Rams' Atogwe motivated by franchise tag

Sunday, August 23, 2009 | 8:38 p.m. CDT
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, right, catches a pass for an 11-yard gain before being hit by St. Louis Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe during the first quarter of Friday's preseason game in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — Being saddled with the franchise tag did not rub St. Louis Rams free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe the wrong way.

"That meant a lot to me," Atogwe said Sunday after practice at Rams Park. "It was an honor, to say the least, to be that highly thought of by the organization and to be put among the top in your position in this league.

"It doesn't come easily. Not many players can have that said about them whether or not they think it about themselves. To have it said about me is definitely a blessing and it's not anything I want to tarnish or even belittle a little bit."

Atogwe signed the $6.3 million franchise tender July 15 and reported on time to camp. He did not miss any minicamps even though he was not under contract.

That impressed rookie coach Steve Spagnuolo, who thought Atogwe handled the franchise tag situation well.

"I've told him a number of times how classy I think he has handled everything," Spagnuolo said. "That's a quality person right there. Forget about the football talent.

"And, I sensed that the first time when I first got here, I visited with him in my office, and you could see that right away."

For Atogwe, there's no other way to conduct himself.

"I believe to whom much is given, much is expected," Atogwe said. "Each one of us comes out here to be great at our jobs. In our positions, we all want to reach the pinnacle or the highest that there is. That comes with a lot of responsibility and behind that responsibility is a lot of work."

Certainly work is important to Atogwe. After a practice that lasted just over two hours, Atogwe went with his teammates to sign autographs and take photographs with the fans. Sunday was the last open practice for fans.

Then Atogwe caught balls off the JUGS machine before doing some conditioning exercises.

"I don't mind the hard work," Atogwe said. "I've been blessed to play this game and it's by God's grace that I'm able to work and I'll do that for Him."

His body of work with the Rams, who drafted him in the third round in 2005, is impressive. He has emerged as one of the league's top defensive talents.

Last season, Atogwe made a career-high total of 109 tackles. He led the team in interceptions with five and forced fumbles with eight. Atogwe was voted by his teammates as Rams MVP.

That followed a 2007 season in which Atogwe showed he was a ballhawk. He led the NFC with eight interceptions, including one off Arizona's Kurt Warner he returned 52 yards for his lone touchdown.

"He's hard to play against," Atogwe said about Warner. "He's very intelligent. It's like he's playing chess on the field and it's hard to just get a bead on where he's going to go with the ball. He's always staying one step ahead of you."


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