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High School Hockey Featurette (Jincy Dunne, 2014 Olympic Hockey Candidate)

Jincy Dunne, a high school student from O’Fallon, Missouri could make the 2014 USA Hockey Team. Courtesy of O’Fallon TV (produced Summmer 2013)

High School Basketball Featurette (December 2012). Courtesy of the City of O’Fallon, Communications Department

 

In Honor of Black History Month and Presidents’ Day – “Equally Created”: A Study of Slavery in Early America

The Official Medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society (by English potter Josiah Wedgewood, 1787)

Equally Created

 By Joe Richter

“The Mystic Chords of Memory…will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” – Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address, 1861 ([I], Kearns Goodwin page 326)

            In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the world’s view of slavery was changing, and the men who founded America recognized this changing perspective.  Humanism, an ethical philosophy based on the rights of all men, had immigrated with the Puritan settlers of America.  Unfortunately, the American settlers didn’t include all humans in their humanist ideology.  These American men, with their self-proclaimed desire for the rights of all men, didn’t extend the liberty they coveted to their slaves.  When those New Englanders bailed the tea into Boston harbor, did they cast their morals into the surf as well?

As we know now, A­merica and its groundbreaking republic inspired the world.  This tract will prove that though they made the mistake of allowing slavery to happen, America’s Founding Fathers made strides to eradicate the world of the terrible tradition, and were – like their republic – an example to the world.  If they knew slavery was wrong, what factors kept them from emancipating their fellow man?  If all men were created equal, why weren’t they treated equally?

Winston Churchill talked about the intellectual revolution of the 1600’s and 1700’s in the second volume of his History of the English Speaking Peoples.  Churchill wrote, “In the Middle Ages education had largely been confined to training the clergy; now it was steadily extended, and its purpose became to turn out not only priests but lay scholars and well-informed gentlemen ([II], Churchill page 4).”  Well, how did these “well-informed gentlemen” manage to undertake one of the most abominable acts in history?

Scars of a whipped slave April 2, 1863, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Overseer was discharged for brutality.

Slavery transported equally created humans from their homelands, from their families, and from their cultures.  Accounts abound about the cruelty and inhumanity of many of the slaveholders.  In Henry Wiencek’s An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, he chronicles some of the atrocious acts by supposed “gentlemen planters”.  Some of these “gentlemen” would cut off their slaves’ toes to hinder any expeditious escape, and even had legislation passed which pardoned them if the slaves didn’t survive the procedure ([III], Weincek page 46).  Most slaves’ diets were relegated to corn meal, and whatever game or vegetables they could catch or grow for themselves (if they were allowed to hunt, fish, or grow).  We have heard, thanks to the work of many historians, of the malevolence of the overseers – the men who did the “southern gentleman’s” dirty, or punitive work.  Unfortunately, the short length of this article cannot do justice to the myriad number of atrocities.

It should be mentioned again that this article is not seeking to condone this terrible part of American history.  The question is why men in quest of liberty wouldn’t bestow the same liberty on the Africans they had enslaved.  Was it truly a racist sense of ethnic superiority?  Or was there more to the reasoning about why the men who founded this country utilized the cruelest form of labor in history?

There were a number of reasons that led to the adoption of slavery in the American Colonies.  Education, economics, and religion all contributed to the decision.  Slavery wasn’t a new thing to the world when the American Colonies adopted it.  Obviously the French and Spanish were quite adept at it, enslaving many of the South and Central American natives along with African captives.  But this kind of irreparable history precedes America entirely.  Before we scrutinize early America, we should examine the world before us.

Slaves in ancient Roman Empire (courtesy of Pascal Radique)

Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, and the Arabs – all these great civilizations practiced human slavery of some form.  These civilizations are mostly remembered by posterity because of their magnificent monuments.  The pyramids and obelisks in Egypt, and the wonders and Wall of ancient China were constructed by, at least, conscripted laborers.  Although that sounds like some kind of sugar-coated term for slaves, historians believe that there was some light at the end of the tunnel for these workers; they would later be freed, but probably not until the good part of their life was already gone.

The ancient Greeks eventually offered citizenship to many of their slaves, if they performed well, but they would enslave just about anyone.  They would even enslave other Greeks, like the Spartans did with their neighboring Helots ([IV], Plutarch page 74) after they conquered them.  Imagine the parallel of Sparta’s enslaving the Helots to, say, the American Civil War: the North decides after its victory that it would enslave all of Virginia and the Carolinas.  However, Greek city-states such as Athens were appalled at the thought of enslaving anyone other than a “barbarian”.  But barbarians were just people who didn’t speak Greek, so this wasn’t some Taygetus Mountain-high moral stance.  However, the conquerors of the Greeks – the Romans – made Greek slave masters look like missionaries.

The Romans liked to take the best of the cultures they conquered by force, and make the best of these cultures even better.  Slavery was no exception.  In fact, the Romans were a little too good at it.  Slaves of many ages, races, and sizes were taken in war and were sold in the Roman markets.  Once they were in the master’s possession, they were just that – a possession ([V], Gibbon page 63).  Although the back of the hand, or the whip, was the first reaction, the master always had the option for termination – of the “for good” kind.  You want retribution?  If you killed your master, or one of his family or guests, the master family could lawfully murder all the slaves in the house for your transgression.  It might make you think twice.

The Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero once said, “The wise alone are free, and all fools are slaves ([VI], Breen page 39).”  While historians debate the true meaning behind this quote, it exemplifies the ho-hum attitudes the ancients had about slavery.  Cicero spoke often about freedom, but he never really included the slaves in that freedom for men he sought – this sounds awfully familiar to our founders.  Also akin to the founders, who sought to supplant the tyranny of King George, Cicero was speaking against a formidable tyrant of his own, Julius Caesar.  Caesar proudly proclaimed his genocide of the inhabitants of Gaul – hundreds of thousands (numbers are debated) in the lowly populated area of Northwest Europe – in his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars.  Caesar’s famous quote of “I came, I saw, I conquered” should have added “I murdered, and I enslaved” at the end.

Both of these men were of incredible fortitude.  Caesar was an utterly brilliant, undaunted general and innovative statesman; Cicero was just as brilliant a statesman as Caesar was a general, and he stood up to powerful generals even under the threat of death (he was eventually murdered for it).  But neither of these geniuses realized the horror of slavery; they actually did more to proliferate it.  Most of their wealth was built on that very practice.  Since the great villas, roads, aqueducts, and arenas like the Colosseum were constructed by slave (but also legionary) labor, would Rome be remembered 2000 years later if they hadn’t used slave labor?

Despite their notorious cruelty toward slaves, the Romans learned through several revolts that it was to the master’s benefit to treat his/her slaves better.  In his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Sir Edward Gibbon – a British contemporary of the American Revolution – wrote about how legislation evolved in the times of the Roman Emperors, giving slaves in Rome what African slaves in America never had – “hope”.  “Diligence and fidelity of a few years would be rewarded with the inestimable gift of freedom (63).”

Urn for the ashes of freedman Tiberius Claudius Chryseros and two females (courtesy of Kleuske)

Slavery didn’t escape the Arabic cultures, either.  According to Albert Hourani’s A History of the Arab Peoples, the most common form of slavery was that of the household servants – mostly women.  But those domestic occupations were also worked by free females.  Slavery in Arab culture “did not have exactly the same associations…as in the countries of North and South America discovered…from the sixteenth century onwards.  Slavery was a status recognized by Islamic law ([VII], Hourani page 116).”  The “legal category of slavery” consisted of mostly non-Muslim men taken in war, but it “was a meritorious act to liberate them (Hourani 116)”.  These “legal slaves” could have rights bestowed on them after being converted and freed – Hourani even said that some could marry their master’s daughters.  Of course, the most well-known freedmen in Arabic cultures were the Mamluks.  The intrepid Mamluks “ruled Egypt and Syria from 1250 to 1517 (Hourani 117)”, and were “self-perpetuating”; so they pretty much ruled that mini-empire on their own for over 250 years.  Not bad for a bunch of ex-slaves.

Arab slave traders

What does all this world history have to do with the founders of America (I hope you’re still with me)?  Our founders were students of history, especially ancient Rome and Greece.  The founders, like the Romans, learned from the past.  Though they took the good things from Rome, like the idea of civic duty, they took the bad things as well, like their justification of slavery.  And both these sets of men had similar educations.  Many of them studied the Greek philosophers.  Thomas Jefferson even admitted to learning more from reading the ancient Greek chronicler, Thucydides, than he did from reading the daily newspaper.  Certainly, they influenced the founders.

The men many consider the founders of education – ancient Greeks Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle – tried to reason themselves out of the guilt inherited in the practice of slavery.  Although Socrates and Plato skirted the subject ([VIII], Stone page 45) – apparently Plato had no problem utilizing slavery in his Utopia – Aristotle called a slave “an instrument for the conduct of life ([IX], Ross page 249)”.  One can already surmise that Aristotle recognized a difference between master and slave, but his method of differentiating gets a bit slipperier.  His idea was that nature created this diversity (he even uses the example of men ruling women) so that one could rule the other, “…where such a difference between two things exists it is to the advantage of both that one should rule the other.  Nature seems to produce such a distinction between men – to make some strong to work and others fit for political life (Ross 249-250).”  Aristotle taught that “some men are by nature free, and others slaves (Ross 249-250).”  One can wonder what Aristotle’s slaves thought of his assessment.  Sir David Ross criticized how Aristotle was “cutting the human race in two with a hatchet (Ross 250).”  However, he defends the philosopher’s few stipulations to slavery.  Included in these, Ross states that Aristotle thought ill of “slavery by mere right of conquest (Ross 250).”  He certainly was against the notion of Greeks enslaving their fellow Greeks.  The English settlers in America seemed to ignore this lesson in their early days, but they then, eventually, transitioned to slaves of other races.  The next couple stipulations of Aristotle that Ross pointed out weren’t followed very diligently by our southern founders, either.  The philosopher felt a master should virtually treat the slaves like children – to adjust their behavior with not a whip, but with “reason”.  The other was that “all slaves should be given the hope of emancipation.”  The American founders did follow Aristotle in the major facet of slavery, on the other hand.  It seemed like Aristotle recognized the evil of slavery, but it was just a necessary institution with which he had grown up – almost a state of nature.  It wasn’t Aristotle’s best logical theorem, but the southern founders of America appeared to think it sufficed in justifying their actions.

It is not just who the early Americans studied that contributed to the social divide, and ultimately to the perpetual slavery of the Africans, but who did the studying.  Even most freed African slaves weren’t allowed the same opportunities that a freed white man had.  In his article “Origins of American Slavery: Education as an Index of Early Differentiation”, Joseph Boskin presents the thesis of Carl Degler, who says, “The introduction of Africans as slaves…unquestionably fostered a sense of superiority among Englishmen ([X], Boskin page 127)” as they exemplified by their treatment of the Irish immigrants, and the Native Americans.  Ethnic hatred was by no means new or uncommon at that time in history, so perhaps the founders of America just hated everybody equally.  But why did they choose the Africans over all others to be lifelong slaves?

James Hopkinson's Plantation- slaves planting sweet potatoes. (Unknown photographer, 1862/63)

The first owner of an African slave was actually a black man (and former indentured servant in South America, himself) – a Virginian settler named Anthony Johnson in the 1650s ([XI], Billings page 286-87).  But he sadly wouldn’t be the last.  With the dramatic influx of African workers in the ensuing decades, many of them captured and sold by rival African tribes, it might be understood that the first reaction is cultural differentiation.  Realizing these polarizing differences in culture between Africans and Englishmen might have been the beginning of the slippery slope.  As Boskin said, the “discriminatory attitudes and behavior conditioned the form slavery would eventually take (127).”  In effect, law after law was passed to further enervate the status of Africans – slaves or not – in the American Colonies, especially in Virginia.  The slippery slope was turning slimy, and there no was no getting back uphill.

If you’ll allow the understatement of the year, the English settlers weren’t known for gently caressing their predecessors, the Native Americans, either.  It should be pointed out, as Boskin reminds us in his article, “that of the two distinct cultural groups they (Englishmen) dealt with in the seventeenth century in the New World, one was marked for destruction and the other was enslaved (128).”  Noting the difference between African and Native American is important here.  As Boskin says, “unlike the Indian who would live apart from the English, the African had to be assimilated into, or accommodated by a culture (the English) which possessed definite ideas of God, family, manners, morals, male-female relations, and which further prided itself on a high degree of accomplishment (130).”  The Africans would not have the same opportunity as the Englishmen to educate himself enough to reach that high degree of accomplishment – slavers would even punish slaves for attempting to learn how to read and write.  As Boskin tells us, “from the scanty evidence that exists…it would appear that the Negro did not receive formal education in the seventeenth century in the colonies (132).”  If they could not be educated like their English neighbors, what chance did they have in the English world?  Their lack of this training certainly couldn’t have helped their status as “accomplished” men.

Family on Smith's Plantation, Beaufort, South Carolina, circa 1862.

Two things should be mentioned before moving on.  First, although people of African descent weren’t allowed education in most areas, “the education of the Indian was specifically encouraged and provided for in legislative articles in many instances (Boskin 132).”  Englishmen deemed that the Native American needed to be “civilized” for cohabitation to be successful.  Secondly, the most prevalent education system of the time, apprenticeship, wasn’t open to Africans.  As Boskin said of colonial apprenticeship, “A perusal in the statutes of colonies…reveals no mention of either bond (sic) or free Negroes and/or slaves (132).”  Even mulatto children were exempt until 1765.  Boskin concludes very succinctly, “it may well be assumed that the Negro was regarded as uneducable.  Certainly…the unaltered direction was toward total rejection (133).”  Or maybe it was just undesirable – an educated slave is a rebellious one.

The majority of the southern colonists saw their slaves as below them, and that the existence of their slaves was just a price of being part of the southern gentry.  But was slavery really profitable?  In his article, “The Profitability of Slavery: A Historical Perennial”, Harold Woodman proved that, at least by the Civil War, it wasn’t.  According to the 1850 census, “…The value of agricultural products in the free states exceeded that of the slave states (when the value of the slaves was excluded [[XII], Woodman page 305]).”  However, a century before, it was a money-maker, whether or not tobacco sales were booming.  Wiencek mentions how George Washington was one of many Southerners who would send one or two slaves to “hold” land that he hadn’t officially settled (Wiencek 27).  Apparently, laws were passed to prohibit plantation owners from holding land on speculation, and Washington had found a loophole – if it appeared that you were working the land, then you weren’t just “holding it” for its future value.  It is necessary to mention, however, that land speculation was not a definite boon.

Although the profitability of slavery has been proven to be inflated, the founders thought otherwise.  If it wasn’t about economics, it was about the southern gentry’s lifestyle.  Somehow, owning slaves was a status symbol – as if owning another human being and forcing him/her to do labor was something to be proud of.  But let’s not just point the finger at the southern colonies.

The institution was tolerated by northern colonies, but suspicions progressively arose.  Just having so many black slaves in the south, almost half their population, made the Northern Colonies worry.  According to Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier, “the North had to assume that the South would soon become the dominant section of the country in both numbers and wealth (though that could be debated).  This assumption proved later incorrect, but in 1787, northerners were nervous about the possibility of a government dominated by the south ([XIII], Collier and Collier, page 185).”  These issues would be prominent in the debates at the Constitutional Conventions, but that is for another tract.

Noting that the North was obviously nervous about the South’s nefarious institution for both financial and population reasons, the South might have realized the North’s trepidations.  Perhaps they saw the attempts by the North for Abolition as means to supplant the South in dominance of the new country.  Either way, the North and South believed that slavery was profitable enough to allow it to persist.

Slave auction block at Green Hill Plantation, Pannill family plantation, located Campbell County, Virginia

Since we are examining why the founders kept a half-blind eye to the horror of slavery, we shouldn’t let religion get away so easily.  Where was the church while all this death and cruelty was taking place?  As sad as it sounds, the Catholic Church actually encouraged slavery.  In her article, “The Philosophes and Black Slavery: 1748-1765”, Claudine Hunting explained how “King Louis XIII of France had agreed, however reluctantly, to authorize slave trade in the French colonies, on the express urging of the Catholic Church and its missionaries, for the alleged purpose of saving their souls, more than a century after Portugal and Spain had adopted that policy in their own colonies ([XIV], Hunting page 408).”  Apparently, the mostly Protestant colonists didn’t have the same disdain of this Catholic more as they did with their Papacy.

There are two things to remember about The Church and Slavery.  First, not all Catholics were proslavery.  Many friars spoke out against the inhumanity of some slave owners, and spoke for the humanity of the slaves.  Second, of our Founding Fathers, very few were Catholic.  As we know, many Englishmen came to America to practice their own brand of religion (or to practice a brand of religious intolerance of their own).  This was a new world with a new way of thinking.

Thanks to the brilliant minds of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Locke, Descartes, and others, a new world was being discovered – not just the American continents.  As Winston Churchill wrote, “The urge to inquire, to debate, and seek new explanations spread from the field of classical learning (4).”  Everything was being learned anew, and everything had to be examined – not even The Church was safe anymore.  Churchill pointed out that this academic drive even set its examining eye “into that of religious studies (4).”  Of course, the Protestant Reformation ran its course, and England was never the same.  The New World would be a perfect setting for this new way of thinking.

The 18th century historian, and contemporary of the American Revolution, Sir Edward Gibbon wrote, “Whatever may be the changes in their political situation, they (America) must preserve the manners of Europe; and we may reflect with some pleasure that the English language will probably be diffused over an immense and populous continent (Gibbon 376n).”  But though the new Americans kept much of British culture, and its language, they would fall way behind the English in regard to slavery.

In 1807, James Clarke Fox’s term as Prime Minister did what Churchill said, “ranked among the greatest of British achievements ([XV], 311).”  Fox abolished the slave trade in England and its provinces – except for some islands where it was still deemed imperative.  But holding slaves was legal until 1833.  Something else to be considered was that Napoleon Bonaparte had recently legalized French slavery, so Britain could just have been taking the proverbial “high moral ground” over France.  Whatever the case, Britain had to be influenced by the Abolitionist factions which were prevalent in America.

As mentioned earlier, the consensus about our Founding Fathers was that they had some (but very few) problems with the South’s intransigence in the slavery issue.  Research shows, however, that most of our well-known founders were seeing the changing of the guard in the rest of the world.  Even the men who owned slaves seemed to see, and desire, the practice’s ensuing death, and they were ready to welcome its passing.

One cannot scrutinize the founders without mentioning our first president, George Washington.  Washington had a somewhat benevolent aura when it came to his slaves, proof of which can be found in his relationship with his favorite servant, Billy Lee ([XVI], McCullough page 42).  Billy Lee wouldn’t be outdone in proving his own sporty prowess, as historian David McCullough said, the “body servant ‘rode like the wind by all accounts, and no less fearlessly than his master (48)’”.  Master, however, is the important word there.  In fact, as McCullough alludes to on his following page, even Washington had to see the irony of these American rebels – many of them slave owners – seeking independence.  One would like to hear what Billy Lee had to say about all this.  Did he enjoy all that horsing around as much as Washington?

Washington and Billy Lee, c. 1780

Washington was a man who knew the value of posterity’s view of him.  He would be glad to know that the story of his relationship with Billy Lee came to light, along with some of the other pleasant stories about how well, compared to many slaveholders, Washington treated his slaves.  However, that is an insult to the families who actually were his slaves, and their hardships.  Washington was no angel, but he was the perfect example of the American Revolution’s ultimate paradox – slaveholders crusading for liberty.  According to Joseph Ellis’ His Excellency: George Washington, Washington made a not so excellent decision after the battle of Yorktown.  “He (Washington) insisted on the return of all escaped slaves in British custody to their respective owners. (Four of his own slaves were included in the contingent of about three thousand carried from New York to freedom by the British navy [[XVII], Ellis page 163].)”  According to Henry Wiencek’s aforementioned book, Washington – someone who seemed to be antislavery –had no problem separating the slave families on his plantation, and threatened troublesome slaves to virtual damnation on the brutally laborious Caribbean islands if their behavior didn’t improve – and it wasn’t an empty threat.

However, contemplative of posterity’s view of Washington, his views were changing.  Something had to be done.  Ellis offered the account Washington composed in April 1786, where Ellis quoted Washington as saying to his colleague Robert Morris, “I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of (slavery) – but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, & that is by Legislative authority: and this, as far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting (163).”

Washington not only thought that emancipation needed to be accomplished legally, but he knew there needed to be some plan for what to do with the emancipated slaves before they set this immense portion of the southern population free.  To his credit, what Washington couldn’t do for all the black slaves in America, he at least took care of his own.  According to Ron Chernow, “Washington emancipated his slaves in his will and even set aside money to assist the freed slaves and their children ([XVIII], Chernow page 212).”  However, one of Chernow’s biographical subjects, Alexander Hamilton, was far more hopeful of emancipation than Washington – and far more fervent in his actions.

If one doesn’t examine the career of Alexander Hamilton fully, then he can be easily written off by some as just a whiz-kid orphan from the Caribbean who liked to dabble with other men’s wives until Aaron Burr shot him for it.  On the contrary, Hamilton was much more complex than that kind of harsh preconception.  In Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, Chernow proves his subject founder to be a man of the new world; a man of the new way of thinking. “He had expressed an unwavering belief in the genetic equality of blacks and whites – unlike (Thomas) Jefferson, for instance, who regarded blacks as innately inferior – that was enlightened for his day (Chernow 211).”  Chernow said that, “Few, if any, other founding fathers opposed slavery more consistently or toiled harder to eradicate it than Hamilton (212).”  Hamilton’s loss in the duel to Burr prevented him from completing his task.

Other Founding Fathers were unsuccessful in transitioning their disdain of slavery into action.  Chernow explained how “John Adams never owned a slave…yet he did not always translate his beliefs into practice.”  Chernow said, “Adams opposed plans to emancipate slaves joining the Continental Army, contested the use of black soldiers, and opposed a bill in the Massachusetts legislature to abolish slavery (212).”  Adams had bent over backwards, however, to placate the southern colonists – these could be examples of such appeasement.  The issue of independence from Great Britain might have taken precedence from his perspective.

The Father of the Constitution, James Madison, was vulnerable to Chernow’s criticism, as well.  Although “Madison never tried to defend the morality of slavery…neither did he distinguish himself in trying to eliminate it (213).”  Chernow said, “Madison’s political survival in Virginia and national politics required endless prevarication on the slavery issue.”

Isaac Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's blacksmith slave at Monticello (taken c. 1847)

Speaking of prevarication, Thomas Jefferson was no stranger to it.  In his “Report on Government for Western Territory; March 1, 1784”, Jefferson claimed that “after the year 1800 of the Christian aera (sic), there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said states.”  In his autobiography, Jefferson admitted having put off the slavery issue to gain the South’s allegiance in independence from Britain.  He said, “the clause…reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary still wished to continue it.”  He later said, “It is still in our power to direct the process of emancipation and deportation peaceably and in such slow degree as that the evil will wear off insensibly.”  In the end, Chernow said Jefferson “freed only a handful of his slaves, including the brothers of his apparent mistress, Sally Hemings (213).”  Perhaps Jefferson hoped that future generations would have higher morals than his own, a sentiment that appears to be quite common among the founders.

Union Colonel John Wayles Jefferson, grandson of TJ and his slave and lover Sally Hemings

Thomas Jefferson - one can see the resemblance between John Wayles and Thomas

Maybe the most enigmatic founder is Benjamin Franklin.  In Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson describes how Franklin, who owned a few slaves over his lifetime, defended charges of hypocrisy in his 1770 publication, “Conversation on Slavery”.  Franklin made erroneous defenses about how few slaves there actually were in America, and made light of the treatment of slaves.  He did, however, cleverly compare the “working poor” in England to slaves.  Isaacson mentions, “At one point, the speaker’s (Franklin’s) argument even lapses into racism ([XIX], Isaacson page 268).”  In other works, however, Franklin shows his slowly diverging perspective.

Isaacson said, “In ‘Observations on the Increase of Mankind,’ he (Franklin) attacked slavery on economic grounds.  Comparing the costs and benefits of owning a slave, he concluded that it made no sense.”  Economics aside, the moral issue was more important, even a question of an owner’s work ethic.  In the same tract, Isaacson points out that Franklin believed owning a slave made whites lazy.  Isaacson quoted Franklin as saying, “Slaves perjorate (sic) the families that use them; white children become proud, disgusted with labor (152).”  It is important to point out that Franklin seemed more worried about the effects of slavery on the master, rather than its effects on the slave.  Isaacson called the article, “quite prejudiced in places.”  He said Franklin “urged that America be settled mainly by whites of English descent.”  Isaacson quotes Franklin, “Why increase the sons of Africa by planting them in America, where we have so fair an opportunity, by excluding all blacks and tawneys (sic), of increasing the lovely white and red (152)?”  It should be noted that Franklin was known for his sarcasm, and might have been trying to be ironic.  His later actions imply that.

Franklin came to understand the importance of abolition very well in his later life.  Isaacson said, “Franklin presented a formal abolition petition to Congress in February 1790 (Isaacson 465).”  As Isaacson quotes Franklin, he says that it was the duty of Congress to ensure “the blessings of liberty to the People of the United States…without distinction of color (465).”  Can a man not change?

Ben Franklin's "An Address to the Public", 1789

In order to really understand their reasons, one must step into the founders’ buckled shoes (silk stockings and powdered wigs are optional).  In one’s search to comprehend why these noble men chose to stand by arguably the worst form of slavery in the history of man, nothing can be found to exonerate them for their behavior.  Sometimes history can be a painful thing.  While learning about this subject is hard to do because of its horror, it is not something we can just forget about.

A lot is still left to learn about slavery, but what stands out is that these poor Africans – and even their descendants – never were given a chance.  Because their culture was considered centuries behind the ethnocentric Europeans, the Englishmen found the Africans to be what we learned Aristotle called, “instruments for the conduct of life”.  It was as if God Himself had given white men the right to be another man’s master – and it was good for both of them.

In an attempt to defend them, however, it can be said that America’s founders planted the seed for emancipation.  Whether their motives were based on ethics or not, they knew it was only a matter of time before the South would concede their dreadful practice.  Franklin was quoted many times as saying, “In time.”  Although our country was slow to actually pass the legislation that many in America were trumpeting, the world took notice of this infant republic.  Yes, America wasn’t the first government to emancipate all their slaves; but after the American Revolution, as many states outlawed slavery, countries around the world began the alleviation of the slavery scourge, as well.

Slavery is illegal throughout the modern world.  Sadly, slavery still lives in parts of Africa (such as Sudan and Mauritania) and elsewhere (parts of China and South America) in an unofficial capacity.  We can hope, however, if we learn why we made this appalling mistake (and continue to do so), that we will learn the folly of it and abolish slavery once and for all.  Look at how far we have come as Americans.  Whether or not we agree with President Barack Obama politically, to see an African-American elected President of the United States of America in 2008 has to make one proud to be an American – even though it took over 140 years.

Our Founding Fathers had their reasons for allowing slavery to persist.  After finding that there were influences like education, economy and religion, one can better understand their flawed logic.  What we cannot condone are the results of their logic, or their harsh methods in the implementation of slavery.  It is hard to be proud of the founders’ steady blind eye to the suffering of their fellow man.  But it is easy to be proud of the great country they created.  Some say our founders allowed slavery to persist when they signed the Constitution with the belief that the dying institution was coughing up its final bad breaths.  Tragically, they thought too highly of the sensibilities of men.  Again it should be said that there was some good out of their foolish assumption – they created this country.  And just because we Americans must live with our cloudy history doesn’t mean we can’t be proud that these founders created a country where we are free to question that history, and criticize those flawed creators.

Were men equally created?  Despite the obvious affirmative answer, man was slow to accept his brethren as being created equal throughout all of history.  By learning how fallible our founders were we will see that it does not take demigods, like history has made of Ben Franklin, George Washington and others, to make a country great.  Times are changing, and so are people.  History has plenty of pages left to write.

 

(This article is not to be copied without consent of administrator.  Copyright 2012, Joe Richter Media)


[I] Doris Kearns Goodwin. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2005.

[II]  Winston S. Churchill. A History of the English Speaking Peoples: The New World. vol. 2 New York, NY: Barnes and Noble, Inc., by arrangement with Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc., 1993.

[III] Henry Wiencek. An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.

[IV] Plutarch. Plutarch’s Lives: Volume I.  Trans. John Dryden.  Ed. Arthur Hugh Clough.  New York: The Modern Library, 2001.

[V] Edward Gibbon. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. vol. 1 The Turn of the Tide. ed. Betty Radice.  London: The Folio Society, 2003.

[VI] Quirinus Breen. “The Antiparadoxon of Marcantonius Majoragius, or A Humanist Becomes a Critic of Cicero As a Philosopher”. Studies in the Renaissance, vol. 5, (1958), pp 37-48. Published by: Renaissance Society of America.

[VII] Albert Hourani. A History of the Arab Peoples. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1991.

[VIII] I.F. Stone. The Trial of Socrates. New York, NY: First Anchor Books, 1989.

[IX] Sir David Ross. Aristotle. New York, NY: Routledge, 1996.

[X] Joseph Boskin. The Origins of American Slavery: Education As an Early Index of Differentiation”. The Journal of Negro Education, vol. 35, no. 2 (Spring 1966), page 125-133.

[XI] Billings, Warren (2009). The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606-1700. Pg 286-287.

[XII] Harold Woodman. “Profitability of Slavery: A Historical Perennial”. The Journal of Southern History, vol. 29, no. 3 (Aug 1963), pp. 303-325.

[XIII] Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier. Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1986.

[XIV] Claudine Hunting. “The Philosophes and Black Slavery: 1748-1765”. Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 39, no. 3.  (July – Sept. 1978), page 405-418.

[XV] Winston Churchill. A History of the English Speaking Peoples: The Age of Revolution. vol. 3 New York, NY: Barnes and Noble, Inc., by arrangement with Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc., 1993.

[XVI] David McCullough. 1776. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2005.

[XVII] Joseph Ellis. His Excellency: George Washington. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

[XVIII] Ron Chernow. Alexander Hamilton. New York, NY: The Penguin Press, 2004.

[XIX] Walter Isaacson. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2003.

 

Non-cited references:

1) William J. Bennett. America: the Best Last Hope: Volume I. Nashville, TN: Nelson Current, 2006.

2) Plato. The Essential Plato. New York, NY: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1999.  int: Alain De Botton. tr: Benjamin Jowett, with M.J. Knight.
3) Stanley Elkins & Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism: the Early American Republic, 1788-1800. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1993.
4) Carl Van Doren. The Great Rehearsal: the story of the making and ratifying of the Constitution of the United States. New York, NY: Viking Press, 1948.

Help Honor Iraq Vets

ST. LOUIS, MO.  (Joe Richter, Missouri Sports Magazine) – We hold parades for sports teams, but what about the people who are really important to our country?  Where are the parades for those who sacrifice a large portion of their lives to serve their country, and foster freedom around the globe?  That’s just what Craig Schneider and Tom Appelbaum are trying to make happen on January 28thin downtown St. Louis.

Sure, this is a sports website.  But sometimes there are things much more important than multimillionaire athletes and what their teams are doing.  We need to show how much we appreciate the sacrifices made by American troops in Iraq who are returning back to the country they fought for.  We need to welcome our heroes with open arms.

Schneider and Applebaum are trying to put a parade down Market Street on January 28th to welcome our troops home from Iraq and honor them for their service to America.  There’s just one trick – they need to reach a certain dollar mark to make it happen.  They’re trying to do this in under a month.  People have told them they’re attempting the impossible – especially in a time of economic stagnancy.  But this is St. Louis, and this is America.  Charity and honor is what we do.

How does something like this happen in the modern age?  Schneider and Applebaum chose to utilize Facebook to get the word out.  They started the page “Make January 28th Welcome Home the Heroes from Iraq Day” on the social media website, and the region took notice.  A veteran’s charity of great reputation (but asked not to be named yet) offered to back the parade if Schneider and Applebaum could raise $25,000 by this Friday, January 13th to show just how interested the region is.  They need donations from those who want to thank the men and women who served in Iraq just as much as we needed these veterans to keep us free.

If you would like to donate to this very worthy cause and properly honor these brave men and women, visit their Facebook page, or send an email to them at iraqwelcomhome@gmail.com.  You can also pledge through the law offices of Tom Applebaum (314-985-5673) or fax a pledge to 314-985-0637.  If they’re unable to reach their financial goal, they’ll donate the money to the veteran’s charity mentioned.

As they say on their page, these veterans “didn’t ask for a parade, or a community show of support, or a gathering of people and organizations specifically focused on easing our warriors’ transition back to civilian life.  We’re throwing one anyway.”

It’s the least that a grateful country can do for those who have given so much.  Please do all you can to help make this happen.

(Thanks to Ann Rubin of KSDK for contributing to this article.)

They Might Not Be Giants – NY Giants/Rams Preview

Rams Hope to Light Up Monday Night (stlouisrams.com)

They might be Giants, but the Rams stack up to them pretty well.  Dating back to 1938, the Rams own the all-time series against the Giants at 25-13.  The Rams are beaten up after their first game, but they are not alone.  The Giants are dropping like flies, as well.  Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin said, “We’ve had what, three ACLs, we had a guy break his foot, he stepped on the field one day, we had a guy tear a (pectoral muscle).”  So the Rams will get no sympathy from them.

Both teams are coming off disappointing losses in Week 1, so each has a lot to prove to their fans, to the rest of the league, and to themselves.  “For us (the Redskins game) was a divisional game and those are extremely important,” Coughlin said.  Even though the Rams aren’t in their division, they know this game is as important as any other, especially with all the mistakes they made last week.  “We’ve got a lot of correcting to do and we’ve got a lot of improvement to go through. I think the players all share that feeling.”

Sam Bradford should be back for Monday – his finger is feeling better, and was on the practice field Wednesday.  Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo was obviously relieved, saying that was the “understatement of the year”.  Coach Spags said, “We all know how we feel about the quarterback on any team, because it’s an important position, and we know what Sam means to ours.”

Everyone, Including Bradford, is Glad He'll Be Under Center (stlouisrams.com)


But Sam was just as relieved as his coach.  It will be his first Monday Night Football Game.  “
If I wasn’t playing something,” Bradford said, “definitely Monday night football was always a highlight of my week. I remember it being the only game on TV that night and I remember watching it and thinking how cool it would be to play on that stage some day and how fortunate we are to be here, going to play on Monday night football for the first time next week.”

Bradford thinks it’s important for the Rams to rebound well on Monday, no matter the stage.  He said, “Obviously we feel we dropped the game last week. As last year goes to show we were a game away last year and had we closed out some of those games earlier in the season it would have been a different situation last year. I think everyone in this building understands the importance of getting wins early in the year.”

But even if Bradford plays, the Giants still plan on stopping the run first.  Coughlin said, “First of all you try to stop the run which…they demonstrated the other night the Rams run the ball well. Sam is a very good, young quarterback who has really matured and developed in his year of playing time. We’ll do the best we can against a very good player.”

The Rams strength last week was the running game, but they might have to get things done another way against the Giants.  The Giants gave up only 74 yards to Washington running backs (Tim Hightower had 72 and Roy Helu had 2), an average of 2.8 yards per carry.  They’re a team that makes stopping the run its focus.  Bradford said, “They’re big, they’re physical. It’s hard to run the football against these guys. There’s just not a lot of space inside. They do a great job of putting pressure on the passer. We’re going to have to be really good up front both in the run game and the pass game this week.”

Though Steven Jackson is still questionable for Monday’s game with his thigh injury, Coughlin doesn’t think there’s much of a letdown with Carnell…er, I mean…Cadillac Williams in there.  Coughlin said, “Well, he played very well, and of course I know of him in his younger years, but he played very well the other night. Both backs really displayed strength and power and quickness and the ability to move the pile. And 91 yards against the Eagles is a lot of yards.”  Coughlin doesn’t see how he needs to change his game plan because of the roster changes.  “I didn’t see a whole lot of difference in terms of how they used the backs,” he said, “I thought the backs were used in a similar fashion.”

Jerious Norwood Eludes a Defender (stlouisrams.com)

And look for Jerious Norwood to get some action, as well.  When he gets space, he can make things happen; as if he greases up his jersey before the game, he’s hard to get a hold of.  He only got 3 carries for 10 yards, but had the most 20+ yard kick returns in the NFL (tie) in Week 1, showing how hard to handle he can be.

Pro Bowl DE Justin Tuck feels the same about the Rams offense.  “Their running game can be tremendous,” he said.  “Obviously it helps if you have 39 (Steven Jackson) back there. Even with Cadillac…he still had 91 yards on 19 carries, so we definitely have to put them into some situations where they have to rely heavily on their quarterback – who is a great and up and coming quarterback. We would rather have him be one dimensional than have the option of handing it off and being able to drop back and pass too.”

Cadillac Williams Looks For Another Big Game (stlouisrams.com)

Tuck knows Williams very well.  He said, “Actually, I played against Cadillac in high school. I remember him before he had the knee injury. The knee injury still hasn’t slowed him down. He’s still a great, great back.”  When asked how good Williams was high school, he said one word, “unstoppable.”  Rams fans hope the Giants won’t be able to stop him Monday.

 

Let’s look at what kind of defense the Rams will be facing.

On the defensive line, Giants Defensive End Osi Umenyiora (knee) should be out of the lineup.  However, though he said his neck is “less than 100%”, outstanding DE Justin Tuck should be ready on Monday, which isn’t good news to Sam Bradford – Tuck said sacking quarterbacks is favorite part of playing football.  With both Rams Offensive Tackles banged up last week, Tuck and his counterparts should be trouble for them.  DEs Jason Pierre-Paul (2010 first round pick – the 6’5” 278 DE that does backflips, like he’s two Ozzie Smiths) was effective last week (6 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble), and Dave Tollefson had a sack and two tackles.

At 6’7”, 317, Defensive Tackle Chris Canty is a roadblock in the middle.  And starting partner, Linval Joseph (6’4”, 323), is no little person, either.  But if the Rams RBs can get past the line, they have to face a young, but strong linebacker corps.

LBs Greg Jones, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Spencer Paysinger Tackle Tim Hightower (AP Photo: Evan Vucci)

6-year veteran LB Mathias Kiwanuka (6’5”, 267) had five tackles in his start in Week 1.  7-year veteran Michael Boley (6’3”, 230) had four tackles and a fumble recovery.  Beyond 5-year vet Zak DeOssie (2 tackles in Week 1), who’s mainly their long snapper (2011 Pro Bowler) there isn’t a lot of experience.  The Giants have four rookie LBs in Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger, and 2011 6th round picks Jacquain Williams and MLB Greg Jones (had a productive career at Mich St., started 46 games, 465 tackles).  Jones had 4 tackles last week, catching some eyes.

It’s good to hear that Sam Bradford is healthy, because if Rex Grossman can get over 300 yards passing against the Giants, then you’d think Bradford could.  Losing Danny Amendola is tragic, but it affords an opportunity for Greg Salas, Danario Alexander, or Austin Pettis to step up.  Salas made a good catch for 21 yards on Sunday, and has a solid-enough frame (6’1”, 209) to be a third-down guy.  And his 4,345 yards in college give him the 6th highest total in NCAA history.  So, Coach Spags will have to decide on either Alexander (deep threat) or Pettis (extra 3rd down help/punt returner) – or if they even go with five on Monday night.  Dominique Curry should play for his special teams ability.  Coach Spags said on Wednesday, “We have five wide receivers, obviously, that are healthy on the 53; and whether we go in the game with four or five we will determine at the end of the week. Then we’ll decide who, if it is only four, we’ll decide who the four are.”

The Giants secondary is good in the middle.  Antrel Rolle is a Pro Bowl safety (2010: 87 tackles, 4 interceptions), and made 7 tackles in Week 1.  Kenny Phillips is a big, strong tackler (6’2”, 217) who made 9 of them in their first game, along with two passes defended.

2011 first round pick, Cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) is questionable.  Dependable DB Terrell Thomas (2010: 102 tackles, 5 interceptions, 21 pass defended) is on the IR, as well, which might create some space for Rams receivers.  There was a reason the Giants picked Amukamara, their lack of solid corners, and the Rams hope they can take advantage.  They especially can take advantage of an inexperienced slot corps if Salas can step up.  In that same regard, the Rams tight ends could have a field day if Mike…hold on while I copy and paste it…Hoomanawanui can get back in the lineup.  Having “Hooman” back could take the pressure off Lance Kendricks, whose drops last week were costly.  Kendricks’ hands should return this week.

Kendricks Looks to Make His First Monday Night a Great Night (stlouisrams.com)

Now let’s take a look at the Giants offense.  The good news for the Rams Defense is that the Giants managed only 75 yards in Week 1.  Starting Running Back Ahmed Bradshaw managed only 54 yards (44 rush, 10 rec) last weekend, an average of 3.4 rushing yards per carry.  But he had over 1500 all-purpose yards last year, and shouldn’t be forgotten.  It should be a key for the Rams to shut him down – the Giants are 14-24 under Tom Coughlin when they don’t manage 100 yards rushing.  Forget about last week against the Eagles – Vick’s versatility and slipperiness inflated the rushing yards against (236).  RB LeSean McCoy only had 10 rushing yards in the first half.  If the Rams can play at that level against the Giants for a full 60 minutes, things should go much more smoothly.  And don’t plan on Eli Manning running for 97 yards – or slipping out of the pocket as easily as Vick did.  He’s going to seem like a turtle stuck in mud compared to Vick.

Ahmed Bradshaw Tackled By London Fletcher (AP Photo: Susan Walsh)

Manning now has the longest QB starting streak in the NFL, after his brother Peyton had to miss his game on Sunday, at 104 games.  Put it this way, the Cleveland Browns have started 12 different QBs during Eli’s streak.  Manning had 268 yards (18 of 32) last Sunday, numbers he wasn’t satisfied with.  He’ll be looking to feast on a depleted Rams secondary after not getting a touchdown last weekend, while being intercepted by Redskins rookie Ryan Kerrigan.  The Giants finished last season 10th in passing yards and 7th in scoring.  Without CB Ron Bartell (and perhaps without other starting CB Bradley Fletcher) the Rams will have their hands full in the passing game.  The Rams have to get a good rush on Manning to shut him down.

Manning Sacked by London Fletcher and Chris Neild (AP Photo: Susan Walsh)

In the offseason, the Giants added Center David Baas, after he started 53 games for San Francisco – and was their full-time starter for the last two seasons.  Pro Bowl-starter, G Chris Snee (6’3”, 305), anchors the Giants line, just as he has since 2004.  Snee has started all 108 games he has played in the NFL.  On the outside, Kareem McKenzie (6’6”, 330) has been a fixture at Tackle since 2004.  Will Beatty started on the other end in Week 1, but had only started 6 games before that in his young career.  Look for the Rams DEs to get them some.  It’s imperative that they don’t let Manning get comfy in the pocket.

Chris Long sacks Vick (stlouisrams.com)

Wide­ Receiver Hakeem Nicks (79 rec, 1052 yards, 11 TDs) is probable, and said he is feeling like his knee should be ready to go on Monday.  He’s sure to give Rams cornerbacks fits.  Nicks had 7 catches for 122 yards before leaving the game.  Mario Manningham (2010: 60 rec, 944 yards, 9 TDs) had only 49 yards last week.

As far as the cornerbacks go, the Rams have Justin King and Al Harris ready to go.  King still has to prove himself in the pro game as an outside corner, but that was his game in college.  Having had to learn the inside game in the pros, he’s welcoming a return to the outside.  Harris was a two-time Pro Bowler, but knee troubles have kept him in a backup role.  The Rams are hoping he still something left.  To help out, the Rams resigned CB Tim Atchison – who had just gotten home and unpacked after his prior release from the Rams practice squad when he got the call to come back.  Atchison showed versatility in camp, playing both the outside and nickel corner positions.  Coach Spags said, “You don’t normally want to throw somebody into the heat this quick but I thought Tim showed enough in training camp both from the physical part and knowledge part that deserved to get him back here.”

James Hall Looks to "Get Some" Monday Night (stlouisrams.com)

It’s a great matchup between these two teams.  On defense, both teams need to get after each other’s quarterbacks and limit the opposition’s running back.  On offense, both teams need to find a way to exploit a weak secondary on the other side, and find a way to break through each other’s solid defensive front lines.  It will be a close game, so it will come down to the usual game-breakers.

Third Down will be important, as always.  The Giants were 1 for 10 last week on Third Down plays.  The Rams allowed the Eagles to covert 8 of 13, mostly because of Michael Vick scrambles, so should automatically improve on that.  On the flip side, the Rams were only 2 of 12 on Third Down.  Somebody has to step up and make plays.

Turnovers could make the difference for each team.  Manning’s interception started the second half off wrong (the third play of the half), and those points scored on its return were costly.  The Giants never gained the momentum, or the lead, back.  Bradford, being tripped by his own man, fumbled the ball in the first quarter against the Eagles, leading to a touchdown – and a letdown in momentum.  The Rams never got the momentum, or the lead, back.

Bad penalties cannot be made (Giants had 8 penalties for 63 yards, and the Rams had 9 for 60), nor can chances be missed (both teams missed a Field Goal in Week 1).

Both teams have a lot to prove on Monday night, and there’s no better stage to prove it.

Thanks for reading.

 

From the Undrafted Rookie – Around STL Sports (9-13-11)

BLUES – FINALLY, CAPTAIN AMERICA IS REAL

On the Blues knighting David Backes as their new captain, this is a no-brainer.  There are so many reasons why, and an article I wrote months ago should explain that.  You can read that at this link: http://joerichtermedia.com/?p=59

Backes is the kind of guy you want to follow; he’s tough, talented, and tenured.  The Blues did the right thing.  They couldn’t make General Manager Doug Armstrong – who has done a terrific job since joining the staff – the captain, so Backes is the next best thing.

Though there is a lot going on sports-wise in St. Louis, I can’t put in words just how excited I am to see the Blues get out there.  My anticipation is bubbling over watching Alex Pietrangelo blossom as a star defenseman, Chris Stewart emerge as a star power forward, and Jaroslav Halak become a true #1 netminder.  There’s so much that we have longed to see – the continued brilliance of Patrik Berglund, the rocking mullet of TJ Oshie, etc.

The Blues New Captain, Captain America

But if I might protest something, it would be the choice of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” for the Blues ad campaign.  I just saw the commercial on the Blues website, (I’d add the link, but I don’t want to put you through the obnoxious college ad) and was selfishly bothered.  I never started believing that Berglund can actually play the piano (although the guy’s charismatic goofiness should certainly be part of the campaign), and I did stop believing that the song should be played outside of a high school dance.  Besides, it sings about Detroit, which should be enough said.  OK, maybe I’m being too nitpicky here (I admit being a bit petty), but didn’t Tony Soprano get shot to that song?  Sorry, late spoiler alert…

Regardless, it’s nice that the exhibition season will start next week (September 20), and training camp begins Friday, September 16.  And it’s classy of the Blues to allow fans to be there at the St. Louis Mills to see them officially take the ice for the first time of the 2011-12 season.  Many of the boys in blue are already there, which shows me the Blues, themselves, will not stop believing they owe it to the fans and the franchise to make it back to the playoffs.

 

 

RAMS – MAYBE WORST FEARS REALIZED

Well, we talked about it before, and now our worst fears have been realized.  The positions with the least amount of depth for the Rams were ones most battered on Sunday.  First off, Rams Quarterback Sam Bradford slammed a finger on an Eagles player’s helmet, leaving him inactive in practice until at least Wednesday.  It turned out to be just a bruise, but the finger he hurt was on his throwing hand, and the franchise QB wasn’t exactly meticulous on Sunday (I thought he was trying to hit the cameramen on the sideline on a couple throws) to begin with.  Neither was AJ Feeley.  This is very concerning in a league that has a quarterback fetish.  The NFL knows these guys are the faces of franchises, and have bent and changed rules over the last two decades to benefit the passing game.  Teams cannot live on the run alone.  “Keep our fingers crossed,” Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo said, “no pun intended.”  Hey, Spags; I make the corny jokes around here…

All-Pro Running Back Steven Jackson was updated to “week-to-week” by Spagnuolo.  But it’s a wait and see scenario with Jackson.  He said, “I’ve always trusted Steve with injuries and how he feels. He knows better than anybody how his body reacts.”

Even worse, Wide Receiver Danny Amendola – Bradford’s go-to guy – is out for who knows how long.  It was determined that he dislocated his elbow, and was getting an MRI during Spagnuolo’s press conference Monday.  They’ll more info midweek.  If Amendola doesn’t require surgery, then he could be back sooner than originally expected.  Spagnuolo called him a “tough sucker”.  Spags said Danny is “a lot tougher than me.”

But what might be the costliest injury is losing Cornerback Ron Bartell.  After suffering what everyone thought was “just” a stinger, Bartell wanted to go back into the game.  In the understatement of the season, it’s a good thing the Rams didn’t let him.  It turns out that he has a broken neck.  Ouch.  He could miss the rest of the season.  You got to feel bad for him, considering how long he has waited for this team to be a winner.

Ron Bartell (stlouisrams.com)

Who will take Bartell’s place on an already short list of quality corners?  Cornerback Bradley Fletcher suffered a toe injury, as well, possibly leaving only two healthy corners for Week 2.  The Rams will have to see how Fletcher comes along this week.  Right now, they might have to look outside for another corner to fill in.  “Obviously you have Justin (King) and Al (Harris) here,” Spags said.  He added that they “may have to find a way to get another one.”

There was some good news.  Offensive Tackle Jason Smith and Defensive End C.J. Ah You are listed as day-to-day after their injuries turned out to be less serious than previously estimated.

Right now, it’s a waiting game for the Rams to see just how depleted their first game left them.  “We didn’t envision starting like that,” Spagnuolo said.  “We certainly didn’t envision losing all these guys but between the coaching staff, personnel staff, the players just find a way to rally and go play.”

 

 

CARDS – THANK YOU, MORGAN?

Nyjer Morgan Gives a Lesson in Class

I know the 5-game winning streak was snapped on Monday night by the mighty (to the Cardinals) Pittsburgh Pirates.  But the Cards are still in it.  That’s right, I said it – they still have a chance to get into the playoffs.  And if they do, I think it’s all because of Brewers Center Fielder Nyger Morgan.  He may be a player with crazy skills, but that might not be the only crazy thing about him.  I mean, we’ve all thrown our chaw at a pitcher that has struck us out, and made a fool of ourselves on television.  OK, maybe that’s just me.  But I don’t think any of us have called Albert Pujols a little girl.

You have to hand it to Morgan, he has more guts than brains.  Many have accused 6’3” 230 pound Albert Pujols of being surly at times, or thinking he’s ten times faster than he really is; but we would never call him feminine like Morgan did.  It’s like the old line by Gene Wilder from “Blazing Saddles” that he said about the movie’s character, Mongo, “No, no; don’t do that.  If you shoot him, you’ll just make him mad.”

That might be exactly what Morgan did with the Pujols and the Cardinals.  Morgan might have lit the fire under the Cardinals that they needed.  They have been on a roll ever since.  And the Brewers are starting to look a bit more mortal.  After losing five games in a row, The Brew-Crew defeated the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.  And they also got Rickie Weekes back.  But the Cardinals have a little more incentive to see them in the playoffs, now, and beat them.

Nyjer Morgan Reminds Us to Floss

Thanks to the Florida Marlins’ Mike Stanton’s game-winning RBI single Monday night against the Braves, the Cards are only 4.5 games out of the wild card spot – and a ticket to a whole new season, the playoffs.  While the Cards will be hard-pressed to catch the Brewers (6.5 games back   games slip away, especially against the Pirates.

One more note.  Getting Chris Carpenter for two more years at a reported $21 million total is a steal by the rate pitchers are getting these days.  It’s important to have the one-two punch of him and Adam Wainwright next year.  If Jaime Garcia can come back next year with a more consistent season, the Cards will have one of the best top three pitchers in the league.  And the money saved could help the Cards retain Morgan’s best friend, Albert Pujols.  Maybe…

Point Forward

It’s week one.  Rams fans, take a really deep breath.  Some fans want to point fingers in a number of directions.  But the one direction fans should point their fingers is forward.  The best is still ahead.

Sure, the game against the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t have the optimal result.  In fact, it could have been the worst thing that could’ve happened for the team.  Injuries, especially, brought the team down, as well as the hopes of Rams fans, on Sunday.  But it’s not time to panic.

I’m sure there were several of us that made brash predictions that the Rams would surprise the Eagles, as they rode in on their high horse, thinking they were the greatest team ever – “The Dream Team”, as Eagles backup quarterback Vince Young called them.  The Rams proved the Eagles weren’t unbreakable.  If not for injuries, an untimely fumble by Sam Bradford, along with several dropped and poorly thrown passes, the Eagles could very well have lost that game.

Spagnuolo explained the injuries as best he could after the game, “Steven’s (Jackson) got a quad. I’m not sure whether to call it a pull or a strain or whatever. We’ll have a better idea on those tomorrow so he’ll be reassessed.  Jason Smith is an ankle. (Head Athletic Trainer) Reggie (Scott) has called it a high ankle. I’ll have a better idea what we’re dealing with tomorrow.  C.J. Ah You – (it’s) just his wrist. Hopefully that’s OK and we think we’ll probably take a picture of that.  Danny Amendola did dislocate his left elbow. It’s not broken but it was dislocated, and now the thing is getting an MRI and see how much damage is actually done in there so we won’t know that until.  Ron Bartell got a stinger. Sam banged his right index finger on a helmet. It’s not broken they did x-ray it but they’ve got to find out a little bit more about what we’re dealing with here. And again, probably take it into tomorrow.  Quintin Mikell just cramped up when he came out.”  That’s quite a mouthful.  But hopefully these injuries won’t be lingering.

Jack gets his TD (stlouisrams.com)

Steven Jackson looked amazing in his two runs before leaving the game.  With those golden shoes, it was like “The Predator” was directed by Joel Schumacher (director of the gold and neon-macerated “Batman Forever” movie).  Jackson exploded for a touchdown with his first run, and it looked like it was a new day for the St. Louis Rams.  But toward the end of the run, Jackson pulled up with an injury in his thigh.  “It was one of those freak things that I just felt a little something there,” he said.  “I tried to go back in there that second series, and I just couldn’t be the runner that I wanted to be.”  It was a two-sided play – one that showed how good he can be, and one that proved how quickly things can change.  “It was very disappointing. Like I said, I prepared all offseason for this, had a great training camp, really felt mentally in tune to the game plan. I was really looking forward to it, and I knew I could have had a big role in this game. Plus, to jump on Philadelphia like we did and for me to have the news that I won’t be able to finish the game is very disappointing, especially when you see your teammates battle the way they were battling.”

And battle, they did.  Carnell…I keep messing that up…Cadillac Williams made a heck of a Rams debut, running for nearly an hundred yards.  Williams said, “During camp, coach just came to me one day and said, ‘Cadillac, stay ready.’ In this game of football, you just never know what could happen.”  And it was a good thing he was ready.  It was a great performance.   He’s got a lot to prove.  “I feel like I have a lot of football left in me,” he said.  “I do want to establish myself as a guy who can get the job done, so every time I get my chance I’m out there just doing my best. That’s just me.”

Williams on the rush (stlouisrams.com)

Bradford appreciated Williams’ work, saying, “It’s very comforting. Obviously, anytime you lose Jack you know it’s frustrating because he is a great player. His presence on the field changes things in the defense, but we’ve got two guys behind him that can come in and keep the level of play very high.”

But it wasn’t enough.  Spagnuolo was as upset as you might expect.  He said, “We knew no. 7 was going to be tough to stop. We thought we would do a better job in that but we didn’t. But like I said to the team I think it goes back to – overall – there were fundamentals things we didn’t do right.”  That wasn’t it, though.  As frustration mounted, so did the penalties.  Spags said that “when you play good football teams, the first thing you’ve got to do is make sure you don’t beat yourself. We didn’t do that today so we suffered the consequences.”

 

One of the bright spots was that Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels was able to find a weakness on the Eagles defense, their inexperienced linebacking corps, leading to a lot of yards on the ground (154 yards total, 5.9 avg), in fact the seventh best output in the NFL before the Monday night games.  Coach Spags agreed, but wasn’t impressed with the rest of the team’s performance.  “I thought we ran the ball effectively. Drops are going to kill you, penalties are going to kill you. Bad tackling, or backside leverage as we’ll call it, with the cutbacks are going to kill you. They’ve got some talented, talented players. But I just thought if we had done some of the fundamental things right I don’t think the talent would have come out quite like it did.”

Eagles coach Andy Reid liked what he saw from Coach Spags and the Rams, saying, “My hat is off to Steve and his football team; they went down today like crazy with quite a few injuries out there. That is a tough deal. He sure has done a nice job, along with his coaches and front office. He has a pretty good football team.”  The Rams certainly sent the house on a lot of plays, putting pressure on Vick to scramble a lot.  “They showed us a lot of looks which we knew they would. Spagnuolo and Ken Flajole know what they are doing and that is good test for us. We were able to hit a few big plays against them, and you need those when they are coming after you like that.”

Spags and Reid, old friends together again (stlouisrams.com)

Vick was anything but comfortable out there.  He said, “They blitzed like crazy and it was tough being on the road, our communication was down a little bit.  But, we still found ways to make plays…and we did it the way we wanted to do it, it wasn’t pretty but we got the win.”

Vick throws past an outstretched C.J. Ah You (stlouisrams.com)

 

Vick was impressed with the Rams, as well, saying, “I knew coming in they were going to play very hard, extremely hard, and they played very well and I give them a lot of credit.”

But on the field, Vick wasn’t that impressed.  Every time the Rams sat back, thinking they had him contained, the slippery devil found a way out – on his way to 98 rushing yards.  Spagnuolo said, “if you could cut that yardage in half when he tucked it, just by however, then you‘ve got a fighting chance. But (when) he gets out there, there is nobody in the league like him. He knows how to play in the dome.”  And he slipped out the Rams grasp too many times.  “I’m sure that’s some of it,” Coach Spags said.  “I did feel like we were there and didn’t finish.”

Vick slips out (stlouisrams.com)

But it’s not all bad news.  The team made some good plays, and hung in for most of the game.  The final score didn’t really give justice to the team’s effort in the first three quarters.

Look at the offense.  They accrued a lot of yards, but just didn’t make the necessary plays to win the game – too many drops and some errant passes.  Bradford tried to find a silver lining.  He said, “If you watched us, we moved the ball up and down the field on them. It’s just we just hurt ourselves with the mistakes every drop. It seemed like there was always one negative play that occurred after we got the drive going, and it just seemed like we were never able to overcome that one negative play. But for the most part I thought our guys did a great job executing. I think we only had one three-and-out in out today. We just got to find a way to be perfect. We can’t make those mistakes that keep us from getting in the end zone and putting points on the board.”

Bradford was actually a little too understanding of his receivers dropping the ball (I’m surprised they didn’t drop the flag in the pregame ceremony), saying those things just happen.  Sam, they don’t happen that much in the National Football League if you want to win.  Rookies or not, this cannot happen.

 

There were a few bright spots, and a lot of not-so-bright spots.  But they can’t look back.  Bradford said, “We still have 15 more games, and I don’t think anyone ever folded camp after going 0-1 to start the season.”

Rams safety Quintin Mikell agrees, “We’re not going to hang our heads and think it’s the end of the world. It’s a good team that we lost to. We had some plays that we left out there on the field. (At the) end of the day, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re still a good team.”

LeSean McCoy tries to dance around Laurinaitis, to no avail (stlouisrams.com)

Linebacker James Laurinaitis, the leader on Rams defense, was especially upset at the amount of rushing yards they allowed in the second half.  But next week will be here before they know it.  And they have to be ready by looking at the film and making corrections.  Laurinaitis said, “You let it hurt, you let it kind of tick you off, and then you do something about it. You don’t sulk and feel bad for yourself. You change it with hard work during the week.”

That’s right.  You point forward.  Though they have the class not to call themselves “The Dream Team”, the New York Giants are a good football team – and it’s on the national stage.  Bradford knows that.  “You know we have a big game next week on Monday night against the Giants,” he said, “so we have to get ready for that.”

 

It will be a rough few weeks for the Rams – at the Giants, home against the Ravens and Redskins, then at the Packers and Cowboys, and back home for the Saints.  As Brian Billick pointed out on Sunday’s broadcast, that’s just not fair.  But then the Rams get to play their suspect Division Rivals for pretty much the rest of the season.  Rams fans, keep pointing forward, because the best is yet to come.

An Eagle is crushed (stlouisrams.com)

Gone…But Not Forgotten

Pavol Demitra, Nov 29, 1974 - Sept. 7, 2011

One of the great St. Louis Blues is gone, but not forgotten. Pavol Demitra, former Blues center Igor Korolev, Ruslan Salei, and several other notable hockey players tragically lost their lives in a plane crash 150 miles from Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, September 7, 2011.

An estimated 43 of 45 people were killed in a Yak-42 airplane when it crashed into the Volga River banks, just outside of Moscow. En route to its season opener in Belarus to play the Dinamo Minsk, Demitra’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) team, Lokomotiv (coached by former NHLer Brad McCrimmon), never made its destination.

Demitra and Salei were 36 years old, and both wore #38 for the Blues. Korolev was 41. Some of the other former NHL players who perished were Alexander Karpovtsev (41), Karlis Skrastins (37), Stefan Liv (30, a Detroit Red Wings prospect), Josef Vacinek (30), Jan Marek (31), and Karel Rachunek (32). Many more talented hockey players lost their lives, and the whole hockey world is shattered today.

Former Los Angeles Kings star, and Demitra teammate, Luc Robitaille said in The LA Times that Pavol was “just a fun guy to be around.”  Robitaille said Pavol was “just happy to play hockey.  He loved the game – that’s why he was still playing.”

In the team’s official statement, Blues GM and President John Davidson said, “On behalf of the St. Louis Blues, we are deeply saddened by the tragedy that took place today in Russia involving the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey club. The entire hockey community has been affected by this news and our most heart-felt condolences go out to the families of those who perished.

“The St. Louis Blues have lost two members of our family, Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families as well. Pavol and Igor were both incredibly passionate and dedicated players and their influence in St. Louis was not only felt on the ice, but throughout the community.”

Blues great Keith Tkachuk is “beyond devastated” by the passing of two friends in the crash, Demitra and McCrimmon. Tkachuk said, “Brad was my teammate in Phoenix and later coached me in Atlanta and was truly a wonderful man who will be greatly missed.  Pav was like a brother to me and I cannot believe that he is no longer with us.

“This is a terrible day for the hockey fraternity. My family’s thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time.”

We can look back at the great memories we share of Demitra and Korolev. If you want to comment on their loss, below, please do. It’s only right that we share our memories of them. Here’s what I remember about them.

Korolev was part of the Blues’ “Russian Connection” line in 1992-93, which included Vitali Prokhorov and Vitali Karamnov. While the latter two returned to Russia after the experiment, Korolev had a strong NHL career (119 goals, 346 points in 795 games) until he returned home in 2004. He was a solid two-way player.

Demitra came to the Blues in a time of transition. In one of the great steals in Blues history, they traded Christer Olsson for Demitra in 1996 after Pavol held out in Ottawa. While the Brett Hull era of the Blues was coming to an end, Demitra stepped up to almost fill the scoring void that Hull left when he signed with Dallas. After a short preview in 1996-97, Demitra came back the next year to net 22 goals and 52 points in 61 games. In his 494 games with the Blues, Demitra scored 204 goals and 493 points. His tandem with center Pierre Turgeon was highly productive. The two just seemed to click, with Demitra never scoring fewer than 20 goals in any of his full seasons. Pavol won the Lady Byng Trophy in 2000, awarded to the NHL’s Most Gentlemanly Player.

I remember when the Demitra era had first begun. He loved the city and game so much that he was absolutely elated to be in the position he was – on a top line on a playoff team. In an intermission interview, he was so overwhelmed with emotion that all he kept saying was that he was “so happy, I’m so happy.” But with his Slovakian accent, it came out as “so hoppy, I’m so hoppy.” And we were “hoppy” to enjoy his play for so long.

One of the most exciting players to watch in a Blues uniform, many of us were disappointed in his exodus from St. Louis in 2004. Back then, Blues fans (including this author) were spoiled by the long string of playoff berths without the glory of a Stanley Cup. Many fans were quick to blame the “non-playoff performers”. While he wasn’t the unstoppable offensive force that was known for being in the regular season, he still performed well in the playoffs – 18 goals and 43 points in 66 playoff games. But that production, and the Blues production overall in the playoffs, just wasn’t good enough for us. Don’t we miss those days of playoff intensity? In those years of regular season futility, wouldn’t we have loved to see Pavol “hoppy” in St. Louis again? The Blues have made the playoffs only once since he left.

We should celebrate the great memories that Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev gave us. I’ll never forget them. St. Louis will never forget them. And we’ll never see anyone “hoppier” than Pavol was when he was a Blue.

Demitra had two young children, Zara and Lucas, and a wife named Maja. Korolev is survived by two children and his wife, Vera. The hearts of St. Louis Blues fans everywhere go out to them and the families of those lost.

Blues Celebrate a Demitra Goal (UPI Photo/Bill Greenblatt)

Labor Day Work

It’s a holiday for most of America, but not at Rams Park.  The Rams did some work today on and off the field – making roster moves and practicing on Labor Day.

After sneaking his way onto the team with his versatility, Ben Guidugli has been released.  The Rams picked up a great blocking tight end in Stephen Spach, and another veteran blocker in center Tony Wragge.  Center Hank Fraley was also released.

Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo explained how tough it was to let them go.  “We had to make room.  We had to release (TE) Ben Guidugli and (C/G) Hank Fraley which again is not easy to do.  Especially when guys have been around here and have been loyal and great people, (it’s) a hard thing to do.”

New Ram Stephen Spach breaks a tackle while playing for Arizona (AP Photo: Ralph Freso)

Spach is primarily known as a blocker, bouncing around the last few years in Philadelphia, New England, and Arizona.  Wragge has played both guard positions, as well as center, in San Francisco.  “Obviously we’ve seen or gone against the 49ers so we we’re familiar with (Wragge),” he said.  “I thought he would add something to the team depth wise and the same thing with Stephen Spach.  I was actually in Philadelphia when Stephen was a rookie, so I knew him that way.  He got released…it’s a couple of those that you don’t know that are going to appear and they do, so we made those moves.”

But Spagnuolo doesn’t want to typecast Spach as just a mauling blocker, especially in a Josh McDaniels offense.  He said, “Yeah, I mean it’s like when (TE) Billy Bajema came here and everybody tags him as that.  I don’t think they particularly like that because they’re tight ends, they’re athletes.  We’ll find out what all these guys can and can’t do and try and take advantage of their assets and move on.”

Are they done?  Probably not.  But Coach Spags has faith in General Manager Billy Devaney, and his coaches.  Teaching a new system to new players goes with the territory.  “That’s why the coaches are here,” Spags said, “and I think we have a good staff to do that.  But it’s not easy to do that.  You certainly don’t want to have a lot of that going into your first game.  But most of these guys we bring in, Billy (Devaney) and his staff have done their research and we feel like that’s one of the things we put a lot of onus on, the intelligence part.  So hopefully they can get up to speed quickly.”

It’s game week, folks.  And the Rams are as excited as we are to get things going.  After an undefeated preseason, the Rams are looking forward to the challenge of facing an Eagles team that many pundits have all but given the championship to.  Spagnuolo is – without a doubt – taking the Eagles game seriously, but knows there won’t be much of a letdown in competition after it.  “The four preseason games are in the rearview mirror,” he said, “and the only game that’s in the forefront is Philadelphia.  That’s only the way I can describe it or do it.  Philadelphia is an elite team.  It’s going to be a hell of challenge, and I think our guys are looking forward to it.  But in this league all 16 are going to be challenges so we’ll try to face them one at a time and just focus on the one at hand.”

The Rams have as good a chance as anyone to beat Philadelphia.  They are not invincible (OK: sorry for the pun).  As Dennis Green once said, “You wanna crown them?  Then crown their (behinds)!”

Time To Win

Sam Bradford Wants More (stlouisrams.com)

It’s time to win – that’s the plan for the St. Louis Rams. When Sam Bradford expressed his disappointment with the result of the 2010 NFL season for his team, nearly to the point of disgust, it said a lot about the Rams quarterback and his teammates.

Rams fans have been through a lot for the last few years, being forced to watch a lot of bad football. For a long time the team MVP was punter Donnie Jones – he had plenty of playing time over those years. My, how things have changed…

No longer will Rams fans have to look for something else to watch on Sundays after their team goes down by a hefty margin by the end of each first half. No longer will they have to have their children turn away while watching the games in fear of indoctrinating them on how not to play the game. And no longer will Donnie Jones be the MVP. It’s time to win.

As we talked about in my last post, the best sign of the Rams turnaround is the difficulty they had over the past weekend in choosing who they would cut, and who would comprise the new Rams. There were a few surprises, such as the cutting of Donnie Avery and Daniel Muir. But what matters is that they had to cut such players. It shows this team is very deep; and that depth, as we alluded to earlier this week, is the reason this author believes they will be the NFC West Champion.

In our last conversation, we focused on the depth of the offense. After Saturday’s cuts, the depth has not diminished. Avery’s release paved the way for fan-favorite, and Missouri Tigers legend, Danario Alexander to make the team. Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo praised his toughness, saying that “he is one tough sucker. Nobody works harder at it. He never tries to take anything off. He is always out there battling even if his knee is swelling and he can’t really run full speed, he is still out there practicing. I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.”

Alexander probably sealed his spot on the team by making a huge over-the-shoulder catch late in Thursday’s game against the Jaguars. He showed he can be the deep threat this team needs – especially after cutting Avery – on that play, finding separation in single coverage. And he showed his tenacity on that play, as well, since he had a ball go through his hands earlier in the game that might have made many players bury their head in the sand. But DX just came right back to show he belongs in this league.

Alexander's Near Miss (stlouisrams.com)

More on Avery’s cutting, many people are wondering how he (along with enigmatic receiver Mardy Gilyard) doesn’t make the team and Dominique Curry does. It’s as simple as this – the guy is just a flat-out Special Teams dynamo. Coach Spags knows how important that facet of the game can be. After Friday’s practice, he said, “(Special Teams Coordinator) Tom McMahon was in here an hour or so ago. We sat down and just talked more about how he saw the guys. Special teams is really, really important to us and it should be with any team and it always is with us.”

In another surprise move on offense, tight end Fendi Onobun was released despite his freaky vitals and skills, and undrafted rookie from Cincinnati Ben Guidugli was kept. Guidugli has quietly been a dependable blocker and sure-handed receiver. Most of all, he can play some fullback when needed, which makes him a better fit. And he’s played well on special teams. General Manager Billy Devaney said, “He’s another guy that we used in multiple positions. He caught the ball pretty good. He can play fullback, he can play on the line of scrimmage, in motion. He gave us a lot of versatility.”

Probably the most heart-breaking offensive cut for the Rams had to be Thaddeus Lewis. He did everything they asked of him, and constantly proved that he was a winner. But with the amount of quality receivers, running backs (and Coach Spags’ fetish for defensive linemen), there just wasn’t enough reasons to keep more than two quarterbacks. The Rams will hope that Lewis will clear waivers and make the practice squad, but they can’t be upset if he gets a better chance on another team. Another heart-breaker had to be the cutting of Keith Toston, who seemed to get better every game.

Now on to the defense – the real reason for the Rams turnaround last year, and the true key to their run at the NFC West Championship. The kind of quality players they had to cut on defense proves how good this unit could be this year. Now no one here is saying that they’ll be the new Baltimore Ravens, but they could be a top five defense this year – even though they’ll be playing some of the best offenses in the league.

Defensive end George Selvie, defensive tackle Daniel Muir, and linebacker Zac Diles were the major cuts on defense – the latter two were brought in to add to the depth of their positions, and the former showed some promise last year by making 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Diles was even forecast as a possible starter at the start of preseason, as he was with the Texans prior to joining the Rams. He just seemed lost out there in the preseason, never fathoming Spagnuolo’s system. But it just shows how deep this defense can be.

At the defensive line, Spags’ linemen fetish (10 last year and 9 this year) could really make it one of the best front lines in the game. Chris Long finally has shown that great talent he inherited from his Hall of Fame father, Howie Long – no, not his acting talent, but his nose for the football. Long had 29 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles in 2010. He even knocked down three passes, had 16 quarterback pressures and 21 quarterback hits. He is the real deal. No word yet on whether he’ll be starring in “Firestorm 2”. I’m still working on the screenplay…

Chris Long (stlouisrams.com)

On the other end of the line, James Hall is coming off a career year in 2010 with 54 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and 6 forced fumbles. He’s 34 now, but still has plenty of gas in the proverbial tank. His new understudy, 2010 first round pick Robert Quinn, has done nothing but impress.

Quinn had to miss an entire season of football because he received improper benefits at North Carolina (he wasn’t alone in this fiasco), and then had to sit out while the NFL tried to figure out how to split up between owners and players their precious money. But it didn’t take long for him to start producing. After coming so close to getting his first sack in the first two preseason games (I was going to start calling him “Almost”), he finally brought down a QB against the Chiefs in his coming-out party. He later blocked a field goal, and his career officially began – and it looks like it will be a very good one. C.J. Ah You (career high 19 tackles and 4 sacks in 2010), Eugene Sims (2010 6th round pick) round out the depth at DE. On Sims, Devaney said, “Eugene is an exciting young guy to watch. He’s got a ton of ability to rush the passer, and he’s one of our top, top Special Teams guys because he’s unique. A guy that big, and…he has gotten bigger since last year. Like any normal second-year player, he’s taken a step up from his rookie year. We really think Eugene has a chance to help us in a lot of ways this year.”

Lining up between the bookends is another very solid group. Fred Robbins had a career year, as well, getting 28 tackles, 6 sacks, and a forced fumble. He’s certainly no little guy – at 6’4”, 325 – and uses his size at the line to his benefit (he knocked down 7 passes last year). A Super Bowl Champion with the Giants in 2008, Robbins adds valued leadership on the front line.

Next to him is Justin Bannan. Another wide-body (6’3”, 310), Bannan is a brick wall in the middle, and will make running backs think twice about trying to run his way. Gary Gibson (2010 starter) and Darell Scott (4th round pick in 2009) round out the great depth of the DTs. On the decision to cut Muir and keep Gibson and Scott, Devaney said, “Darell had a good camp, and that’s what we’re talking about competition. We signed Daniel Muir during free agency, and we liked Muir and Muir has shown he can play in the NFL. What it did, we had guys like you want to see, Gary Gibson and Darell Scott respond and have tremendous, tremendous training camps. It’s what we said earlier in this process. We’re going to keep the guys we think that give us the best chance to win. Just because we signed a guy as a free agent, if the guys that were here beat him out, then so be it. We weren’t going to let draft status affect whether you made the team or not, whether you were a free agent, were you undrafted. I think we stuck to that pretty good.”

The Rams linebackers have the task of stopping the run, which last year’s squad couldn’t do well enough to satisfy Coach Spags (17th in run defense in 2010). Not much needs to be said about James Laurinaitis. But I will anyway. He led the team in tackles in both of his seasons, and is without a doubt a true leader. As we talked about before, the guy is too smart for football. He talks like a professor, but hits like an animal. The son of the great professional wrestler (and one of my personal favorite wrestling duos, “The Legion of Doom”/“The Road Warriors”), “Animal”, James is as is fun to watch as was his father. “Animal”, by the way never misses a game, so be respectful of the fan sitting next to you – or you might end up getting bodyslammed by a wrestling legend…

James Laurinaitis (stlouisrams.com)

Flanking Laurinaitis are two new veterans who are known for stopping the run – Ben Leber and Brady Poppinga. Leber has always been coveted by Spagnuolo, and for good reason. He’s a ten-year veteran who’s played both outside linebacker positions. He has been a tenured starter on a Vikings defense that has been ranked in the top ten for three years in a row. And he hasn’t missed a start in four years. Though he didn’t get a sack last year, Leber has 24 career sacks, and 12 career forced fumbles.

From Left: Bryan Kehl, Brady Poppinga, Ben Leber (stlouisrams.com)

Poppinga was the odd man out this offseason in Green Bay after Clay Matthews became such a force in Poppinga’s former position in 2009. Last year, his season was cut short by a knee injury. After talking with him, we know his time at Green Bay wasn’t because of a lack of energy. If you’ll allow a personal story, Poppinga was my first Rams locker room one-on-one interview (after the first preseason game), and he was so excited to do it, you’d think he had asked me for an interview. After the second game of the preseason, I was back in the locker room, and he picked me out of the crowd – even remembering my name. But that’s the kind of guy he is – good in the locker room and on the sidelines, constantly revving his mates up. And his extensive knowledge of the game shows. I mentioned that Laurinaitis sounds like a professor when he talks; Poppinga sounds like a motivational speaker.  Don’t be surprised if you see Poppinga broadcasting someday. Here’s the interview I had with him after the game against Indianapolis. You’ll see what I mean…

The depth at this position is so much better than years past. Special Teams anchor Chris Chamberlain is back; his 28 Special Teams tackles in 2009 were the most by a Ram in over a decade. He had 19 last year, despite missing five games to injury. And Bryan Kehl has been a great addition to the team. A fourth round pick by the Giants in 2008, he his 28 career Special Teams tackles will help Chamberlain out. His coverage skills are top notch, as well.

Chris Chamberlain is happy to be back (stlouisrams.com)

Someone who captured a lot of attention this preseason is seventh round pick Jabara Williams (AP Third-Team All-American and Stephen F. Austin’s MVP as a senior). He fell in the draft because of his size, but the guy just produces. He has that seek-and-destroy edge to his game, and had a great camp and preseason (11 tackles). And the Rams thought highly enough of him to cut two good veterans in Diles and Na’il Diggs. Devaney said, “Williams from day one showed, he’s bigger than people thought coming out at 240 pounds. He’s really athletic. He picked things up quickly…He is a tough guy. He is smart. He likes to hit and we thought in the future he has a chance to be a really good player.”

Jabara Williams tackles DuJuan Harris (AP Photo)

The Rams boast a great crew at safety. Quintin Mikell will drive offenses as crazy as his name does my spell-checker. He has quickly adapted to the defensive scheme here, and is actually more suited to the Rams defense than the former resident ballhawk Oshiomogho Atogwe. Mikell is especially great at stepping up on the run and blitzing, something Atogwe wasn’t all that great at. He’s had over one hundred tackles in the last three years, four career sacks and 7 career forced fumbles. And with 15 pass deflections last year and 13 the year before, he’s no slouch in the coverage game.

Quintin Mikell's Interception vs. Indianapolis (stlouisrams.com)

After a tremendous preseason and camp, Darian Stewart stole the other starting job from the stalwartly dependable Craig Dahl (98 tackles, 2 interceptions in 2010). Stewart went undrafted (probably because he’s only 5’11”) in 2010, but made the team, and has continued to progress ever since. His sack against Drew Brees last year proved he could step up to the line well, and with Mikell on the other side, the two of them should be stout against the run. Having Dahl to help anchor the Special Teams and for use in sub-packages makes the safety position one of strength.

Cornerback is where things get shaky, though. Ron Bartell has become a shutdown corner who uses his veteran savvy when his speed falls short. He is a sure tackler, and a true leader, as well. This was the guy who organized team workouts and paid for everyone’s hotel bills to do so, after all. But if he gets injured, the Rams could be in trouble.

Bradley Fletcher has developed into a solid corner, and one thing’s for certain about him – you’ll never catch him arm-tackling anyone. He hits way too hard to be a cornerback. But he’s still learning the coverage game, and has to prove he can shut down wide receivers.
Beyond these two, the Rams could be in trouble if one of them goes down. Al Harris has been one the great cornerbacks in this league for a long time, but does he have another season in him? Justin King has been all right – good tackler – but his pass coverage skills could improve. If the game against the Jaguars is any indication, at least he tries to teach a lesson to anyone who beats him by strangling them when the ball gets close…

Justin King defends vs Steve Breaston (stlouisrams.com)

But the Rams aren’t planning on standing pat with what they have. Devaney said they are seeking to add some more depth at corner, “We’re looking at corners. The problem is there’s a lot of teams looking at corners and they’re not out there. But we will keep looking, I promise you.”

All in all, as we said before, this team is far deeper than past rosters. And it should make a difference this year. Devaney said it best, “You want competition at every position and we’re getting to that point where we are putting a pretty good team together and I expect next year to be even tougher. I’d much rather have those decisions, those tough decisions, than be sitting there and say, ‘What difference does it make? These guys aren’t very good anyways.’ At least now we have decisions to make on really good football players.” And hopefully, that means a really good season of Rams football.

It’s time to win.

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