Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Brooks Has a Firm Grip on Helm Rams Have No Doubt about Who's `Admiral' of the Fleet

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Brooks Has a Firm Grip on Helm Rams Have No Doubt about Who's `Admiral' of the Fleet

Article excerpt

It took all of two days of training camp news conferences for Rich Brooks to tire of the line of questioning.

What has the adjustment been like to the NFL after all those years in college?

"I'm not giving the right answers to these questions because I keep getting asked them," Brooks said at the onset of camp. "Maybe I'm naive. Maybe I'm not very bright. But I'm coaching football. I'm in training camp again. I've been in training camps all my life. At this point, football is football."

At this point, all is well with Brooks. Two weeks into training camp, the Rams remain undefeated. Brooks has earned high marks with reporters for straight answers. He has dealt with the unexpected holdout of star running back Jerome Bettis with patience.

He seems to be enjoying himself, pausing to chat with fans after practices at Maryville University, playfully running a wind sprint or two with his players.

"He seems to be a little bit more relaxed than he was at Oregon, if you want to know the truth," said Rams assistant coach Nick Aliotti.

A longtime assistant under Brooks at the University of Oregon, Aliotti coaches safeties in St. Louis.

"It's like a renaissance for him," Aliotti said. "He's kind of excited about the new challenge, the change. He seems to be just rejuvenated."

Brooks buys into Aliotti's analysis - to a point.

"Rejuvenated? Maybe," Brooks said. "Enthused? Energized? Yes. More relaxed? I don't know."

Safety Anthony Newman, who played for Brooks in the mid-1980s at Oregon, says it looks like the same old Brooks to him.

"I've been watching him lately, seeing how he is," Newman said. "I haven't seen anything different. He's enjoying himself, yet he's stern and getting us in the right direction - the direction we have to go to be successful."

Last week, Newman even witnessed a flashback to his college days, when Brooks was called "Big Daddy" by his players - partly out of fear, and partly out of respect.

"He got loud with us," Newman said. "It was after practice. We just didn't do things we were supposed to be doing and he got (upset). It reminded me of the old times."

As ageless offensive tackle Jackie Slater says, "We all know who the admiral of the ship is."

Not that Brooks is some gridiron Capt. Queeg on a shakedown cruise in the landlocked Midwest. There is a definite human touch - and a sense of humor - at work here.

"I haven't been around football," said Tony Miller, a former track star at UCLA trying to latch on as a wide receiver. "But to me, he's a player's coach. He's a guy who cares about his athletes. He's been nothing but supportive to me."

When Miller gets nervous and starts rushing things, he says, Brooks calms him down with a wink and a quiet word of encouragement.

Brooks is more than a detached CEO on the practice field. …

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