Monday, May 15, 2006

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

When Scott Linehan and the Rams scheduled their rookie minicamp for a Saturday, Sunday and Monday, it was a departure from the usual Friday-Sunday camps that the Rams have run in the past.

Of course, like everything Linehan has done since his arrival, there was a calculated and sensible reason to the move. With the rookie minicamp coming to an end Monday morning, it served as a perfect segue to the next and final chapters of the team’s offseason program.

“We have OTA No. 1 tomorrow so we are in our official offseason program, which pretty much all of the teams that don’t have new staffs are doing,” Linehan said. “We have 17 practice opportunities from here on out until we break for summer and we get started tomorrow. What we tried to do was catch up all the rookies and try to give the first-year players some more opportunities this weekend. We will get cranked up and multiply it times 10 tomorrow.”

The beginning of OTAs (organized team activities) is tomorrow and will be the beginning of the end before training camp. The Rams will hold OTAs on various days over the next few weeks leading up to the final week of offseason work after the final minicamp, which runs from June 9-11.

Linehan said this weekend was meant to give the rookie class an opportunity to catch up so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed when the veterans arrive for the rest of the offseason program.

“We say we didn’t give them a lot, but we gave them quite a bit,” Linehan said. “We gave them basically what we gave the veterans in their minicamp. We wanted to see what they could absorb and dig in and translate on the field. They have done a nice job.”

Aside from the initial introduction to the playbook, one area that all of the rookies had to adjust to was the speed of the game. While most come from major conferences where the competition is good, there’s no preparing for the tempo and pace of an NFL practice.

“We got established what we wanted to get done,” Linehan said. “I think the rookies really responded well to the pressure on them. They had to take every rep basically without any rest and keep a certain level of tempo. We tried them and we tested them and they passed with flying colors. Now, the next test is to step in and fit in with the veterans which starts tomorrow.”

That step should only ramp up the speed of the practices.

“I have heard it’s going to be faster,” cornerback Tye Hill said. “Naturally it’s going to be faster when all the veterans get here. I’m just getting back to get in condition to be able to compete and run with those guys.”

Monday’s workout was slightly altered from Saturday and Sunday. The weekend consisted of two practices a day and meetings for the rookie class and most of the team’s young veterans. The veterans were excused from Monday’s workout which was moved indoors because of rain.

That left just the rookies to go through the paces of Monday’s practice. But the pace of that workout didn’t change. Linehan kept the rate of Monday’s workout going in an attempt to get the rookies conditioning even better.

In line with that, the group did extra running after the practice. All of that extra work was done in an attempt to meld the rookies and the veterans as well as possible as early as possible.

That’s because things are about to kick into high gear for the entire team leading in to training camp.

“It changes dramatically,” Linehan said. “You never, ever in any professional sport do you get comfortable with your position. You always have to compete. You want to get them through the initial phase so they are not paralyzed mentally so they can go out and compete. That’s what we wanted to go out and get done. It will pick up pretty dramatically for them all once we get the other guys out here.”