Found May 19, 2012 on Fox Sports Midwest:
Picimg_houston_texans_v_2a9a
ST. LOUIS Cortland Finnegan entered the NFL with an attitude, a competitive streak that will help the St. Louis Rams rebuild. His reputation was formed before the trash talk on Sundays. It was formed before his aggression, the "dirty player" label among some and the fists thrown at Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson in 2010. It was formed with a nickname given to him as a rookie in 2006. Finnegan was starstruck as Samford's first draftee in 37 years after the Tennessee Titans took him in the seventh round in the same class as Vince Young and LenDale White. Finnegan was eager to show he belonged. He played nickelback in early workouts with veterans and chased wide receivers on pure ambition. Yet there were times when he shadowed the wrong player within the coverage scheme, as if he were a lost Bloodhound sprinting after traffic. It didn't take long before Finnegan became known in the locker room as an unseasoned sparkplug from tiny Milton, Fla. Within days, he became known as "Fido." "It hasn't carried here," Finnegan said of the nickname with a smile. "So we'll try to leave it under wraps." The 5-foot-10, 188-pound cornerback has a sly and smart way about him. It's why he was called confident during the St. Louis Rams' organized team activities this week. It's why he was said to have the skill to shutdown top wide receivers. It's why he earned 388 tackles and one Pro Bowl trip in six years with the Titans. It's also why he became the Rams' marquee offseason acquisition when he signed a five-year, 50 million contract in March. He has Fisher to thank for his start as well as his new beginning: The coach made Finnegan the 215th overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft. The young player was eating a doughnut at a mall in Fort Myers, Fla., when Fisher called, because he was tired of waiting out the suspense in front of a television. Fisher ended Finnegan's uncertainty more than six years ago. But Finnegan's mother, Linda, offered valuable advice: She told her son never to settle after his big break. After all, his work had just begun. "He's very smart along with his talents," said Rams cornerback Josh Gordy, who had 43 tackles last season. "If you have that mentally to go along with your physical (strengths), that makes you a complete player in my mind. He's a professional. That's kind of what you want to see out of the guys who want to be leading the group." Finnegan's work as a leader has evolved. In the fall, he'll be asked to help improve a young secondary that allowed an average of 206.3 yards passing per game last season. An edge always has been part of Finnegan's on-field persona, and it will help him in a mentor role. It's his strongest trait as a defender, and it's why he was an attractive free agent to Fisher. "He just brings a new attitude to the secondary fresh ideas," said Rams safety Craig Dahl, who had 61 tackles last season. "He's definitely a playmaker out there. Watching film on Tennessee, he's all over the place. He's aggressive. He brings the veteran leadership added to the secondary with (safety) Quintin Mikell and myself. He also brings a lot of positivity. You see the guy smiling all the time." That's part of Finnegan's complex personality. Make no mistake: The trash talk and bravado he blames it on his Irish side are part of who he is and why he has enjoyed success in the NFL. Both are signs of an intense passion that allowed him to develop from a scrawny 5-foot-10, 150-pound freshman at Samford into one of the best secondary talents as a professional. But there's more to Finnegan. It's seen in his grins on the practice field and in the lessons traded between him and rookies during OTAs at Rams Park this week. He views the Rams' rebuilding effort as a group challenge, and he's doing his part to help create a winning culture. "We're building," said Finnegan, who had 75 tackles last season. "I like where we're going. We're building. We're pushing each other. And we look to be a good football team. If we could all push each other, I like what we're going to do this year." Fisher does too. The coach introduced Finnegan in March as "the first of many great, exciting days for the future of this organization." The comment showed a comfort with Finnegan. The day was a sign that Fisher was willing to turn to his past to shape the Rams' future. That history shows consistent production from Finnegan. He had as many as 100 tackles in 2010 and never earned fewer than the 63 he had in 2009. Beyond numbers, though, he shares similar visions of leadership and worth ethic with his mentor. And a strong bond between the two men has led to an anticipated reunion. "If two people know each other any better, I challenge you to find those two people, because we've had a great relationship in the first phase of his career, and I'm really looking forward to this relationship in the second phase," Fisher said. "He will continue to help to make our defense better with his leadership skills, his work ethic, both on and off the field."
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Rams’ Steven Jackson gearing up for a big year

If you listen carefully you’ll hear it. The grunts in the background along with the rhythmic clinking of weights as St. Louis Rams’ running back Steven Jackson is getting himself ready for another season. Jackson knows there is a lot at stake. The team just drafted what could be his eventual replacement in the second round of the draft and he will be 29 years old when the 2012...

Battle looming for rams at left guard

Most of the jobs on the Rams' offensive line are currently accounted for, assuming good health. Rodger Saffold will be cleared soon to begin practicing at left tackle and Jason Smith, with his new uniform No. 72, is at right tackle. That duo started 31 of a possible 32 games in 2010 when the Rams were 7-9. However, in last year's disastrous 2-14 season, Saffold missed seven...

Jeff Fisher challenges St. Louis Rams defense

The St. Louis Rams will be without defensive coordinator Greg Williams this season but that hasn’t stopped head coach Jeff Fisher from trying to raise the bar for the team’s defense. According to CBSSports.com, Fisher has challenged the 2012 St. Louis Rams to break the current NFL single season sack record, currently held by the 1984 Chicago Bears. The Bears recorded 72 takedowns...

Fenton Rams? Sure... why not

It’s clear that the St. Louis Rams and the city’s Convention and Visitors Commission remain miles apart when it comes to what it will take to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome to a top-tier NFL stadium. Meanwhile, Fenton mayor Dennis Hancock finds himself sitting on 300 acres of open land after the Chrysler plant was razed last year. In other words, hey Mayor Slay... “It...

Jeff Fisher wants Rams to break NFL’s sack record

It didn't take long for new coach Jeff Fisher to set the bar high -- perhaps too high -- in St. Louis. Rams defensive end Robert Quinn told CBSSports.com that Fisher's goal for the upcoming season is to break the NFL record for sacks in a single season. The record is currently held by the 1984 Chicago Bears, who dropped opposing quarterbacks 72 times. Fisher, ironically...
All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.