While they’re trending upward on the field, the St. Louis Rams may already be the best team in the NFL when it comes to helping in the community. On Wednesday the team’s front-office staff, various departments and players made lasting contributions to Washington Elementary during the St. Louis Rams’ Fifth Annual Playground Build.

“We had our community service group … they came here in the fall,” Rams COO Kevin Demoff said. “In the winter they had an application process, and they were blown away about the passion that Washington Elementary – from the principal, down to the students, to the teachers – had for this project.

“You’re talking about a school right in the heart of the city that has 240 kids, they don’t have a playground, they don’t have a swing set, and they have nothing outdoors. This gave us a chance to come in as a staff to build a playground, to build a swing set, put up a basketball hoop, paint the school and give them a new teachers’ lounge. It was a terrific opportunity to make this project a reality.”

“This is one of my favorite things to do,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said, “just because growing up where I grew up, I was fortunate enough to have a lot. I was fortunate to have multiple playgrounds, and at school that was a given, and so to think about kids that don’t have playgrounds at school is kind of unheard of and any way we can give back is a blessing.”

Members of the Rams’ contingent were strategically placed, pushing wheel barrels full of gravel and/or wood chips. Others assembled giant playground equipment adorned with Rams logos, and several helped paint the interior of the school. Rookie receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey also entertained some youngsters on the outdoor basketball court, where new rims had just been installed.

All the while, Washington Elementary staff admired the efforts unfolding in front of their eyes. As one teacher remarked, “These Rams folks are some very special people.”

Per the Rams, Washington Elementary School is part of the Normandy School District and serves 240 students from grades K-5 – 88 percent of whom receive free or reduced lunch. The Rams selected Washington Elementary after an open application process that allowed submissions from Missouri and Illinois schools and communities in need of a playground, and are partnering with NuToys Leisure Products for the build.

OTA Notes

With the Rams continuing to install all three phases of the playbook (offense, defense and special teams), the competition is heating up at all positions. Replacing Steven Jackson in the backfield won’t be easy, and most likely it will be done by committee. Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Zac Stacy and Terrance Ganaway are competing for three spots, and whoever can show production early in the preseason and contribute on special teams will fill those spots.

“He’s done a good job,” coach Jeff Fisher said about Stacy. “We went down and did a private workout with Zac and really liked what we saw. You do the film study. When you lead the SEC in rushing – you’ve got some skills. He’s done a great job of picking everything up right now. He’s doing well out of the backfield. You have to wait until the pads go on to fairly evaluate everybody, but he’s off to a good start.”

Fisher also addressed last week’s news that the league office had handed down a one-game suspension to second-year player Pead for violating the Substance of Abuse Program.

“I can say this: We were aware of it for quite some time. This was an incident that took place last summer, so we dealt with it at that point knowing that the league was probably going to follow up. We were disappointed. So much time between the incident and where he’s at now, I believe it is behind him. Obviously, he has to suffer the consequences and miss the game, but I’m pleased with how he’s bounced back and his professional approach to being a member of this team this year.”

As for whether the suspension would affect Pead’s chances to compete for a starting job, Fisher said, “It will not, no, whatsoever. There’s great competition there. He’s not going to be penalized as far as reps and carries during the preseason. We’re getting ready for a long haul and we’ll be without him for one week, which we understand, but it doesn’t complicate things.”

Sam Bradford on the rookie wideouts in their second week of OTAs

“It’s definitely come a long way since two, three weeks ago when we first started with those rookies,” the fourth-year signal-caller said after yesterday’s workout. “I’ve been really impressed by some of the young guys that we’ve had – Tavon (Austin), Stedman (Bailey) – thought they’ve done a great job. We’re asking them to play a lot of different positions right now. Of course there’s still mistakes, but for the most part they’ve been extremely sharp. The chemistry, I think, is really coming along. We put some time in after practice together and obviously the more reps we’ve gotten together on the field in practice, things have really started to click.”

Injury Report

Defensive backs Darian Stewart and Matt Daniels are wrestling with a soft tissue/calf strain and a knee ailment, respectively. Tight end Lance Kendricks also remains limited by his right knee, on which he underwent arthroscopic surgery in April.

Brian Quick catching on

A lot of the attention has been given to the rookie receivers, but second-year wideouts Quick – who displayed a few acrobatic catches yesterday – and Chris Givens are and will continue to battle for playing time, as will Austin Pettis. The young Rams are growing up fast on both sides of the ball.