After nearly making the playoffs in 2010, the St. Louis Rams had high expectations for 2011. With Sam Bradford at the helm, they looked like a team that was ready to take the next step in their development. That wasn’t exactly the case, however, in St. Louis last season. In fact, it was a result all too familiar for Rams fans, as they once again finished as one of the worst teams in the NFL. There were numerous reasons for going backwards and injuries certainly played a part, but it led to many changes this offseason. Not only was Les Snead brought in as the team’s new general manager, but Jeff Fisher took over as head coach as well after Steve Spagnuolo was fired. With a new front office, a new philosophy, roster additions in the draft and free agency, and a healthy quarterback who just two years ago was the NFL’s Rookie of the Year, the Rams are hoping to crawl back out of the basement in the NFC West and become relevant again in the NFL.
Chris Long joined ESPN 101 in St. Louis with Bernie Miklasz to talk about the new regime in St. Louis, moving on to a new era in St. Louis football, the improvements made to the defense this offseason, what the expectations are this season in St. Louis and his thoughts on Sam Bradford.
On the new regime in St. Louis:
“There’s always going to be a wave of positive energy that follows any regime. It’s a new thing, everybody is excited by it, everybody is challenged to work hard and reprove themselves, but there’s definitely some tangible things that I think we have improved upon. I think we’ve gone out and done a really good job in the draft. We’re bringing in the right people and across the board these coaches are really knowledgeable, they’ve all done it so it’s just a confidence. I think Coach Fisher, he has done it for well over a decade as a head coach. To be in one place, as long as he was, I think that speaks volumes about just what he has been able to do and when you have a guy walk in the room with that kind of confidence, it gives your team confidence. He’s built a staff that has kind of reflected that.”
On moving on from the previous regime and last year’s struggles:
“The past is the past and nothing positive that I’m saying about the future reflects negatively on the past if that makes sense. I mean that. We just have a really good situation here right now. We’ve been allotted extra time to get to know this new staff and get to know each other a little bit better, some of the newer guys that are coming in, some of the draft picks because we are in a new regime so we’ve spent plenty of time in the building. We have a long, long way to go but we’re just really positive about it, guys are confident and we just have reason to believe.”
On the additions to the defense this offseason:
“Yeah we’ve definitely gotten faster and more athletic. I don’t think it’s necessarily one of those things where it’s because of anybody we got rid of or anything like that, we just added some really athletic players and that just jumps out. Practices are a lot faster and that’s also I think a style of play and mentality where we are going to do everything fast, especially on defense we talk about just going fast and if you’re going to make a mistake then make it 100 miles per hour which is a nice way to look at things, especially on defense because you don’t want to think on defense. We’re just playing.”
On the expectations for the team this season:
“I don’t do the numbers game. That’s just going to get you hurt. Listen we came out last year and I know we had some deficiencies, we had some injuries, some unfortunate things and we just plain didn’t play well and we were not a good team last year. In the beginning of the year, until we were out of it, we believed we could compete for the NFC West division championship so that’s our goal. If we could do it last year we can definitely do it this year if you know what I mean. Our upgrades are substantial at a lot of positions and I think with Coach Fisher and his experience and our staff, the feeling and the buzz right now is really good. We’re just going to compete to try to win the NFC West. There’s three other teams in the division and I don’t see why we can’t shoot for that. We’re definitely going to set our sights high.”
What he thinks of Sam Bradford:
“I couldn’t think higher of Sam as a competitor or as a guy. I’m a D-Lineman and toughness is a premium for us and that is one tough son-of-a-gun. He’s a competitive dude and he’s a dude that eats, sleeps and breaths football. I have to pull his arm to get him to go do anything fun so his nose is always to the grindstone but he is rejuvenated and I think he’s going to get some more help. I certainly think as the whole team thrives, Sam will thrive and vice versa. We’re really excited about that and we couldn’t be more confident in the guy we have under center.”