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Wragge Settling In at Center

Posted Nov 17, 2011

It had been more than three years since Tony Wragge had made a start at any position on a NFL offensive line.

But it didn’t take long for him to feel right at home.

“I told a couple of guys that,” Wragge said. “It wasn’t even the first snap, it was warm-ups. I just wanted to get through warm-ups, I want to get my body going and primed and that’s really when it was. Going through those, there was a little, not so much nervousness but getting some physical hitting and getting my body moving. By the time we got to the first snap, the first series, I was just ready to go. It was a great feeling, I was in the zone and I was focused. I had fun with it.”

Wragge started at center for the Rams last week against the Browns, his first start since 2008 when he started at guard for San Francisco. It was his first start at center since 2006 when he got the call for the 49ers.

The start was only the third of his career in the middle but by all accounts, Wragge handled the role well in replacing Jason Brown.

“I thought he was solid,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “He did a good job.”

Considering how long it had been since Wragge made a start of any kind, it would have been perfectly understandable had he taken some time to knock the rust off.

Wragge said while it wasn’t his best outing, it felt good to be back on the field and contributing.

“It wasn’t perfect but I’m obviously a perfectionist, being a professional,” Wragge said. “But I don’t dwell on the last play. I focus and move forward. It was fun. I had a great week of preparation. I think some guys that play with me will tell you I am edgy but that’s just the way I prepare and I leave no stone unturned and that allows me to just go play ball on Sunday and I have fun. My week of preparation is supposed to be harder than the game. That’s what I did. I mentally and physically prepared and then I was just playing football.”

This week, Wragge is again working with the first team at center and believes that with every week he can work with quarterback Sam Bradford, running back Steven Jackson and the rest of the offensive line, the better off he’ll be.

“The more time I get with Sam, it just helps me prepare and get more comfortable,” Wragge said. “Plus we are at home this week so we won’t be on the road in a loud stadium. I’m going to try to be even more in the zone with my details and preparation which will just build our confidence even more. I don’t think we had any hitches the other day. We had the time together to learn all week from last week and just go play football. I have been doing that since I’ve been here but I tried to be even more detailed now and I think that has helped me turn it loose on Sunday.”

In adding Wragge to the line, the Rams have another guy similar to guard Harvey Dahl who plays with an attitude and physical demeanor.

“He’s been a physical guy,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “That’s definitely kind of his M-O. I know he’s really dedicated and when you watch him practice he wants to do everything right and that’s a great thing to have. And again, that’s why the guy’s getting an opportunity to kind of come along and show what he’s done in practice and hopefully he can take that over and play well, too.”

Getting an opportunity to start on a more regular basis has been a long time coming for Wragge, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of New Mexico State.

Wragge came into the league in 2002 with Arizona but didn’t have his NFL breakthrough until 2005 with San Francisco. Before that, he spent time with the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League.

In 2006, Wragge was allocated overseas, where he played with current Rams guard Harvey Dahl on the Rhein Fire.

All told, Wragge has played in 67 games in a seven-year career, six of those seasons coming in San Francisco.

Being more than one thing has helped Wragge carve out his NFL niche. He’s spent the bulk of his time in the league playing guard but he can play center and has even kicked outside to tackle.

For the Rams, that versatility is vital because they generally have dressed just seven offensive linemen for games.

“It doesn’t matter to me (where I play),” Wragge said. “I have made a career of being the swing guy and even if I just kick out to tackle, I’ve done that a couple of times, and that’s how I’ve made a living doing it. I just go about my business. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll operate wherever you put me.”

Wragge came to the Rams right after the final round of cuts and immediately filled the role of swing man on the interior.

Since, Wragge has been setback by some nagging ankle and foot injuries in practice; otherwise he might have been given a chance earlier in the year.

“Tony’s done a great job in practice and he’s really come along,” McDaniels said. “Again, he missed some of the time earlier and now he’s in there. He’s really done a nice job for us as he’s progressed throughout the course of the season. And he’s had to play guard, he’s had to play center and he’s done a nice job. Tony’s really maximized his repetitions. And that’s a credit to Tony. That’s not a negative to anybody else and credit is certainly deserved there.”

The self-admitted “edgy” Wragge brings that intensity to everything he does but he also seems to really, truly enjoy what he does.

After years of blocking for Frank Gore in San Francisco, Wragge fully embraced the idea of working in an offense with a big, powerful feature back.

In just one game blocking for Rams back Steven Jackson, who rushed for 128 yards against, Wragge couldn’t contain his excitement about getting the chance to do it again.

“Oh my goodness,” Wragge said. “I have blocked for Frank Gore before, and no disrespect to Frank, but oh my goodness. He’s a beast. I felt bad because there were a couple times I wasn’t able to cover up their middle linebacker who got some separation from me and ran away from me and Steven just ran him over and then ran the safety over and I’m like ‘Are you kidding me?’ It just got me pumped to block for that guy even more. He’s awesome.”