BY JIM THOMAS
Thursday, May 17, 2012

At 32, new Rams linebacker Mario Haggan isn't against mentoring the younger linebackers on the squad. But he didn't sign a free-agent contract just to provide veteran leadership.

"I'm always going to compete and try to earn a starting job," Haggan said Wednesday, following his first practice as a Ram. "That's first and foremost. But along the way, I'm going to help some of the guys that need help. Because the better they are, the better we are as a team, the better I am as a player."

Haggan, who spent his past four seasons with Denver, took his time finding a new team. He said the Broncos showed some interest in re-signing him, but given the dearth of veteran linebackers in St. Louis, he figured the Rams might provide a better opportunity for playing time.

"Fresh start for me," he said. "Fresh opportunity. This is a young team with an established quarterback. I've heard so many good things about Coach Fisher; you talk to guys across the league and they all wish they could play for him. And it's close to home. Maybe my family can come see me play more in St. Louis."

Haggan is from Clarksdale, Miss., near Memphis.

The Denver defensive scheme isn't that different from the Rams' defense, so that could ease his transition. It looks like he'll compete for the starting position at strongside linebacker.

"Mario's played very well in that system," coach Jeff Fisher said. "In addition to that, he's a very talented special teamer. A great guy for the locker room and gives us some experience at the position."

Missing in action

Rookie wide receivers Brian Quick and Chris Givens weren't at practice Wednesday and will miss the rest of the week because they're participating in NFL Players Association Rookie Premiere activities in Los Angeles.

"They're out in Southern California," Fisher said. "It's mandatory by the league that they go out there, so unfortunately they're missing some quality work."

Rookie Premiere activities include a photo shoot, signing rookie cards and other promotional activities. "Really great timing," Fisher joked, referring to the missed practice time.

Also missing Wednesday was rookie free agent Nick Schwieger, a running back from Dartmouth. Dartmouth is on the quarter system, meaning Schwieger can't return to practice with the Rams until the completion of final exams at Dartmouth. Running back Isaiah Pead, punter Johnny Hekker and tight end Cory Harkey also are missing because their colleges are also on quarter systems.

Hanging it up

Linebacker Derrick Choice, an undrafted rookie from Stephen F. Austin, has left the team and quit football.

"He decided that he had enough football," Fisher said. "I had a great visit with him this morning and he decided that he wanted to go on and either go back to school or start a career. And you've got to respect somebody that can walk away with his head up. And that's what he did this morning."

ramblings

The Rams claimed offensive lineman Jose Valdez off waivers from Minnesota. ... WR Danario Alexander (hamstring), TE Ben Guidugli (foot) and S Matt Daniels (knee) did not practice. Daniels is about seven weeks removed from arthroscopic surgery, and the Rams decided to back him off.