By BILL COATS
Saturday, July 30, 2011 12:20 am


The time has come. Finally.

Starting this afternoon, the Rams will begin to find out whether the on-their-own conditioning they did while waiting out the 4˝-month NFL lockout was enough to prepare them for the rigors of training camp.

An abbreviated and probably faster-paced training camp, at that.

"No one really knows what to expect," cornerback Justin King said. During the lockout, King said he "just trained ... trained till you got tired of training, then trained some more. I think everybody's been a little anxious with the extended period of time off."

Wide receiver Danny Amendola expects some tweaks in how third-year coach Steve Spagnuolo maps out camp. "It's definitely going to be different," Amendola said. "But I feel like if the guys did the necessary work in the offseason and got their bodies right and got in the playbooks, then everything will come as planned."

The players reported Friday for physical exams, meetings and conditioning. The first practice is scheduled for 1:50 p.m. today at Rams Park. It is free and open to the public.

The club was to have opened camp a week ago. But the continuation of the lockout, including the subsequent cancellation of the Hall of Fame game in which the Rams were to have faced Chicago on Aug. 7, pushed things back.

The Rams have only two weeks - 12 practices plus a scrimmage Aug. 7 at Lindenwood University - to prepare for their preseason opener Aug. 13 vs. Indianapolis.

That challenge is steeper because the lockout wiped out the offseason conditioning program, including organized team activities and minicamps.

"I think it's going to be tougher on our rookies," tackle Rodger Saffold said. "It's going to be real hard to just jump right into it immediately. That's typically why we have the OTAs, so we can get them in there and get their feet wet so they come in semi-prepared for what's in store with training camp."

Saffold's unit is facing its own challenge as it gets a crash course in new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' system.

"We definitely have a lot of faith in him," Saffold said. "We're just going to all have to really work super hard this camp so that we're able to be on the same page. ... We're going to have to make sure that we get everything ironed out, because we don't have a lot of time."

Safety Craig Dahl is happy he's on the other side of the ball, where the defense is heading into its third season in the same scheme. "I think it'll be a little less of a task for us to condense our stuff into it," he said. "A lot of the guys already know the system, are familiar with it, and the coaching staff is real familiar with it."

Today's practice, and another Sunday afternoon, will provide an indication of the players' preparedness. But the real test will come Monday, when they don pads for the first time.

"You can train all you want, but it's hard to get back into football shape, just in terms of with the pads on, the helmets, and running around play after play," Amendola said. "The only way to do that is to actually do it."

Besides, he added, that's when the fun begins.

"We're all excited to be back," Amendola said. "We're ready to strap on the pads and go hit somebody."

More signings

The Rams announced contract agreements with 24 undrafted rookies. The list includes eight players previously unreported by the Post-Dispatch: Arkansas defensive end Damario Ambrose, Baylor cornerback Timothy Atchison, Akron wide receiver Jalil Carter, Stephen F. Austin defensive end Kenneth Charles, Cincinnati tight end Benjamin Guidugli, Southern Mississippi defensive tackle John Henderson, Southeast Louisiana guard Kevin Hughes and Arkansas fullback Van Stumon.