Rams training camp opens with new coach Spagnuolo

Thursday, July 30, 2009 | 8:45 p.m. CDT; updated 9:17 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 30, 2009
The St. Louis Rams opened training camp Thursday, and quarterback Marc Bulger admits to something of a learning curve with Pat Shurmur's new offense.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said he feels "like a rookie" again.

And why not? Not only is Bulger learning a new offense, he's surrounded by a new coach, a new staff and several new players.

The Rams opened their first training camp under new coach Steve Spagnuolo on Thursday. Rookies, quarterbacks and about two dozen selected veterans practiced for 90 minutes at Rams Park in suburban St. Louis. The rest of the squad begins workouts on Friday.

The Rams are trying to rebuild after a 2-14 showing in 2008. They've won just five of their past 32 games.

The team has replaced several aging veterans in an effort to get bigger and younger. Meanwhile, Spagnuolo's new offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, is installing a West Coast offense.

"There's a new atmosphere; things have changed a lot," Bulger said.

For Bulger, 32, it's a chance for a new start. Before the 2007 season, he signed a six-year, $65 million contract extension following his second Pro Bowl season. But he has taken a beating behind makeshift offensive lines each of the past two seasons, getting sacked a combined 75 times, and his production has declined sharply.

He admits to something of a learning curve with Shurmur's new offense. Still, he likes what he has seen from Shurmur.

"He's deliberate and confident," Bulger said of Shurmur. "He's been in the system for so long in Philly. He knows it in and out. He can explain it. I'm still finding out what I can do in this offense."

After working with Bulger in minicamps and meetings, Shurmur is pleased with his progress.

"The one thing about Marc is he's very decisive, and he's an extremely accurate quarterback," Shurmur said. "So those are all attributes that are very fundamental to being successful."

Bulger knows there have been improvements made behind him. St. Louis signed former Baltimore starter Kyle Boller to a one-year contract to be the backup, and drafted prolific Division II standout Keith Null from West Texas A&M in the sixth round. Brock Berlin, last year's No. 3 quarterback, also returns.

But Bulger, at least for now, is the guy.

"I really think the world of Marc," Spagnuolo said. "I still think he's one of those guys that gets the ball out quick. He can put some pressure on the defense."

Bulger passed one milestone last season when he surpassed 20,000 career passing yards, getting there in just 81 games to become the fifth-fastest quarterback to reach the mark. He's closing in on another — with 117 touchdown passes, he needs two more to surpass Norm Van Brocklin for third on the Rams' all-time list.

He said he's more focused on helping the team turn around its fortunes.

"We want to hit the season full stride," Bulger said. "This will be an intense camp."


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