|National Football League|
Rams minicamp features 'big name' longshots
By R.B. FALLSTROM
ST. LOUIS (AP) Jake Long's kid brother didn't bother staying close to the phone during the NFL draft. Neither did Bobby Hebert's son.
The St. Louis Rams' two-day rookie minicamp served as orientation for the team's 10 draft picks, some of them pegged for immediate duty and all of them secure in the knowledge that they'll at least be around for the start of training camp.
Among the rest of the 39 players in camp were two with a strong football pedigree who are eager to live up to the family name but are being forced to claw their way onto the roster.
Joe Long, an offensive tackle from Division-II Wayne State, and T. Bob Hebert, an offensive guard out of LSU, both were overjoyed to get the chance to sign as undrafted free agents.
"I actually had pretty low expectations, so when I got the call I was ecstatic," Hebert said Saturday after a 1 1/2-hour practice. "You've been playing football since 9 years old and you always tell people `I want to play in the NFL.' All my school projects, it was `What do you want to do? NFL, NFL.' And then to actually get that call and somebody actually wants to give you a shot - that means a lot."
Long expected he'd have to take this route after a low-profile college experience. Older brother Jake went to Michigan and was the No. 1 overall pick in 2008 by Miami, but Joe Long opted for scholarship money and a chance to start at Wayne State after the best offer he could get from a D-I school was as a "preferred walk-on."
Long won the Gene Upshaw Award as the top D-II lineman and was named to the AP Little All-America first team. He started all 49 games at left tackle, breaking the school record for career starts and consecutive starts, and was all-conference all four seasons.
But he wasn't invited to the NFL Combine and had two sniffs from NFL teams, a private workout by the home-state Lions and a visit by the Jets, before hearing of the Rams' interest not long before the draft.
"I had to do it the hard way and that's fine," Long said. "It definitely was a different path, and I've got to get out here and grind and earn my spot on the team.
"I knew coming from a Division II school it's kind of hard to get drafted. I just wanted to have a shot somewhere, and when the Rams called I was really excited."
Hebert's full name is Bobby Joseph Hebert III. He's just as talkative as his dad, a quarterback for the Saints and Falcons and now an outspoken radio host in New Orleans who has said the NFL's bounty scandal is overblown and a product of jealousy.
Hebert's best quality at LSU was versatility. After arriving as one of the top center prospects in the nation he totaled 26 starts, including eight at three positions as a senior. He wasn't among the five LSU draftees, which included Rams first-rounder Michael Brockers, a defensive tackle taken 14th overall.
At the very least, Long and Hebert should be ahead of the four tryout candidates: three wide receivers and a quarterback.
"Just to be out here with the team and working hard, practicing, that's all I wanted," Long said. "I'm happy with it."
It gets tougher next week when the Rams begin organized team activities with the full squad.
Head coach Jeff Fisher seemed pleased after getting his first look at the some of the players he'll need to rebuild a team that's totaled 10 wins the last five seasons. Brockers and the three second-round picks, wide receiver Brian Quick, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and running back Isaiah Pead, are expected to fill needs immediately.
"We basically saw what we expected to see out there," Fisher said. "We've got a long way to go, a lot of improvement, but I was pleasantly surprised with how they were able to absorb all of the information and bring it to the practice field."
Updated May 12, 2012