Kyle Turley was checking his voice mail from a Maui beach last March, and what he heard almost caused him to fall off his chair. "The Rams are interested in trading for me?" the Saints' rambunctious tackle wondered aloud to his new wife, Stacy. "I thought those guys hated me."
Shortly thereafter, Jason Sehorn fielded a call to his Dallas home from his agent, Jimmy Sexton, who informed the former Giants cornerback that the Rams were interested in signing him. "Are you sure?" Sehorn asked. "Did you talk to Mike Martz about this, or did someone else call?"
The outspoken Turley had had his differences with a number of Rams while New Orleans and St. Louis were forging a spirited NFC West rivalry that was interrupted by realignment last year. Sehorn, after criticizing the Rams for lacking patience on offense following a 2001 game, became a target of Martz's barbs, including the coach's assertion, "I'd like to line up against Jason Sehorn every day of the week."
Yet there were the former Ram-slammers, Turley and Sehorn, at their new team's training camp at Western Illinois in early August. As they cooled off in a swimming pool, each remarked to the other, "It's amazing the way things turn around."
Things happen when Super Bowl favorites stumble to a 7-9 season. Martz, a fourth-year coach under immense pressure to return his team to prominence, wasn't going to let old grudges stop him from infusing his roster with new blood. Now he'll get his wish to have his prized offense line up against Sehorn every day—albeit in practice. Or at least he will come October, when Sehorn returns from the broken left foot he suffered early in camp. Turley, meanwhile, will be counted on to help protect St. Louis's fine china (quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk) from the cracks it suffered in 2002.
"People don't understand players and coaches during the season," Martz says. "It's a very highly emotional time, and you make comments about things you've got no business making comments about. I thought Kyle Turley was as fierce a competitor as there was in football, and I wanted him on my team. And Jason Sehorn? He calls another coach out on how he calls plays? You like that he's that emotional, and you want guys like that on your side."
Martz, just two years removed from a Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, can use all the help he can get. Last December, Rams president John Shaw said that Martz was "definitely under pressure to win" in 2003.
Injuries were a big reason for St. Louis's decline in 2002, but now that Warner's right hand and Faulk's right ankle have apparently healed, the Rams will once again count on a high-powered offense that oozes bravado and speed. But with Turley in the lineup, opponents are no longer likely to dismiss St. Louis as a finesse team, as Turley once did. That much was made clear early in camp when, during an 11-on-11 drill, defensive back Aeneas Williams intercepted a Warner pass and started cruising toward the end zone. Turley ran down Williams and shoved him out of bounds.
Turley, known for his play-through-the-whistle approach in his five seasons in New Orleans, was put on the trading block after the Saints balked at his contract demands. The Rams acquired him for a second-round pick in 2004, then signed him to a six-year, $26.5 million deal. "I give Mike Martz a lot of credit," says Turley. "He was able to put aside all of that crap from the past and recognize the passion I bring to the game."
Sehorn, a nine-year veteran who was waived by the Giants in March after struggling with injuries the past several seasons, signed a one-year, $1 million contract in May, then set about making the move to free safety. Martz says Sehorn was "everything we'd hoped he'd be" before injuring his foot, forcing Williams to shift to safety to replace him. The coach expects Williams to be back at corner when Sehorn returns.