Torn ACL. Badly pulled groin. Out for the year. For the Rams'â sake, I hope I'm wrong.
But Mike Martz, the Rams head coach, showed his concern after the game, in the bowels of this ancient place.
"I can't talk about it until we see the MRI back in St. Louis,'' he told me. "But I'm worried. Really worried.''
I said to Canidate that the injury looked bad. Through pursed lips, he said: "Gotta see what the MRI says.''
Poor kid. He's been waiting to make an impact after missing most of his rookie year in 2000 because of an injury, and now he experiences another freak thing. This one, I think as I'm leaving the stadium, could be a real difference-maker this year.
Next up: San Francisco