Looking forward to some hard-hitting football

Most of us that are Rams fans loved the Greatest Show on Turf. The fast, incendiary offense, fireworks and air shows every week…we loved seeing the scoreboard light up like a pinball machine when Bruce, Holt, Faulk, Hakim, etc would put up four or five or more touchdowns a game.

But despite that excitement, there’s always been a faction of old school Rams fans. Those that wanted a smashmouth, defensive oriented, physical team.

Well, buckle your seatbelts because that’s what the Rams, and most of the NFC West, are becoming.

You know about the live practice here…live tackling on the first full day of camp. That was Steve Spagnuolo’s MO from day one, and he isn’t deviating from it. Every morning, the hitting at Rams training camp is just like what they’ll do in a game.

In San Francisco, head coach Mike Singletary (think he likes physical football?) has used a practice technique called “The Nutcracker” three times in the first five days of camp. In this drill, two players square off in about a three foot round area and literally try to run through each other. One stands, the other blasts. And vice versa. The 49ers have already lost more than a half dozen players to camp injuries. Singletary’s response to whether he’s concerned about them? “Not one bit,” the 49ers coach said. “I don’t know what’s typical in the NFL. Football is a contact sport, it’s a collision sport, injuries happen.” Whew. There’s a team that’s going to be physical.

In Arizona, despite playing in the Super Bowl last year, head coach Ken Whisenhunt fired defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Why? The defense wasn’t physical enough. Whisenhunt’s recent background was as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator. He wants to see more of what the Steelers do. Same with the offense. When Todd Haley, who oversaw last year’s fireworks show in Arizona, left to become Kansas City’s head coach, Whisenhunt promoted a Hog. Russ Grimm, who played on the power-up Washington offenses of the 80’s, will run the Cardinal running game. Grimm is also a coaching disciple of Bill Cowher. When your major influences are Joe Gibbs and Cowher, that should be a clue. So should the Cardinals selection of 6-1, 224 pound running back Beanie Wells in the first round of the draft. They may have been finesse last year, but the Cardinals are going to knock some people around in ’09.

New Seattle coach Jim Mora is more laid back. He doesn’t want his players to hit each other. The rule in Seahawk camp is nothing after initial contact. It’ll be interesting to see how they react in this division.

Regardless, smashmouth fans, buckle your chinstraps. Your gonna get what you wanted.