Rams Strap on the Pads

The Rams have spent countless hours in the weight room getting strong and more explosive. They have run several hours’ worth of sprints and change-of-direction drills to get in tip-top condition. The coaches pushed them and challenged them through the OTA period on specifics: knowing your play book, becoming mentally tough with error-free football and learning the daily play installment. During OTAs, NFL teams are not allowed to wear pads. They are required to wait until the fourth practice of training camp before they can strap them on, per a rule in the CBA that was agreed upon by both the owners and NFLPA.

Next to game day, Monday is the day to which all football players most look forward. They get a chance to put on their pads and compete at a high level in blocking, tackling and a lot of drill work. They are no more athletic or gifted, and wearing pads doesn’t increase their skill set. Yet their mindset changes, and their sense of urgency heightens to knock somebody’s rear end off. As the player’s temperament soars, their movement naturally slows with the weight of their armor.

“We actually introduced them yesterday (Sunday) in the special teams sessions, and it was good,” head coach Jeff Fisher said about wearing pads for the first time, “but first for most of the team, most of the veterans and as it always is the case the first day of pads, you look and your team just slows down. You’re running around fast with great team speed without pads … they put the plastic on. So it’s a process, tomorrow’s off, we will come back, well pad Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. So, we will have four good sessions this week with them (pads). By Saturday, I think they will feel very comfortable with them.”

NEWS AND NOTES

Two pillars of the defense, end Chris Long and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, were asked if the unit’s core is strong enough to become a top-10 group in 2013.
“That’s got to be our goal, our goal has to be a top-five defense,” Long said. “A top-10 is the minimum expectation. We feel the sky is the limit. I don’t want to set any goals out there, bulletin-board goals out there, but we have our goals in the locker room that we have and we just tell you that they’re high.

“A lot of guys in the room feel like this might be the best defense they have played on. Certainly we have the pieces in place; the coaches and Les (Snead) have done a great job assembling. But we have to execute, and out execution has to improve from last year 7-8-1. Whatever it was (record), needs to improve.”

Dunbar echoed Long’s remarks.

“We are really good upfront,” the linebacker, entering his second year in St. Louis, said. “Our linebacker corps, we run around and make plays, we hit guys, and our back end can lock up guys and play coverage. I don’t expect anything else. I expect us to come out and play hard, play physical. We were top-15 last year. I expect us to be better, be better.”

** Long also had some interesting thoughts on social media and his involvement in it.

“We got a good fan base, so your fans want to hear what you have to say,” he said. “I think when the players do the boring, toe-the-line, kind of cookie-cutter Twitter stuff, I wouldn’t get much enjoyment out of it if I was a fan. So, I wanted them to feel like they know me, and I pretty much try to stay pretty honest on there.”

** Monday’s crowd was 1,441. The Rams have Tuesday off and will resume practice on Wednesday at Rams Park from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The practice is open to the public.