Like a kid in a candy store, I can’t wait until the St. Louis Rams’ 2013 rookie class, CFAs (college free agents) and several tryout players jog onto the practice field for the first time Friday afternoon. If there is one thing I’ve learned from Coach Jeff Fisher, they will be well-organized, know where to line up and they will be well-coached.

The free agents will be shuttled via a bus to Rams Park from a nearby hotel. For these young players, there is a sense of excitement about the opportunity ahead of them. These two days feature activities of the utmost importance: learning the new playbook and terminology off an I-Pad, focusing on the Rams’ way of doing business, team and positional meetings, lifting sessions, morning walk through practice sessions, finding where the chow hall is and, yes, sleep.

All Rams draft picks will receive their own lockers, but for the CFA’s and tryout players, sharing a locker is the norm this time of year. A rookie’s time can be short, and everyone understands that. Because the volume of players is large, rookies must work hard to impress the coaches and personnel staff with their athletic ability, positional attributes and overall skill set, not to mention what they bring to the table when it comes to improving the overall depth of the team heading into training camp. When signing a CFA, it’s instrumental to make sure that he has little-to-no injury history and that the player in question boasts smarts and good football intelligence. During this weekend, if they struggle to learn, have multiple mental errors on film or just can’t hack the day-to-day grind, they’re out. Staying ahead of the curve is critical. In fact, it’s the first cold, harsh reality of the National Football League.

Learning the Rams’ way of doing business and staying caught up on I-Pad assignments is only part of the overall plan for these players as they’re also taught the organization’s structured program, both on and off the field. The other phase comes from a lifting and conditioning standpoint. I’ve seen some of the best, well-conditioned athletes struggle with this weekend. It is fast-paced, with continuous movement and learning on and off the field. Coaches will work hard to remove bad habits and introduce new techniques while pushing players to and through their comfort zones, sniffing for those players not in good condition who revert to old habits.

This two-day introduction to Rams football, however, is nothing like the training camp grind. The 100-degree heat is not beating down on you, the humidity is low – but the intensity is just as high. For the players, the goal for this weekend is to get better. If you’re working hard, maybe – just maybe – you will earn an “atta boy” from one of the coaches. For the coaches, it is a weeding-out process that takes place every year at this time; teams have numbers, based on positional need, that they look to fill on the roster before heading into OTAs (May 21) and minicamps. The volume of numbers this weekend will help them achieve that goal.

The Rams have officially signed 21 college free agents to contracts. Below are the players who will take part in this weekend’s rookie mini-camp (Friday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.). Both days are closed to the public.

These players will be joined by the Rams’ draft class, a select group of second-year players currently on the roster and 20-29 players in for a tryout this weekend.

Rams 2013 Draft Class
WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
OLB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
DB T.J. McDonald, USC
WR Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
OC Barrett Jones, Alabama
CB Brandon McGee, Miami
RB Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt

Rams 2013 Rookie Free Agents
WR C.J. Akins, Angelo State
LB Ray Ray Armstrong, Miami
K/P Brett Baer, Louisiana-Lafayette
LB Darren Bates, Auburn
WR Emory Blake, Auburn
OL Braden Brown, BYU
RB Benjamin Cunningham, Middle Tennessee State
S Cody Davis, Texas Tech
DT Garrett Goebel, Ohio State
LS Jorgen Hus, Regina (Canada)
DT Al Lapuaho, Utah State
TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn
DE Gerald Rivers, Ole Miss
OL Kevin Saia, Louisiana Tech
S Cannon Smith, Memphis
FB Eric Stevens, Cal
LB Phillip Steward, Houston
LB Jonathan Stewart, Texas A&M
CB Drew Thomas, UTEP
DE R.J. Washington, Oklahoma
CB Darren Woodard, UTEP