Rams head to work for first day of camp

Friday, July 25, 2003

MACOMB, Ill. -- The opening of two-a-day practices for the Rams on Thursday got a big thumbs-up from Kyle Turley.

The new offensive tackle, signed as a free agent from New Orleans, likes the team's regimented, down-to-the-minute philosophy. There's very little standing around with players shuttling from drill to drill.

"It's a little more up-tempo with more focus on football and not conditioning," Turley said. "New Orleans is more of a conditioning camp, and I don't feel that gets you in shape for football.

"Football gets you in shape for football."

Teammates felt the same way. The Rams are training at Western Illinois University for the eighth straight year, which makes for familiar surroundings, but they're just ready to get to work wherever it happens to be. They're trying to rebound from a disappointing 7-9 season, which followed two Super Bowl appearances in a three-year span.

"I suppose it's always nice to go somewhere where you feel comfortable and you don't feel like you have to readjust," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "The biggest thing is just getting out here.

"Once you get on the field, it doesn't matter where you are. You can just go out and play."

Players seemed reasonably pleased with their first showing. Backup quarterback Marc Bulger said mistakes were held to a minimum.

"Obviously it's a cliche that it's a little rusty the first day," Bulger said. "But we didn't have too many offsides and center-quarterback exchanges were pretty good, so from that respect I thought it was pretty smooth."

Cornerback Aeneas Williams, coming off ankle and leg injuries that cost him a half-season last year, said there was no rust. Williams has been participating in the team's offseason workouts.

"I've been going at it for a while, so that kind of got me acclimated to it early," Williams said. "But it just feels great to be back out here."

Rookies didn't appear overwhelmed, either. Missouri product Kirk Farmer, who's battling for the third quarterback job, said the practice didn't seem any different from offseason workouts at Rams Park.

"I imagine they'll start piling on here pretty soon and my head will be spinning," Farmer said. "But so far it's been great."

Notable absences were holdout offensive tackle Orlando Pace and first-round pick Jimmy Kennedy, a defensive tackle from Penn State. The team appears close to a deal with Kennedy, although it may be a long siege with Pace.

Players insisted they'd be fine without the All-Pro tackle. Grant Williams is Pace's backup.

"We have a lot of talent, a lot of athleticism and a lot of experience," Turley said. "I don't think we're going to miss a beat at all, whatever way it unfolds."

Defensive end Grant Wistrom was an unhappy spectator because he's suffering from plantar fasciitis in both feet. The injuries are a result of unorthodox training about a month-and-a-half ago that emphasized a lot of bounding, plus he was wearing a weighted vest.

Wistrom was fitted for orthodics and hopes to practice by the end of the weekend or perhaps early next week. He hasn't run in a month.

"It's a combination of things that caused it," Wistrom said. "I messed them up pretty good, but hopefully I won't be out long."

The lone first-practice casualty was defensive end Roderick Stephen, signed the day before camp began. Stephen hyperventilated about 10 minutes into practice.

"I'm all right," Stephen said. "I just got overanxious trying to push myself when I should have been backing off."

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