Goodspeed attempts to block path of rookie

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The veteran fullback is getting a challenge for the starting job from rookie Madison Hedgecock.

ST. LOUIS -- Both players competing for the starting job at fullback for the St. Louis Rams know exactly what coach Mike Martz wants out of them.

With running backs Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk, wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce and others, Martz figures to have plenty of playmakers. He needs a fullback to help clear space.

"It's all about the ability to block," Martz said Friday as the Rams prepared for a preseason game Sunday against the Chargers in San Diego. "It's about who the best hammer is. We've got to have a guy who can knock them out of there."

Two-year starter Joey Goodspeed, 6-1 and 247 pounds, faces competition this preseason from rookie Madison Hedgecock, a seventh-round draft pick from North Carolina.

Goodspeed admitted he was surprised when Hedgecock was drafted.

"I was like, 'OK, Joey, they're probably telling you something.' I thought I would have to step up my game a little bit," Goodspeed said. "It almost makes you feel you're not doing your job as well as you should.

"On the other side, it's a competition and I think that always make you better."

Last season, Hedgecock, 6-3 and 266 pounds, was voted the top blocking back in the Atlantic Coast Conference. His blocking -- not his 34 carries for 130 yards or his six catches for 42 yards -- drew the Rams' interest.

Goodspeed rushed three times for six yards with one touchdown in 2004, and caught 11 passes for 71 yards. He also collected four special teams tackles. But he is regarded by coaches as a solid and smart blocker, good on blitz pick-up and good at driving defenders away from the running back.

"That's what I get paid to do so I take a lot of pride in it," Goodspeed said. "I'm not concerned with getting the football or getting touchdowns and all that. That would be nice but I don't really care if I get the ball.

"I know my role and my role is to block. So, I really try to focus on that and do the best I can. It try to hit somebody hard on every play."

Hedgecock is confident in his abilities, too.

"I feel like I'm pretty good as a blocker," Hedgecock said. "I don't think I'd be here if I wasn't. You have to be consistent here at this level. That's how you'll earn a spot here."

Goodspeed said the two get along and he tries to help the rookie ... to a point.

"I mean, I don't hate the kid," Goodspeed said. "If he asks a question, I'll answer it. Then again, I'm not telling him all my secrets, you know. It is a competition and he is trying to take my job.

"At the same time, I'm not going to be a jerk to him."

The position of fullback may be a dying one in the NFL, Goodspeed said.

"I think fullbacks are being phased out a little bit I think in the whole league," Goodspeed said. "Teams are going to a bigger tailback. A tight end can play our position. I think the fullback is an important role but that's coming from me, a fullback."

Martz called playing the position "a lost art."

"It's just a brutal position," Martz said. "You've got to throw your body in there and just slam people. And those two guys, that's what they're about."

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