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ACKERMAN: Q&A With Jeff Fisher

Tom Ackerman
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UPI/Bill Greenblatt

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – I had a chance to visit recently with Rams coach Jeff Fisher, discussing a number of subjects as his team works out this offseason. After taking a year off, the former Titans coach is back in the NFL and entering his first year in St. Louis — and looking to bring the Rams back to prominence.

TA: What was your attraction to this organization? St. Louis has a reputation as a sports city, but this particular Rams organization, as we know, is not 100% certain on its future.

JF: Simply put, it starts with our owner, Mr. Kroenke. That’s how it all came about, having known him over the years. But not as well as I got to know him during the process. I couldn’t imagine working for a better guy. Along with Kevin Demoff (COO) and Les Snead (general manager), we have a great opportunity to restore those winning ways to this organization.

TA: Your team has always played with an identity. (As in) ‘we’re going to line up against you and we’re going to give you the toughest 60 minutes that you can handle.’ Is that the way you look at it?

JF: Yeah, you have to play that way. You set a standard. We want people to know, week in and week out, that it’s not going to be easy. We’re going to bring it from start to finish, and we’re going to keep doing it. And in addition to the toughness, attitude and identity, comes not only a willingness to win…but an understanding how to win. Close games at the end, how to take advantage of opportunities — particularly in the second half and down the stretch in the fourth quarter — to find a way to win the game.

TA: How are you (in that respect) after being able to see these younger players compete at your facility?

JF: It’s always that moment you look forward to. All the hard work that goes into the draft, all the preparation, the draft’s over (and) you’ve got your guys. It’s exciting. Very impressed with the group. It’s a first-class, enthusiastic, energetic group that we feel is going to challenge a lot of different positions and help us get better.

TA: I thought you selected players that immediately made you faster, stronger…and in some cases like (first-round DT) Michael Brockers, bigger.

JF: Michael’s going to have a tremendous impact up front. Both of the receivers (Brian Quick and Chris Givens) are very, very talented. The two corners (Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson), it’s just really fun to watch them move. Janoris, in particular, is very, very talented. People had said that he was the best corner in the draft. Boy, watching his movement skills, instincts and intelligence…it’s really going to be exciting to watch him play. He’s going to be a tremendous player for us.

TA: Jenkins…what a playmaker he could be. And in this league, that’s what it’s about: who can change the game?

JF: Well, he’s instinctive. It’s amazing to watch him. A complete understanding of what he’s doing out there. He takes stuff from the board in the classroom to the field with ease. He’s going to challenge a lot of receivers. So you figure (Jenkins) on one side and Cortland (Finnegan) on the other. And we’re going to bring Trumaine Johnson along. We’re excited. There’s no pads on, as you know, but I think every coach in the league is singing praises about their draft class.

TA: Jenkins, with the off-field incidents he’s had — the drug charges — you’ve been in the league for a long time. You’ve coached a lot of different players from a lot of different backgrounds. So I think there’s a trust factor there. Tell us the evaluation of Janoris Jenkins as a person…and bringing him into the organization.

JF: You know, he’s a great young man. As is this case when you have issues early in careers, there’s an immaturity factor there. People grow up and recognize that they made bad decisions. They make mistakes and they move on. And that’s been the case with him. We did our background checks. We did our due diligence. We did the preparation. We did the research. And all along the way, everybody we talked to — including his high school coach, mentor here, police officer there, somebody in Florida, somebody at North Alabama – every single person said: ‘Take this kid.’ And I don’t want to say ‘kid’ anymore. He’s a fine young man. So he’s going to be fine. He’s going to have a great career in this league.

TA: It is a major transformation going from college to pro. What have you seen that was evidence to you how tough it can be?

JF: This is what I tell the players. They’re so excited about coming in here (and) looking forward to that first snap in the NFL. It’s that dream-come-true type of thing. And as long as you make them understand that the last snap in the NFL is right behind the first snap, and only they with our help can push it out there eight or ten years…then they get it, and have good careers. I’m very impressed with this organization on the personnel side, the different departments and the willingness to educate our young players. We have LeRoi Glover in here and the player engagement program here. He does a great job with that. (From) an educational standpoint, we talk about finances, we talk about all of things they need to understand. It needs to be made very clear for them, so they can do nothing but excel on the football field and be the kind of people they want to be off the field.

TA: There is a lot of money that comes into their hands suddenly. Also, your life is an open book. There’s a lot of difference between college and the NFL. It’s just a different animal.

JF: Well, it is. But we kind of take a different approach. It’s a family approach. You want the guys to commit, the veterans to accept them because they’re here. Because you make the commitment to the veterans every year that we’re going to get better, and we’re going to bring better players in here…and younger players that can help us win. They’re received by the veterans. They are not hazed. They’re helped. Everybody’s working towards one goal, right now, as we speak. And that’s to get ready for the opener.

The Rams open the season on Sunday, September 9th at Ford Field in Detroit.

Rams fans have an opportunity to have dinner with Fisher and talk football next Tuesday, June 5, at the Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis. To reserve a spot, call 314-539-4470.

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