O.K., date night may be a little harsh, but whether it was team building or just giving the players a break from the 100 degree heat we’ve been having in Missouri, it was positive for the Rams and head coach Steve Spagnuolo just three days before their first preseason game when they host Minnesota on Saturday.
“It was great. I tell you what, it’s amazing. It’s amazing what an eight dollar movie will do. They were fired up, it was terrific. It was great for all of us, the coaches, the players. Sit in the air conditioning, eat some popcorn, and have some drinks. We saw the movie ‘Invictus’ with Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman…there’s a tremendous message. It’s a team-oriented film, but it’s way more than athletics and team work.”
I actually applaud Spagnuolo’s effort with these team building exercises. I think sports is so much more than X’s and O’s these days especially with professional athletes and huge egos and salaries. Gone are the days of Vince Lombardi and Mike Ditka, the hard nose, no nonsense type of coach. To survive in the NFL as a coach, you have to be part coach, part parent. A head coach needs to have control over the team, but also needs to know when to loosen up a bit and Spagnuolo handles that well.
On Saturday night, the Rams will host Minnesota. The game will not sell out so it won’t be seen on local television, but some things I am interested in watching for.
Quarterback Sam Bradford. Who isn’t looking forward to this right? Spagnuolo said starter A.J. Feeley will play 12-14 snaps and then he’ll turn the game over to Bradford. “I always go back to command in the huddle. Will he see the field like he’s been doing it in practice when the speed is a little bit quicker? Can he operate the 40-second clock? That’s why we’ve spent a lot of time in these practices…I’m in there all the time in team period saying, ‘you’re on the clock’ and seeing us whistle a couple of them dead. All of that will be kind of interesting, and then the obvious stuff: how he throws the football.”
The offensive line. Jason Smith, the number two pick overall in 2009 will be responsible for protecting the back side. He’s been slowed with a stress fracture in his big right toe and will see a little action on Saturday, but I want to see how well the line can protect Bradford.
The secondary. They need to get healthy, especially at the cornerback position. Ron Bartell is battling an ankle injury. Justin King has a calf injury, rookie Marquis Johnson has a sore knee, and Bradley Fletcher is still recovering from surgery after a nasty knee injury. Strong safety James Butler will not play in Saturday’s game either, so depth will be a huge question for the Rams.
Finally, the Vikings. You can’t help but get dragged into the Brett Favre saga. He will not be in St. Louis and even if he was, he wouldn’t play this early. He’s in Florida having his ankle looked at which hasn’t responded well to off-season surgery, but I’m sure Favre questions will surface after the game.