Like many teams around the NFL, the Rams have instituted an alternating schedule of practices with two one day and one the next. Slowly, but surely, two-a-days are going the way of the dinosaur and leisure suits.
Rams first-year coach Scott Linehan worked with the schedule last summer in Miami and liked it. On days where there are two practices, there is one in the morning and one in the evening. The practice with one day is in the afternoon.
"It gives coaches much more time (between practices) to be prepared," Linehan said. "It gives players much more time to recover. The players have plenty of time to get treatment. Plenty of time to eat, hydrate, go rest and get off their legs.
"I think it's really good for the players who have things they have to manage as far as a nagging (injury) problem. Or an old player who has a history of having a problem."
Linehan noted that the Dolphins had a minimum of hamstring and groin injuries last year.
"We were very, very healthy," Linehan said. "You know, maybe we were lucky. But I think it had a lot to do with how we trained, and our schedule had a lot to do with it."
Linehan admitted not being sure of the plan at first. Now, he is a believer.
"I'm sold on it," he said. "I wasn't sure, I was a little skeptical of it myself going into it for the first time last year because you want to get those multiple practices in, but you're on the field a little bit longer and you really get what you want to get done and the quality of the practice seems to be much better when you stay on the schedule."
But Linehan also made it clear, there won't be a shortage of work and physical play in camp.
"We're going to be in full pads the good majority of training camp," Linehan said. "The way I look at it, we can always pull back. But I think the one message that I'm sure the team will hear loud and clear is that we're going to be very physical in this camp.
"We're going to require a lot out of them as far as finding out how good a football team we are when it comes to tackling, being 'ball-secure,' being able to handle the adversity of the heat, and the soreness, and all that. I think that's a big part of what a training camp should be."
As to the belief that the risk of injury is high with pads on, Linehan offered an opposing view. He said, "I think there's more risk of injury when you're not in pads," Linehan said. "Pads are put on for protection.
—As soon as you start taking pads off, everybody starts taking it down a notch. If you don't play or learn to practice at full speed all the time, especially when you are a young team, you just can't turn the switch on and off.
"I think when the switch is always on, it makes it easy when you come to game day to play at the level you are expected to play at. If you don't put the pads on, you can talk the game, but you really aren't practicing what you're preaching."
—The Rams agreed to terms with cornerback Tye Hill, the 15th overall selection in April's draft, to a five-year contract Sunday.
"I hope we can get him here as soon as possible," coach Scott Linehan said after Sunday's practice. "He has a long way to catch up to the other guys."
Hill has missed six practices, which coincides with six installation periods. As coach Scott Linehan noted, "What we have put in so far is about what we put in through the entire off-season program, including mini-camps. He'll catch up, but it will take a while."
—Linebacker Trev Faulk's back surgery has cost him a roster spot with the Rams — for the time being. Faulk was placed on waivers with the designation failed physical July 26, apparently ending his stay with the Rams.
Faulk was not able to do much in the off-season because of the surgery, which occurred in May. Rookie Tim McGarigle and free agent Jamal Brooks will be competing for the backup middle linebacker job behind Will Witherspoon.
"I knew it was a possibility," said Faulk. "I was kind of hoping they'd put me on the PUP list. But things happen, and you've just got to roll with the punches. My rehab was going really well. I was really pushing myself, trying to get back in time for training camp, and I kind of had a setback. That hurt my chances."
However, after not being claimed on waivers, Faulk ended up on the team's reserve/physically unable to perform list, which could give him a chance to practice after the sixth week of the season.
—Things were a little ragged, Rams coach Scott Linehan acknowledged, but overall he was pleased with his team's first practice of training camp Thursday morning July 27.
"We installed a whole bunch of new stuff," Linehan said, "so that affected the intensity. When you put in a lot of things, it tends to paralyze you. That's why it was a lot more quiet out there than normal. They're thinking a lot, the computer is running upstairs. But that will improve with each practice."
Said defensive tackle La'Roi Glover, "It was a typical first day of training camp. It's like chickens running around with their heads cut off. There was a lot of nervous energy. But this is what it's all about. We've got a lot of work ahead of us."
Notable for the first day, but not surprising was that Richie Incognito worked with the first unit at left guard, and Claude Terrell only saw action as a backup to Adam Timmerman on the right side. O.J. Atogwe was the No. 1 free safety.
Much of the offensive sets featured two tight ends and two wide receivers, with rookies Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd the first-unit tight ends.
—Running back Steven Jackson raised some eyebrows when asked what is different this year from last year. Mentioning Marshall Faulk, Jackson said, "I don't have to deal with that anymore."
Jackson got a bit testy when he was asked to explain that comment. "I don't want any controversy," Jackson said. "Me and Marshall are good friends, and I hope he has a speedy recovery and comes back. But what I'm saying is, I don't have to deal with the comparisons to Marshall. I'm not a Marshall Faulk running back. It's not disrespectful to him, it's not disrespectful to me; we're just two different backs."
—Coach Scott Linehan on the absence of cornerback Tye Hill from the first practice: "Every practice he misses affects his progress. But I realize it's the nature of our system and I can only focus on the players that are here."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This team isn't far removed from the greatest level in the game. I've said a number of times that with the number of veterans that are still here that have been there, the young players who are eager, and the new players from other teams, that we have the ingredients to get back to that position of being a dominant type of football team. It doesn't happen by just saying, 'Here we are - new coaches, new players.' We have to go out and earn that right over the next five or six weeks." — Coach Scott Linehan on his confidence of what his team is capable of accomplishing.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—The Rams declared running back Marshall Faulk active/physically unable to perform. He still counts on the active roster. Faulk underwent knee surgery July 28 in Los Angeles, but reports in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said he might need more work on the knee because the surgery didn't go as expected.
—Signed was defensive end Matthew Rice from Penn State, who was signed after the draft by the Buffalo Bills, but released in early June.
—Tight end Joe Klopfenstein (second round) and linebacker Jon Alston (third round) signed contracts on the reporting day. Klopfenstein's is a four-year deal, while Alston signed a three-year contract.
—Bonus NFL Europe roster exemptions were given to safety O.J. Atogwe and tackle Alex Barron, giving the Rams two extra players on their roster for training camp for a total of 85 because of exemptions for wide receivers Jeremy Carter and Brandon Middleton and running back Fred Russell, who all played in NFL Europe.
—Camp opened with four quarterbacks when Jeff Smoker was released. There had been some thought that Ryan Fitzpatrick might be in jeopardy after the acquisition of Dave Ragone because quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier was a coach at Michigan State when Smoker was there.
Ragone played for coach Scott Linehan at Louisville, and might have the edge over Fitzpatrick for the third quarterback job behind Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte.
—Ron Bartell is now a full-time safety. A second-round pick last season, Bartell started several games at cornerback because of injuries. Linehan said Bartell could still play on the corner, but he will be concentrating on safety.
"We talked yesterday as a staff about not giving up on his ability to play corner, but I think he certainly has the physical characteristics to play both," Linehan said. "It's hard to make the transition overnight and be where you want to be. But he's such a great kid and takes so much pride in it that I know he's going to work his butt off to do whatever we ask of him. I'm sure of that."
—CB Tye Hill agreed to terms on a 5-year contract July 30 and was expected to be on the practice field the next day. Hill arrived at the team's practice facility following the afternoon practice.
—OL Blaine Saipaia is sidelined by a calf injury, and did not practice during the first four days of training camp.
—RB Marshall Faulk underwent knee surgery July 28 in Los Angeles, but might need more work on his knee. Faulk is on the physically unable to perform list, but still counts against the Rams' roster.
—DB Ron Bartell, a cornerback in 2005, his rookie season, has been switched to safety.
—LB Trev Faulk, who underwent back surgery in May, was waived/failed physical and after clearing waivers was placed on the team's reserve/physically unable to perform list.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Travis Fisher vs. Jerametrius Butler and Fakhir Brown for the starting CB jobs — This is a very spirited competition and will get even more intense when first-round pick Tye Hills begins practicing. Brown has been the most steady, but Fisher has played well after being affected by a groin injury last season. Butler is making progress, getting back into rhythm after missing the 2005 season because of a knee injury.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: O.J. Atogwe is trying to make it difficult for anyone else to be the starting free safety. He's done well in camp, and is holding off Jerome Carter ... The same is true at left guard, where Richie Incognito is establishing himself as the starter.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: CB Fakhir Brown — When he was signed by the Rams in the off-season, Brown said he was coming to St. Louis to be the starter. So farm he is living up to that promise. It helps that he has played in defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's system, and Brown has played with confidence.
ROOKIE REPORT: CB Tye Hill agreed to terms July 30, and was expected to be on the practice field the next day.
—TEs Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd have show improvement in the early days of camp.
—DT Claude Wroten needs to be more consistent, but has shown the ability to penetrate as a pass rusher.
—WR Marques Hagans has impressed the coaches with his steady progress after being a quarterback in college.
INJURY REPORT: Guard Blaine Saipaia did not practice for the first four days of camp. Said coach Scott Linehan, "He injured himself training about a week before. He thought it was just tight and it got worse. He came in the day before and we did a physical and we had to basically put him out of commission right now. Hopefully he'll respond to treatment. He's been aggressively treating it. It's a calf and you get that. You get an injury like that and there's a tear in there and swelling there's nothing you can do "other then rest it and treat it and try to stay in condition on the bike.
—DT La'Roi Glover did not practice on the third day of camp, but did work the next day. Said Linehan, "He dropped too much weight last practice. He got it back to where he was probably medically cleared, it just didn't make sense. You've got to manage the guys that have extreme weight loss. He does it every year. He's a guy that sweats a lot and loses a lot of water weight. He's had three good practices. He probably still lost weight out there coaching the young guys and trying to help. We just wanted to give him a break."