It’s the middle of May but by midday you could already get the feeling of the summer training camp weather that awaits the 2012 Rams. Luckily for them pads weren’t required so the noon heat was bearable. It will be a completely different and drenched story come July and August though. Most of the rookies won’t know what hit them as they trudge through the thick wetness of a humid St. Louis summer. Muhahaha.
Wednesday was the first day media was allowed to observe practice but it was actually the second day of OTA’s (organized team activities) for the entire squad. Yes, the Rams were finally able to get together as a team. Well, minus their defensive coordinator (cough, Gregg Williams, cough) and a few absent players.
Coach Fisher on the first day of practice:
This obviously is our second OTA. Yesterday was an exciting day for us because it was the first time that the rookies got to meet the vets, and the vets got to meet the rookies and so we had a little main introduction in the main auditorium and from then on it went very smooth. Really pleased with what we got done yesterday.
I can almost picture the “When the Rookies Met the Veterans” movie in the works. But it would be a high school sleepover camp theme not a romantic comedy. Fisher referred to the vets as the “varsity” and these OTA’s as an “orientation.” Although he did put his foot down and say there wouldn’t be any singing. Boo!
But in all seriousness, the Rams did get down to business on Wednesday as outlined by Fisher.
We added a bunch of things today. We got a lot of base in, we got third down, we got in the redzone today. Friday we’ll probably do some two-minute. So we’re throwing a lot at them, but they have responded very well and they’re practicing well together.
One thing I noticed as I watched practice was the overall energy. Don’t forget this is technically the first OTA’s for the 2011 draft class as well. (At least what’s left of last year’s draft class: DE Robert Quinn, TE Lance Kendricks, WR’s Austin Pettis and Greg Salas.) They were robbed of this rite of passage by the lockout. So there were lots of eager beavers on the field Wednesday. Guys, despite not wearing pads, were knocking heads and other body parts. I’m sure it felt great to get some real(ish) contact.
After almost three hours of field work varsity linebacker James Laurinaitis addressed the media on various topics. One thing he talked about is how the rookies (LB’s) are learning how to practice at the pro level.
There’s a fine line between blitzing full speed to get close to Sam (Bradford) but realizing that if you end up close enough to where his hand falls through on your helmet, that’s a real fast way to get cut. We all have to do it and I think they are all adjusting very well.
Laurinaitis also revealed how the rookies were welcomed to the club on Tuesday by learning their favorite movies, what their first pets were and what eventually happened to them and any nicknames the rookies picked up over the years.
Although Coach Fisher said there wouldn’t be any initiation type singing Laurinaitis said (alma mater) fight songs are “too easy.” He was fully expecting “some ’90′s R&B. K-Ci and JoJo, Boyz II Men, Keith Sweat. It’s usually their choice but usually the classic hits of the ’90′s come out.” It also sounded like gospel songs were a safe choice because they are hard to boo but country tunes don’t get the same respect. ”It doesn’t really last very long. Not a very popular choice in the locker room.”
So what did Laurinaitis sing his rookie year? ”Keith Sweat. Nobody.” We requests a few bars of the tune but he buffed us off saying it’s “only a one time thing.” We’ll see about that, James. (I’ve already asked him about it on Twitter. Haha.)
Okay, now down to the nitty gritty.
A number of rookies were not participating or absent at Wednesday’s practice. Most noticeably were the two wide receiver draft picks Brian Quick and Chris Givens. (Of course, they were the two I really wanted to get a look at. Go figure…) Those two along with running back Isaiah Pead were chosen by the league to attend a mandated rookie premiere in sunny California. They will be missing this week’s OTA’s. Coach Fisher said, “They are missing some quality work.” and that it was “really great timing” on the league’s part.
Pead wouldn’t have been able to attend OTA’s this week anyway because of their school are on quarter systems. So they won’t be able to join the team until exams are over. In the same boat are Oregon State punter John Hekker, UCLA tight end Corey Harker and Dartmouth running back Nicholas Schweiger.
Another rookie that wasn’t present was Derrick Choice, the UDFA linebacker from Stephen F. Austin. Wednesday morning he informed Coach Fisher that he was leaving football. Fisher said, “You have to respect somebody that can walk away with his head up, and that’s what he did this morning.”
The most glaring absence on the field was, you guessed it, oft injured and sidelined wide receiver Danario Alexander. Le sigh… Word is his hamstrings were sore. He said he and the training staff are going to play it safe and the smart thing.
I also noticed tight end Ben Guidugli was sporting a mid-calf walking boot on his right foot. No details were given about his condition.
Fisher on safety Matt Daniels, “No, Matt had something kind of carry over. Matt was scoped about seven weeks ago and just because of the nature of the travel and the draft, we just wanted to back him down and complete the rehab before we bring him out. We probably got about a week.”
And for those of you who were asking tackle Rodger Saffold was in attendance but wasn’t practicing. More Fisher, “Yes, he’s still not been officially cleared by the medical staff as a result of the pec injury. But, he’s very, very close. Now, he’s working out here, he’s just not involved in the team and the interaction and so forth.”
If there’s one thing I wish for this 2012 Rams team, it’s health. It’s virtually impossible to expect a fully healthy and injury-free season but a gal can dream, right? I can’t imagine it could be any worse than last year.
I hope to have more for everyone after Friday’s practice. Let me know if you have any specific questions for players and I’ll see if I can ask them.