– Rams coach Jeff Fisher just spoke to the media for his final day after game news conference of the 2012 season only about an hour after addressing his team for the final time this year.
– The message was simple: be smart with your time off, learn from the season and come back ready to work in 2013.
– Fisher expressed that his team is fired up with optimism and enthusiasm for the 2013 season and seemed energized when asked how it was being back in the league after a one-year hiatus. Fisher said he “had a blast” and said he “can’t wait to get started again.”
– According to Fisher, the wrap up meeting was not easy, they never are but this one felt different for him. He focused on the big picture and from the sounds of it, his team bought into that focus. The Rams played the third toughest schedule in the league this year and had the best record in perhaps the best division in football. He said he was quite proud of the team for how it worked hard and focused in to win games throughout the season.
– Asked directlly if he believed his team is a playoff team in 2013, Fisher said that’s what they want, that’s the goal. He believed they could do it this year and though they came up just short, he believes the groundwork has been laid.
– One thing Fisher is especially looking forward to is the improvement of so many of his young players. He said players make the biggest jump from year one to year two and he sees big things for many of the talented rookies that played valuable snaps this year.
– Along with that, Fisher made it clear that the next 3.5 months will be very important for his team. So many young players will embark on some off time with money in their pocket for the first time. He reminded them that every decision they make in that time is one they are responsible for and need to be made wisely.
– The players all departed ContinuityX Training Center on Monday. Some will stick around and train here, some will leave and come back but all will be expected back for the offseason program in April.
– Before then, Fisher and his coaching staff will go through an exhaustive evaluation of the roster. Fisher said that won’t happen right away because he feels like a little time away creates chances for guys to take emotions out of the equation and come back with a more objective eye. The coaching staff will be off for two weeks starting at the end of this week.
– Asked about the trade with Washington and how it turned out for both teams, Fisher reminded the reporter that it’s not yet complete. The Rams still have two first round picks to make before that can even be discussed.
– Fisher said he felt like some early season inconsistency led to some losses in games they could have won and lamented that his team is now healthy at just the wrong time.
– One thing Fisher didn’t see from his young players was a “rookie wall.” Fisher proud of how the youngsters fought through any possible fatigue.
– Fisher mentioned that RB Isaiah Pead got some reps by design yesterday and he was pleased with what he saw. Pead has a little something to build from heading into next year now.
– On the topic of a defensive coordinator, Fisher said Gregg Williams has not been re-instated and the move to hire a D.C. will be addressed in the next couple of weeks. There are some moving parts at play but Fisher indicated that the Rams will be making a move in that regard at some point.
– On QB Sam Bradford, Fisher said the chance to have some continuity for a whole offseason with the same playbook and system will benefit Bradford. Likewise, he believes Bradford improved and got better as the season went along. He’s excited for Bradford’s progress.
– On the Rams finishing tied for first in sacks and first alone in sacks per pass play, Fisher was proud of the job done by DL coach Mike Waufle and noted that it was done by the whole group, not just the defensive line. I’ll have more on it later this week, but the Rams raised $52,000 ($1,000 per sack) for the “Sack Homelessness” project in conjunction with the St. Patrick’s Center.
– Fisher again emphasized that he and the rest of the locker room would like RB Steven Jackson back, saying he’d like to see Jackson “finish up” in St. Louis.
– Fisher reflected a bit on the London trip and again said he enjoyed it save for the “3 hours of hell” that was the game against New England. He offered some tweaks he’d like to see in the game but had positive memories as a whole.
– As far as the free agent list, Fisher said he told the team he wants every single unrestricted free agent back. That’s probably not realistic or feasible but that’s how highly he thinks of guys like WR Danny Amendola, OL Rob Turner, DL William Hayes, etc.
– The Rams handed out their team awards on Monday. Jackson was named Most Valuable Player and got the Carl Ekern Spirit of the Game award as the team’s most inspirational player. Jackson was also named the team’s representative for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
– CB Janoris Jenkins won the Rookie of the Year award.
– One thing Fisher is looking forward to is a normal offseason. Last year, it was a whirlwind that included hiring a coaching staff and trying to blend scouting systems and he is excited about the opportunity to go into free agency with the belief that St. Louis is now a place where players will want to play.
– That said, Fisher said the building is ongoing. There’s a process that has to take place that Fisher believes will improve the overall talent on the roster and believes that improvement in all players will continue with a full offseason with this coaching staff.
– When asked if he believes the offense is the area most in need of upgrades, Fisher said it’s a huge deal. He wants more scoring, more third down conversions, etc. A lot of this offseason will be focused on improving the offense any way possible.
– Fisher was pleased with both the rookie class and the free agent class of last year and is looking forward to adding to the group.
– While free agency is a little ways away, Fisher said the team will do whatever it takes to improve and get where it wants to go in 2013.
– A couple of other quick notes from players, though I will have much more from a variety of guys the rest of the week:
Bradford said the ankle injury that plagued him last year is no longer bothering him. He said surgery is “not even a possibility.” He’s fired up at the mere thought of some coaching staff and system continuity.
Jackson again said he’d like to return and continues to make it clear where he stands on the matter. He said he’s given no thought to wearing another jersey. There is no timeframe in his mind of when he’d like to have a decision made though obviously it has to come relatively soon.
On stat to chew on: in 2011, the Rams allowed 55 sacks, ranking last in the league in the category. In 2012, they allowed 35 sacks, 14th in the league.
– I’ll have a lot more stuff coming this week with stories on Jackson, Bradford, C Scott Wells, rookies going out into the world, the Fisher Effect, the team taking the sacks title and so much more so please stay tuned for that.
– In the meantime, thanks for reading and Happy New Year.
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