12-17-03, 11:10 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
If anyone knows how devastating the Rams are on offense in their own building, the man is sitting right smack in the middle of the Bengals' meeting room as the club prepares for Sunday's playoff summit in St. Louis.
Ken Zampese, who worked in the Rams' offense for the three previous seasons before joining the Bengals as quarterbacks coach this year, coached their wide receivers in 2001 and 2002 and came out of it with four 1,000-yard seasons. P> "Speed and attitude. They are preached it and they play with it from day one," said Zampese of the keys to the Rams' scoring success under head coach Mike Martz.
"Those two things have made them special for a long time. It's first and foremost in their teaching," Zampese said. "That comes from the guy in charge. They're extremely
aggressive. It's like, 'You can't take it from us. You can't stop us.' The quarterback coaching over there is really, really good, so I kept my ears open whenever I could."
He obviously picked up something. Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna is having a career year with 25 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, and he says Zampese has been a part of it.
"He's kind of a nit-picky guy. I mean, he really has me prepared when I go out there. There isn't a thing we don't go over," Kitna said. "It's kind of funny because last week I made three or four mental mistakes on the first couple of series. And he didn't say a word to me and I thought that was great."
Kitna likes some of the things Zampese brought from the Rams, particularly some routes on third down in a category the Bengals have been among the league leaders for the last two months. But the most important thing Zampese learned from Martz had nothing to do with Xs and Os.
"Just the way he built relationships with players," said Zampese, who also had the title of passing game coordinator. "That's the only way to get it across and have fun. And this game is supposed to be fun. You have to get to know players as people and Coach Martz does a really good job getting trust with his players and having them trust him."
Zampese doesn't want to hear about Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce's mild high ankle sprain. He never missed a game during Zampese's three seasons there, and Torry Holt, the NFL's leading receiver, is just as tough.
"I know Torry has played with broken ribs before," Zampese said. "And Isaac has played with pains that he never mentions. Both those guys are warriors. They are mentally and physically tough. If Isaac can play, he'll not only be out there, he'll be the first guy out there."