Friday, June 15, 2012

It has been a quick — and hectic — 5½ months since the Rams began the offseason as the only team in the NFL looking for both a head coach and general manager.

Seemingly in the blink of an eye ...

• Jeff Fisher came aboard in mid-January, followed by Les Snead as GM a month later. A new coaching staff was hired. The personnel and scouting department was retooled.

• The roster was blown up like none other in the previous 17 offseasons of the "St. Louis" Rams. The opening salvo in free agency included a potential investment of nearly $100 million "Kroenke" dollars for Cortland Finnegan, Kendall Langford and Scott Wells.

• There was the monster March trade of the No. 2 overall pick with Wasington. More wheeling and dealing on draft day. The "Bountygate" scandal in New Orleans reverberated strongly at Rams Park with new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams suspended for the entire 2012 season — at a minimum.

• The Rams agreed to play three "home" games in London. Or maybe just one. Interwoven throughout were the stadium lease negotiations with the specter of the Rams becoming a franchise free agent looming after the 2014 season.

On the practice field, Fisher has overseen the installation of new offensive and defensive schemes, gotten familiar with the players and shown them how he wants them to practice and play.

The latter included everything from instruction on how he wants them to stretch and break the huddle, to the attitude and aggressiveness he wants to see on the field.

And now, with the conclusion of a three-day minicamp Thursday, the spring practice period has ended. The veterans scattered as if it were the last day of school. The rookies must stay for another week of conditioning and weight training, and then they leave town.

It's break time. The entire team won't reconvene until late July.

"Yeah, it's really gone by fast," Fisher said. "I'm pleased with where we are right now. Guys have a great understanding of how we practice and what we're trying to get done in the playbook. It's important when they take off — and they need to get away — that they continue to build their conditioning level and work and train for training camp and not put the book down.

Fisher knows that nearly 1½ months of free time can be a dangerous thing for young, energetic athletes, but he doesn't sound overly worried about the potential for off-the-field incidents.

"It's that time of year where obviously you get concerned about what goes on out there, but this is a responsible group, a determined group, and I know they'll make good decisions," Fisher said. "Again, the other side of that is we feel like it's important for them to get away. They need to get away. They've been near perfect in attendance this whole offseason program."

The coaching staff, which works ungodly hours much of the calendar year, also gets a block of time off.

"I get more work done when the coaches are off," Fisher joked. "I've had plenty of time off, so I'm going to come back and redecorate my office. Who knows?"

Last summer, he was off climbing mountains during his one-year hiatus from coaching. But not this summer.

"I will be doing a little bit of fly-fishing," he said.

The Rams spent much of the offseason fishing for more talent, trying to get younger and faster. So how well does Fisher know his first Rams team?

"I feel like I've got a good sense, really good sense," he said. "We know what we can do right now and how we can do it, but then again we haven't had pads on. Things change. You can be about 85-90 percent sure about the type of team that you're taking into training camp.

"This is a little unique in that this is my first camp, our first camp, with this team. But we'll be wrong — hopefully in a good way — probably with 10 percent of the guys once the pads go on."

If nothing else, Fisher believes the players should now know exactly how he wants them to approach the game.

"Yeah, there's no doubt," he said. "They know how to play from the time the ball is snapped to the whistle, and how important it is to prepare to play that way. I'm looking forward to all this work that we've done, going back to early April, translating into good things at camp once the pads go on and then in the preseason. These guys are looking forward to playing again."

For some, getting away from football for the rest of June and much of July is a relative term. Quarterback Sam Bradford, for example, plans to take about a week off.

"Probably go play some golf, just get mind my mind off it," Bradford said.

But then, he plans to spend his down time watching film, even watching tape of the offensive installation periods during the spring practice sessions. He'll continue with throwing sessions about three times a week.

"Making sure that when we come back here in late July that I'm ready for everything that we're going to see at the beginning of training camp," Bradford said.

Because just like everything else during this Rams offseason, the dog days of training camp will be here in a blink.