The Rams took the field for a late-afternoon practice on Tuesday, which was quite different than the OTA (organized team activities) schedule that featured nothing but sessions in the late morning and early afternoon.
Coaches and players met for several hours in the morning, and then had an hour-long walkthrough. Lunch and more meetings followed before they put on the cleats and helmets and jogged onto the gridiron.
The Rams followed their first minicamp session with a lifting session. There are still no pads allowed, no contact – just a lot of coaching, teaching and motivating, much like the OTA practice sessions. The major difference is that the minicamp is mandatory, whereas the OTA sessions all were voluntary.
Both offensive and defensive players broke their respective huddles with a loud clap, in crisp unison, and approached the line of scrimmage on a consistent basis. Players pushed one another to get better, hustling from drill to drill and within the drills themselves. Competition was at a fever pitch, but lacked contact or collisions.
After the horn sounded, ending a period, head coach Jeff Fisher barked out directions and drill locations, and players and coaches broke into a light sprint to make sure they were in position for the next round. It was as though Fisher, who spent last year away from the sidelines, hadn’t missed a beat.
“I’ll tell you last year seemed so far away, it’s hard to imagine I’ve been scheduling training camp,” he said. “It’s hard how close around the corner camp is, and it’s really exciting. These guys are excited. One thing that we wanted to make sure they knew was when they’re finished with minicamp, they know exactly what to expect in training camp. The training camp format is going to be very similar to what we went through today. The only difference is after four days we will be able to put pads on.”
Fisher also addressed the perceived differences between limited padded practices now and the notorious two-a-day sessions that he employed in Tennessee.
“I got away from it. Our deal was go hard and recover, so I never padded two practices in a row. So that’s not going to be an adjustment for us,” Fisher said. “We don’t have the number of training camp practices you used to have between the start of camp and the preseason, so you’re going to have to get a lot more work done in walkthrough environments, and then when you come out to practice in full-speed practice, most of them will have shoulder pads.”
Running back Steven Jackson was asked if he felt the team had accomplished what it needed to during the offseason.
“I believe so,” Jackson said. “I mean, we have a lot of turnover from last season to this season. It’s an entirely new team, new staff. But from what we’ve been able to accomplish, from the draft, signing guys in free agency and now OTAs and minicamp, I think we’re moving at a really good pace. I think the guys are really grasping the scheme. We have some talent, so we’re actually going to be able to put together a nice team for the upcoming season.”
Jackson mentioned that technology will play a prominent role in getting the squad ready for its 2012 campaign, too.
“We’re converting ourselves over to the iPad,” Jackson said, laughing. “The days of having a big notebook are over. That’s good, I just have to hide it from my kids. They play and download apps. I don’t know if Coach will like that.”
Overall, the first day of the Rams’ 2012 minicamp was upbeat, with players flying around, learning and competing at a high level. Just two days remain until the offseason is officially in the books. The team looks to improve further on Wednesday with another afternoon practice session beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Injury update: Center Scott Wells had his knee scoped earlier this spring and has an excused absence from minicamp.