Friday, July 8, 2011

NFL Lockout: Sabotaging the Rams Newly Gained Respect

St. Louis Rams fans have heard the typical theories on how the lockout could negatively effect the team.

Second year quarterback Sam Bradford can't even talk to the newly hired offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and the same goes for all of the young offensive players surrounding Bradford.

There's also their first round draft pick from last April, Robert Quinn, who already missed his final season in college due to a NCAA suspension. Since he's already been out of football for a year, the Rams can't afford to put Quinn through a bite size version of training camp.

And of course there are also the issues that are burdening every NFL team, such as the inability to sign draft picks and free agents.

But the Rams have another reason to be concerned, which stems from the overall futility of the franchise between the 2007 and 2009 seasons— a stretch that brought them only six combined wins in three years.

Though the team's 7-9 record in 2010 was certainly a pleasant surprise, the fans of St. Louis are still demoralized from the lack of production in recent years.

Sure, the Rams sold just enough tickets in 2010 in order to avoid any television blackouts, but it was a photo finish every time. They met the minimum requirements for ticket sales, but the dome was never loaded to the roof with crazed Rams fans.

So even though the 2010 season was a major step towards rebuilding the relationship with fans, it was still not enough, at least not yet.

However, the NFL decided to help the cause when drawing up the Rams 2011 schedule.

Despite the team's pitiful performance on Monday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks for the 2010 season finale, the NFL was able to overlook that and give the Rams two Monday night games in 2011.

The first is scheduled against the New York Giants during Week 2, while the second is Week 14 against the Seahawks.

The Rams were also fortunate enough to be chosen to play in the annual preseason Hall of Fame game against the Chicago Bears (due to Marshall Faulk's induction into the Hall of Fame this year).

Those prime time games could go a long way towards regenerating the Rams hype within the city of St. Louis, but not if the NFL lockout has anything to say about it.

If the lockout drags on past July 15th then there's a real possibility that the Hall of Fame game could be canceled, which would kill the team's first 2011 appearance on the national spotlight.

Also, since the Rams second prime time event is against the Giants during Week 2, a shortened training camp could ruin that event as well.

The Giants are just pound-for-pound a more talented and more experienced team, so the Rams can't expect to put on an entertaining show against a team as good as the Giants that early in the season if there is a shortened training camp, especially since the game is being played in the Meadowlands.

That would leave the Week 14 game against Seattle as the team's only real chance to make a splash on the national stage.

Sure, the Rams could put together a solid season and even win the NFC West, but that's not enough to rejuvenate the fans, at least not on it's own.

To really force the casual fans to take notice, the team needs major outlets such as ESPN and Sports Illustrated to take up their cause and build their hype.

That hype just won't happen with games that air at noon and earn five seconds of national highlight coverage.
But luckily for the Rams, there's a real possibility that the lockout could be ending soon, which means they will have a chance to capitalize on their prime time opportunities.

If that happens, the fair weather fans could finally come out of the woodwork and once again turn the Edward Jones Dome into one of the most feared stadiums in the NFL.

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