Linehan upbeat about his first rookie class

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

St. Louis concluded a three-day minicamp on Monday.

ST. LOUIS -- Except for maybe some conditioning issues, St. Louis Rams coach Scott Linehan found a lot to be pleased about with the team's latest crop of rookies.

The team wrapped up a three-day minicamp on Monday and Linehan said his initial impressions confirmed the Rams' draft analysis. Selected others participated in the camp, including offensive lineman Richie Incognito, who missed his rookie year with a knee injury.

"It was a great weekend," Linehan said. "We got established what we wanted to get done, and I think the rookies really responded.

"We tested them, and they passed with flying colors."

Linehan found something positive to say about nearly all the draft picks. Cornerback Tye Hill, the No. 1 pick, showed the coach his competitive side tempered by humbleness. The two tight ends picked to replace Brandon Manumaleuna in the second and third round, Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd, displayed complementary talents.

Third-rounder Claude Wroten, a defensive end with a drug bust and at least one failed drug test in his recent past, impressed with talent that Linehan has maintained would have made him a top 15 pick without his troubles.

On and on it went, the compliments flowing freely. Linehan had said he wasn't going to overload the youngsters with information but he said they ended up with the same heavy dose the veterans received in the team's first minicamp and it didn't result in paralysis.

"A lot of them come from very good backgrounds and we felt pretty comfortable with them anyway," Linehan said. "But you want to see what translates onto the field, and they've done it."

Linebacker Jon Alston, a third-round pick, said the camp was challenging mostly from a mental standpoint.

"The physical part wasn't the most difficult part, it was trying to process everything," Alston said. "We had a lot of things go in in a very short time."

Not yet in game shape

Linehan's lone quibble: players running out of gas. Most of Monday's session, which lasted a little over an hour, dealt with conditioning.

"I think all of our rookies need to get in a little better shape so they can perform better, consistently, throughout practice," Linehan said. "That's a little bit of an issue for rookies always, because it is different."

The brisk pace caught some rookies off-guard.

"I thought it was going to be more of a walkthrough type event, and it was more of a high-tempo, get-after-it event," Hill said. "I thought I did pretty good for just getting back into football shape.

"Playing wide receivers, I haven't done any of that stuff since the Senior Bowl."

It's about to get a lot different. Veterans will join in for the first of 17 OTAs, or organized team activities, today.

"They just got a taste of it, but it's good, it gets rid of the shock value," Linehan said. "It'll pick up pretty dramatically once we get the other guys in here."

Hill, for one, was eager to see how he measures up.

"I'm actually looking forward to the veterans coming in, like Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce," Hill said. "Hopefully I'll get a chance to go up against them."

A look at Hagans

The absence of quarterbacks at Monday's workout provided a good opportunity for the Rams to take a look at former Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans, who was drafted in the fifth round as an all-around threat who could show up at wide receiver, running back and punt returner. Hagans took some snaps and did some throwing.

"That's going to be his M.O., be versatile," Linehan said. "He's not uncomfortable doing that and proves to us that he's the ultimate versatile type of athlete."

The Rams released two undrafted players, tight end Ed Nelson and defensive end Kory Lothe. The 6-8, 265-pound Nelson was a backup on the Connecticut basketball team and had not played football since his freshman year of high school.

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