Offensive tackle wild on field, thoughtful off it

Thursday, July 31, 2003

MACOMB, Ill. -- Surrounded at a table by born-again Christian teammates, Kyle Turley, the tattoo-covered, wild and crazy, helmet-tossing offensive tackle for the Rams, felt right at home.

"The religious right?" said Turley, who observes no organized religion. "Certain people have certain viewpoints on life and certain people have others.

"You always get debates and people voice their opinions, and we were just having a friendly conversation."

Turley, though outnumbered, felt he held his own with the opposing viewpoint.

"It was a good debate, I'd have to say that," he said. "I myself don't shy away from confrontation. When put in the thick of it, I tend to do well."

That goes for the field, too, with the Rams' new right offensive tackle. Turley, acquired from the Saints for a second-round pick in the 2004 draft, has been dominant in training camp. He draws the toughest assignments in pass protection drills, often taking on sack specialist Leonard Little, and almost always wins the battle.

"He's a gifted athlete with an attitude, and that's what you want," coach Mike Martz said.

The addition of Turley and center Dave Wohlabaugh makes the Rams' line potentially one of the NFL's best, once All-Pro Orlando Pace ends his contract holdout. Rams quarterbacks absorbed a pounding last year, with Kurt Warner (broken pinky, broken hand) and Marc Bulger (back) both missing a lot of time.

Turley takes over for John St. Clair, a disappointment at right tackle last year. The addition of Wohlabaugh allows Andy McCollum, the center last year, to move to guard.

"You bring in a guy like Kyle who's an all-Pro type guy, you've got to be excited about that," Warner said. "Dave is going to be a great player for us, too. I think it's going to be the best offensive line we've had."

Turley was a colorful player with the Saints, known most for a helmet-tossing episode on national television in 2001. Turley confronted New York Jets safety Damien Robinson, who had grabbed the face mask of Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks.

Turley ended up with Robinson's helmet, flinging it down the field, and then made an obscene gesture, actions that got him ejected.

Besides the tattoos that cover both arms, Turley has wild, stringy hair and a menacing glare. This package carries a warning label.

"That's game day, man, that's what people don't understand," Turley said. "As soon as you cross that line on game day it turns up another notch and it's all business from there."

Especially in training camp. These are his teammates, after all.

"Going out here and trying to be some wild and crazy guy, I guess what people think I am, and fighting all the time and whatnot is not productive," Turley said. "It's not going to get it done."

The professional wrestling pose positively melts when it comes to off-field discussions. He is the Rams' representative in the players' association after serving in the same capacity with the Saints. A leadership role opened with the Rams after former player rep Ernie Conwell departed, coincidentally, for New Orleans.

"I'm in a position to make a difference," Turley said. "I'm one of those guys that can have a voice and be a player that cannot only make things better for the players but be a voice with the coaches as well."

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