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Lovie Smith says opportunity to play Rams ‘always special’

Rams receiver Danny Amendol(above) is drawing comparisons Patriots star Wes Welker. | Seth Perlman~AP

Rams receiver Danny Amendola (above) is drawing comparisons to Patriots star Wes Welker. | Seth Perlman~AP

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Updated: October 24, 2012 6:44AM



Since becoming the Bears’ head coach in 2004, Lovie Smith is undefeated against the
St. Louis Rams, with the Bears going 3-0 and
winning by an average of two-plus touchdowns.

Surely, it’s nothing personal. After all, Smith got one of the biggest breaks of his career from the Rams when then-head coach Mike Martz gave him his first chance to be an NFL defensive coordinator.

Smith, who previously had been a linebackers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Tony Dungy, didn’t disappoint. In 2000, the Rams ranked 31st in the NFL, giving up an average of 29.4 points. In 2001, Smith’s first season with the Rams, they ranked seventh, allowing an average of 17.1 points.

In Super Bowl XXXVI, the Rams lost to the New England Patriots 20-17.

‘‘It was just a special time in our lives,’’ Smith said, speaking of his family. ‘‘You have high goals, and you want to move up in the profession. St. Louis gave me a chance to coordinate on a real good football team.’’

Smith mentioned some of the talented players he coached, such as cornerback Aeneas Williams and defensive end Grant Wistrom.

‘‘Everything about that experience was good,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s always special when we get a chance to play the Rams.’’

The Rams are dramatically different now, but Smith maintains a strong respect for Stan Kroenke, their majority owner. One of the most powerful people in sports, Kroenke also owns the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer and the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL.

‘‘Stan Kroenke was very good to me when I was there,’’ Smith said. ‘‘[He owns] four teams, but he’s a guy without an ego. He just blends in. You know he’s the boss, but he doesn’t go around and say, ‘Hey, I’m the boss.’ ’’

The Rams are coming off a 2-14 season, but they are much improved, nearly upsetting the Detroit Lions in Week 1, then holding off the Washington Redskins in Week 2.

The Bears are favored and viewed as a playoff contender, so Smith must extend his streak of victories against his former team to four.

JENSEN’S NOTEBOOK

Next Welker

St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola can’t escape the comparisons to New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker.

They both went to Texas Tech. They both played the same positions there (slot receiver and punt returner). They both were undrafted. And they’re similarly built (Welker is 5-9, 185 pounds; Amendola is
5-11, 188 pounds).

Amendola, of course, has a long way to go to catch up to Welker, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who has topped 1,000 receiving yards five times. But he’s flattered by the comparison.

‘‘It doesn’t bother me. He’s a very successful receiver in the NFL, and he has been for a long time,’’ Amendola said of Welker. ‘‘So any time you’re compared to a guy like that, it’s an honor.’’

They’re not close friends, Amendola said, but they see one another during the offseason at Texas Tech and have mutual friends.

As a kid, though, Amendola looked up to another small, quick receiver: the New York Jets’ Wayne Chrebet.

‘‘I had a Wayne Chrebet poster,’’ Amendola said. ‘‘He was always a favorite.’’

Why?

‘‘Obvious reasons,’’ he said. ‘‘Stature, size, whatnot. His toughness.’’

But while at Texas Tech, Amendola did study how Welker ran routes and played the game.

‘‘He plays the game the right way; I can appreciate how he plays,’’ Amendola said. ‘‘Not that I wasn’t looking up to him, but I never really played with him, so I can’t say he molded me into the receiver I am.’’

More commercials

I’m not into bashing the replacement officials, but I do have a problem when they affect something that is important to me: the length of games.

According to STATS, the average length of NFL games through two weeks is much longer than it was last season. So far, games are averaging 3 hours,
13 minutes this season, six minutes longer than last season.

Remarkably, back in 1992, games averaged an three hours.



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