RAMS / TIM KAWAKAMI : Hectic Off-Season Helpful to Some

The frenzy is over. The calm has set in. And now it's time for the Rams to begin their yearly June hibernation, dreaming of long, hot summers and torturous two-a-days in training camp.

This high-speed, high-turnover, high-maintenance, hi-ho-it's-off-to-work-we-go off-season at Rams Park has at last slowed some, back to where it's quiet and almost normal again.

Chuck Knox finally looks relaxed and ready to take some time off. His assistants actually appear comfortable and at home. The players, fresh off last month's mini-camp, know what to expect from training camp come July.

So maybe it's time to settle in, take a deep breath and have one last look back at the days since the 1991 season ended.

Before the Rams catapult into training camp '92, let's try to get a handle on how the shifting ground recently reshuffled the pot, see who got what they wanted and who didn't.

OFF-SEASON WINNERS

--Knox, of course, who got the kind of clout he has always wished for and, most importantly, has been wielding it nonstop since his arrival.

Power is meaningless unless you get things done with it, and Knox has done everything he could think of--from remodeling the locker room to revamping the scouting staff to replacing the team's outmoded video system to reviving the team's defensive hopes by drafting and convincing management to sign Sean Gilbert.

--Quarterback Jim Everett, happy as a $2.5 million clam under Knox's protective shield and working with Ted Tollner, the kind of hands-on position coach he has always wanted and convinced himself he needed.

Everett quietly ended his membership in the John Robinson fan club last season, and it's easy to see why.

For all of the old staff's desire to map out a consistent running scheme, it never happened. Even after the season, nobody knew who the tailback was, what the game plan should be, and how Everett should best be used and protected.

Everett isn't a swaggering, ego-driven Joe Namath wanna-be. He doesn't demand control of the offense, doesn't want it. He's more introspective than that, a little more sensitive to criticism than that, and in Robinson's let's-see-what-works way of doing things, Everett was left without direction.

Not a problem now. He can forget about trying to do things he can't and focus on doing what he used to do.

--The Rams' defensive line, which for the first time in many years actually won't be overmatched physically by most NFL offensive lines. The reason is Gilbert, who came into mini-camp with huge expectations and exceeded them.

With Gilbert and third-round pick Marc Boutte, who is projected to start alongside Gilbert on the inside, injected into a defense that had a league-low 17 sacks last season, the Rams coaches won't have to go into each game assuming that a blitz is the only way to put pressure on the quarterback.

Gilbert comes into this with everything to gain. If the defense improves, of course it's his presence that did it. If it doesn't, hey, the Rams need more talent around him.

OFF-SEASON LOSERS

--Robinson and John Math, former player personnel director, who have been written about, analyzed and criticized aplenty by this column. But, hey, why not one more shot:

We finally know what those "John 3:16" signs hanging in Anaheim Stadium mean. That's the record Robinson and Math compiled in their last 19 games as Rams, and sorry, but it is a fitting epitaph for this odd duo, too.

Robinson might have deserved a better fate, and even he can't get all of the blame. In the early years, he was a good coach for a good, young team. He was a tremendous media presence for a media-shy team. He saw the big picture. But he never quite got around to making sure the little stuff got done, he got bored with the mechanics of an NFL team, and it caught up with him.

--Buddy Ryan and everybody who wanted things spiced up in Ramland: He truly was a finalist for the coaching job, but too many influential NFL insiders screamed bloody murder when they heard Ram Executive Vice President John Shaw was interested in Ryan.

With Knox, the Rams get a qualified, proven franchise-builder who will carefully guide them back to respectability, but he will do it methodically and without mania.

With Ryan, the Rams would've gotten a controversy a week, a wild run through the NFL schedule, some extra tickets sold, and a team as exciting as the coach. You want consistency? Hire Knox, which they did. You want fun, fear and four-letter words? Buddy was the man. But the NFL doesn't want that, we have learned once again.

--Robert Delpino, Aaron Cox, Darryl Henley and anybody even thinking about skipping out during training camp:

Delpino is signed and perhaps the team's best all-around offensive player, but he opted out of the mini-camp because he wants more money and respect. Cox, unsigned, has been unimpressive in his four years with the Rams and could be unemployed if he's not at camp. Henley was a very solid corner last year, but is unsigned, stayed out of the mini-camp drills, and has second-round pick Steve Israel penciled in at his starting spot.

Knox isn't heading into training camp with a great deal of patience. He wants to see who can play and who can't, and if you aren't there, you probably don't fit into the puzzle.

He already has been impressed by tailback Cleveland Gary's mini-camp performance and has a few hungry players ready to jump into action if veterans who weren't good enough to prevent 10 consecutive losses aren't in attendance.

Now, to finish out the last bits of off-season news . . .

Look for special assistant John Becker to be officially elevated to Math's former job in a week or so. This is a move long predicted and will be announced as soon as the rest of the new scouting staff is assembled. Frank Trump and Lawrence McCutcheon are the only two members of Math's old staff who will stay.

Becker, offensive coordinator under Knox in Seattle, unofficially worked as Knox's main draft lieutenant last month, scouring the country to double-check Math's initial reports. He probably will bring in Jeff Beathard, son of San Diego Chargers' General Manager Bobby Beathard, and David Razzano, son of former 49er scouting director Tony Razzano, as his main aides.

Don't expect the Rams to get in line for the services of Herschel Walker once the Vikings officially terminate their rights to him June 1. Walker apparently isn't a Knox-kind-of-runner, and even if his salary is halved from last year's $1.7 million, the Rams consider that too much for a player the Vikings can't even give away.

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