By Nick Wagoner
August 1st 2012

Upon signing with the Rams back in the spring, many assumed Quinn Ojinnaka would plug right in as the team’s backup tackle and swingman.

Sure enough, Ojinnaka handled precisely that role for the majority of the Offseason Team Activities and minicamps. Occasionally, he got some work at guard but for the most part, he filled in for Rodger Saffold, who was still recovering from a pectoral injury.

When Ojinnaka arrived back to the ContinuityX Training Center to report for training camp, even he was a little surprised when offensive line coach Paul Boudreau told him he would start out with the first team offense at the open left guard position.

“I don’t know how it happened but whatever they tell me to do, I am trying 100 percent, giving it my best effort,” Ojinnaka said. “You never know, tomorrow I might have to play a different position. I’m just doing whatever Coach Boo, Coach (Jeff) Fisher and (coordinator Brian) Schotty tell me to do.”

So far, that has meant three practices with the first team offense at left guard, one of the most unsettled positions on the depth chart entering camp.

In the spring, it was Bryan Mattison taking the bulk of the reps at that spot while Ojinnaka was filling in for Saffold. He did get a handful of reps at guard in the spring but he still had no idea what to expect when he returned for training camp.

“Due to Rodger not being able to practice, I had to play some left tackle and help the team that way,” Ojinnaka said. “I had no idea I would be with the ones coming back. I figured Bryan was going to take most of the reps with the 1s since he was doing it in OTAs. I knew it was a competition out there but I didn’t know how they were going to split the reps around. So we’ll see what happens.”

After six years in the league, including spending training camp with the Rams last year before being released, Ojinnaka has made a career as a capable backup all across the line. In fact, he’s started games at every position on the line save for center.

Through all of that time, though, Ojinnaka had never been seriously considered for a starting job. Until now.

“In seven years in the NFL, this is my first opportunity I’ve been given to win a starting job,” Ojinnaka said. “I’m going to try to take the job but at the end of the day I am doing whatever I need to do to make this team and help this team win.”

While Ojinnaka is with the rest of his teammates in having to learn the ins and outs of Schottenheimer’s offense, one place he feels comfortable is in the offensive line meeting rooms.

Ojinnaka spent five seasons in Atlanta, including three years with Boudreau when he coached the line for the Falcons. That gives Ojinnaka a little bit of a leg up in the competition because he knows what Boudreau expects of him.

Not that Ojinnaka is taking anything for granted.

“I am happy about (the opportunity) but at the same time I have to do my part also to get the job and also to make the team,” Ojinnaka said. “That’s what I come out here every day to do, get better every day and try to help this team out.”

Fisher has been sufficiently pleased with what he’s seen from Ojinnaka so far but there is much more time and many more padded practices to go before the left guard competition is settled.

“(He’s) doing good,” Fisher said. “He’s working guard. He potentially could (play) tackle and he’s smart. They’re communicating well up front.”

In the meantime, the man nicknamed “Moose” by Michael Vick as a rookie in Atlanta, is looking to find any way possible to help the team on and off the field.

A Twitter aficionado (@MooseNation69), Ojinnaka has offered game tickets to the fans who bring the best sign to practice in support of he and the offensive line.

“I’m just trying to do my part for the team to get more fans in the dome,” Ojinnaka said. “They are our 12th man. We are trying to get that dome rocking so the more fans we get in there, the better the team will do.”

HANDLING THE HEAT: The hottest July in St. Louis history is in the books but August doesn’t figure to give any quarter to the Rams as they trudge into the dog days of camp.

But Fisher has a plan for not only keeping his team healthy and safe but also using the heat to his advantage.

“Yeah, we’re much more aware,” Fisher said. “We’re an air-conditioned society now. In the old days we weren’t. We spent summertime outside. Remember when you got in trouble, some of the older ones, when we got in trouble mom said, ‘Go to your room,’ you know? They say that now, you go to your room and you go ‘Yeah cool, we got all kinds of stuff to do in the room,’ you know? So, moms need to say go outside, I guess. But we’re very much aware of it. We’re weighing players in before and after each practice to make sure that they’re replacing the fluids in their weight, and so that was an outstanding effort today. That was not easy. We had one neutral zone violation on defense in this heat, which is pretty impressive.”

STEPPING OUT: For anyone who has attended a Rams practice in the opening week of camp, you’ve certainly noticed that pre-snap penalties come with a zero tolerance policy.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what position you play, if you jump offside or flinch before the snap, you are getting yanked out of the lineup for a play.

Boudreau, in particular, is a stickler for punishing the linemen who jump early.

“Yeah, that’s ‘Boo’s’,” Fisher said. “I mean it’s just, ‘C’mon now’. If it becomes an epidemic, instead of coming out then they’ll take a trip around the field. That was kind of our philosophy, so Boo’s got that pretty much under control.”

BOOMING KICKS: Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein was given his first opportunity to cut it loose in a practice on Tuesday and he rewarded those paying attention with quite a show.

Zuerlein crushed a 60-yard field goal attempt right down the middle with room to spare and followed by hitting a 64-yard kick with plenty of distance that was just wide to the right on the adjusted goalposts and might have been good on a real NFL field.

“I was tempted to go back further, but I thought those were two great kicks,” Fisher said.