Linehan feels urgency, expects quick turnaround for Rams

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams' three-day mandatory minicamp that begins Friday is an indication that head coach Scott Linehan is not taking the long view.

Linehan, coming off a 3-13 record that landed the Rams with the second overall pick of last month's draft and perhaps under fire entering the third season of a four-year contract, wants to set the tone now. There'll be no separate minicamp just for the rookies as in past seasons, no early break-in period for kids who'll make up a fraction of the 85-man roster expected for the sessions.

"I wouldn't consider it a waste of time, but you tend to put a lot of time into something when you could be focusing on the overall scheme," Linehan told the AP in an interview Thursday. "We'll get the rookies plenty of opportunities to get in there and establish themselves, but we want everybody to kind of feel a little sense of urgency.

"We've really got to pick things up."

Linehan is optimistic about the Rams' chances of a quick turnaround, especially with a healthier season. Last year the team was devastated early by injuries on the offensive line, losing its first eight games, and never really recovered with quarterback Marc Bulger and running back Steven Jackson also missing significant time.

In the offseason, Linehan rebuilt his coaching staff and player development director Billy Devaney presided over his first draft. It doesn't hurt that the children of the late Georgia Frontiere, who inherited ownership of the team earlier this year, have been supportive.

"I just think the changes that have been made, the adjustments that have been made, make me feel much more confident," Linehan said. "We've still got a lot of work to do and we've still got to go out and do it on Sundays, but I feel really good about the overall attitude of the organization and the team.

"We'll see, but hopefully it pays off and we can come with a whole new attitude about everything and put last year behind us."

A handful of headliners coming off injuries, defensive tackle Adam Carriker, defensive end Leonard Little and offensive tackle Orlando Pace, will be held out of team activities at the minicamp. On the other hand, Linehan gets his first look at the draft class in pads.

The Rams have taken some criticism for using the second overall pick on defensive end Chris Long, judged by many draft services as a safe pick but with a lower ceiling than other prospects. Other wide receivers had better pre-draft grades than Donnie Avery, their second-round pick and the first wideout taken.

Linehan, who has a major voice on draft day, doesn't appear to mind such opinions. He knows it'll be a while before anyone can accurately judge the picks.

"I think we'll see in about three years," Linehan said. "I think that's when you should analyze drafts. But I think that's why people enjoy the draft so much, because they can kind of have an opinion whether it was a good pick or whatever kind of pick you want to call it.

"In the meantime, we're going to find out."

The team will practice once each day in its only minicamp. Last year there were two minicamps, and the Rams got a third minicamp in 2006 because it was Linehan's first season.

Perhaps this weekend, the Rams also will determine where they'll be holding training camp in late July. Linehan wants to get away after practicing at Rams Park and letting players commute the first two years.

Concordia University in Mequon, Wis., just north of Milwaukee, is the heavy favorite because it has two Fieldturf practice fields similar to the team's game-day surface. Linehan said Concordia is an unanimous choice of the staff, but the team wants to make certain there would be no disruptions.

"Concordia has the fields we're looking for and the isolated kind of camp we want to have," Linehan said.

Western Illinois in Macomb, Ill., where the Rams trained for nine years from 1996-2005, is the second choice but has only grass practice fields. Wisconsin-Whitewater is a third option.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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