- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Steve Spagnuolo’s first experiences on the field as coach of the St. Louis Rams are pretty much a private affair.

Spagnuolo closed the team’s voluntary three-day minicamp to the media, with the exception of the first 20 minutes of Thursday’s second practice. He likened the Rams, 2-14 last year, to a Broadway play in rehearsal.

“Our focus was we wanted to make sure we could get out here and do it right,” Spagnuolo said. “I just felt it was important that it was just the team and that we could get off on the right foot without any distractions. That was the main reason.”

Linebacker Will Witherspoon said he didn’t notice no one was watching. He also pointed out it’s April.

“Hey, hey, hey, we’ve got a little bit of time, and we’ll be on Broadway,” Witherspoon said. “How about that?”

All practices were open last year under interim head coach Jim Haslett, who noted there was nothing to hide. Scott Linehan, fired after an 0-4 start in his third season, closed practices after stretching and initial drills.

Spagnuolo also restricted media to the workroom before being led onto the field after practice, although he said workouts may be open for the next minicamp May 1-3 if things go well and the team progresses. He was happy with the players’ initial response, ending a scheduled 90-minute session a few minutes early.

“Don’t hold me to anything now,” Spagnuolo said. “But we’re headed that way.”

The Rams get an extra minicamp after hiring the former New York Giants defensive coordinator, who helped that team win a Super Bowl. His objective for these three days, with players in shorts, is building on fundamentals and efficiency while working on conditioning during the practice and not afterward.

“I felt like we were crisp,” defensive end Chris Long said. “We had a purpose, and guys are learning pretty fast.”

Spagnuolo said the full roster reported for the minicamp, with only wide receiver Derek Stanley, recovering from knee surgery, not participating on at least a limited basis.

A handful of Rams was expected to get the first shot at new positions, starting with offensive tackle Alex Barron moving from the right side to the left in place of the released Orlando Pace. Witherspoon is moving from middle linebacker to the outside, with Chris Draft taking his spot in the middle.

Pace, who signed with the Chicago Bears on Thursday, got a nice tribute from Barron.

“He was a great player for many years around here, and he helped me a lot when I came here,” said Barron, a first-round pick in 2005. “He helped a lot of the other guys, too.

“He’s a great teacher, a great player. Everything to Big O.”

Witherspoon, limited to 12 starts last year due to shoulder injuries, didn’t seem to mind moving to the outside.

“I don’t care where I go,” Witherspoon said. “Everybody asks me which is better and it doesn’t matter. If I’m on the field, I’m on the field, and I just want to play.”

The Rams were negotiating with 37-year-old Gus Frerotte to return for a second stint as the backup quarterback behind Marc Bulger. Frerotte was released with one year to go on a three-year deal, but was 8-3 with the Vikings last season.

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