Spagnuolo changing culture in St. Louis
ST. LOUIS -- So I sense a trend. Teams like the Cowboys, Saints and Rams, who all missed the playoffs, have resurrected physical training camps that were growing extinct.
Or maybe it's just what Rams first-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo learned in his 10 years under the Eagles' Andy Reid and the Giants' Tom Coughlin.
The Rams' early camp practices have displayed a rarity in this era: players getting tackled to the ground. Yes, wide receivers are fair game, too.
"You don't want to get stupid about it and lose someone to injury," Spagnuolo said. "But we wanted to establish that we are going to be a physical football team ... change the culture around here."
The Rams' intent was clear under GM Billy Devaney when they hired Spagnuolo and then used their first two draft picks on physical players: offensive tackle Jason Smith (Baylor) and linebacker James Laurinaitis (Ohio State), who are both known for their physical DNA.
Training camp isn't where Spagnuolo began to change the identity. Like many hard-core, consistent, winning teams, he went back to Olympic-style free weight lifts as a core element of the strength and conditioning program.
"It's something we all did in college -- squats, power cleans, all those Olympic lifts -- but we've had the machines around since I've been here until now," Rams running back Steven Jackson said. "You get re-acclimated. It brings a different mindset and body to the program. I like it. Anything beats what's happened here lately."
When you pick second in each of the past two drafts, you can get their attention. As vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff pointed out, "It doesn't hurt physically or in attitude that we've gone from the third-oldest team in the NFL to the third-youngest team. The guys are buying in."
Here's what I saw and learned on the third stop of my training camp bus tour:
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.
MORT GOES TO CAMP
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen's 21-team bus tour of training camps is over. Mort's trip started in Arlington, Texas, where he met Dallas owner Jerry Jones at the team's new stadium and ended in Miami Gardens, Fla., for a visit with the Dolphins. Mort camp page