Q&A: Jeff Fisher talks charity softball, upcoming Rams season

ST. LOUIS — Following the St. Louis Rams’ organized team activities on Tuesday, Rams coach Jeff Fisher sat down with FOX Sports Midwest to chat about his upcoming charity softball game, along with the most-pressing questions surrounding his team as it heads into the second season with Fisher at the helm.

This Sunday evening, you will be on a softball field in Sauget, Ill., for your annual charity event, the Coach Fisher & Friends Celebrity Softball Game. Are you ready?

“I’m really excited about it. We did it for 11 years down in Nashville. We raised a lot of money, and had a lot of fun. It’s an opportunity for fans to see the players firsthand, without helmets on, and get autographs. I had an option, years ago, to do something. Instead of a classic golf tournament, I wanted to do something different. It took well in Nashville, and we are hoping to do the same here for a number of years. We’ve got some very worthwhile, needy charities that are going to benefit from it. At the end of the day, everybody has fun. Players have fun, my team wins, and we raise a lot of money. It’s really fun to watch these guys compete, to see how athletic they are. Nine out of 10 are really good softball players. And then one out of 10 is just absolutely horrible. And we will have awards for both at the end.”

Is Tavon Austin as exciting as advertised?

“Yeah. He’s very smart. He’s got tremendous football instincts. It’s important to him. He knows how to put the time in, and he’s doing great. We are moving him around in the offense a little bit now. We are asking some different things of him, which we knew we could do. So far he has done them, and done them very well.”

Sam Bradford says it his his responsibility to fill any void in team leadership that was created when Steven Jackson left the team. Have you noticed that taking place?

“With Sam, it just comes natural. At the position, when you’re entering your fourth year, it’s natural. It’s been like that pretty much through halfway through the season last year, and throughout the offseason. It’s shaping up well for him.”

Is it fair to say that, right now, the backfield is the biggest question mark on your offense? What are your expectations for a group that includes second-year players Isaiah Pead and Darryl Richardson, along with rookie Zac Stacy?

“I wouldn’t say a question mark. There’s competition. One of the guys — one, or two, or maybe even three — competing right now are going to end up playing in ball games. We’re not just going to have a one-man rotation thing where we give one guy the job, and let the others watch. They all have different skills, so we plan on using them differently.”

When the Rams signed former Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long, Roger Saffold was switched from left tackle to right. How difficult is that, and what goes into a player bouncing from one side of the line to the other?

“It’s just a matter of getting the snaps over there, and getting comfortable. It’s not difficult, when you talk about someone who is athletic as Roger is. He’s handling things fine over there. Football is football. I think he’s going to be an outstanding right tackle.”

What changes will fans notice from a defense led by first-year defensive coordinator Tim Walton?

“I don’t think there will be much to notice, because it’s still our defense. We’ve cleaned some things up terminology-wise, so it makes more sense. But, we are going to continue to do a lot of the things we did last year. So far, it’s going well. We are going to challenge people, and take advantage of the strengths that we have up front. I’m excited about [Rams rookie linebacker] Alec Ogletree, where he is at right now in his development. He’s an outstanding player who is going to make plays.”

The Rams now have two players [running back Isaiah Pead and offensive lineman Rokevious Watkins] who have been suspended for the first game of the upcoming season due to violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Is this a concern for you, and how are you addressing it?

“It [Pead’s suspension] doesn’t come as a surprise. We have been aware of the situation since last summer. We — in a lot of ways — addressed it last summer when the issue took place, knowing this would probably the result. This thing has taken a long time. In a lot of ways, Isaiah has put this behind him. He’s learned from his choices, and I don’t expect it to happen again. I think we can use it as an example. Now, with respect to Rokevious, I still respectfully disagree with that decision to suspend him, and the circumstances regarding it. But we have no choice. The league is standing behind that decision. This stuff about lack of discipline in the football team, I made the choice to sit the other two players [Fisher suspended cornerback Janoris Jenkins and wide receiver Chris Givens for one game last season, citing a violation of team rules]. They didn’t break any laws, or anything like that. Those were club rules. We have the opportunity to discipline our players outside of the league. With that being said, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve had, basically, one major issue. It was a one-game suspension, and he’s learned from it.”

News broke today that Los Angeles Rams great Deacon Jones, the Hall of Fame defensive credited with coining the term ‘sack’ died at age 74. Had you met Jones, and what was his impact on the game?

“I had met him on numerous occasions over the years. I grew up as a Rams fan in LA, and watched the Fearsome Foursome. I was honored to meet him for the first time when I was in my early years as a head coach. I met him at a function, and got to spend a lot of time with him. He was a classic. There was nobody like him. He will truly be missed. You talk about living life with a passion and a purpose. That’s what he was all about.”

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