Saturday, May 12, 2007

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

In the days after the NFL Draft, first-round pick Adam Carriker said he felt like he had yet to come to grips with the fact that he was going to play in the NFL.

But as he walked through the door of the Rams’ locker room and saw his No. 90 hanging in a locker next to defensive tackle La’Roi Glover, everything suddenly got very real.

“It definitely does (feel that way) a little bit more,” Carriker said. “(I get to) put on those cleats, put on a helmet, play some football. It will definitely bring it more into reality.”

Carriker is one of 32 young players that will converge in St. Louis this weekend for the team’s rookie minicamp. Included in the group are the team’s eight drafted rookies, 20 undrafted free agents and four first-year “veterans.”

Because the group isn’t particularly large, it’s a prime opportunity for players who might not be noticed to make an immediate impression on the coaching staff.

For the coaching staff, the rookie minicamp serves a number of purposes. In addition to the chance to evaluate some of the young players for the first time and see where they fit in without the full roster, the coaches can give the player’s individual instruction and pound them over the head with the playbook.

“I want to learn as much as possible,” fifth-round choice Clifton Ryan said. “I am going to be a sponge and try to soak up all the knowledge that I can from the coaching staff. I’m here to be a better player.”

Ryan and the rest of his new teammates will get plenty of opportunities to learn this weekend. The crash course began Friday night as the players were fitted for uniforms, cleats and equipment and were given their first taste of the playbooks.

The rest of the weekend will consist of meetings in which the playbooks will be hit hard as well as a pair of practices on Saturday and Sunday.

“I want to leave with my defensive playbook and get a good understanding of the NFL and show them I can play ball even though I am undersized,” seventh-round pick Keith Jackson said.

Carriker and many of his new teammates spent Friday playing the part of the awestruck kid. Tennessee cornerback Jonathan Wade said he spent about 10 minutes in front of receiver Torry Holt’s locker counting his shoes and looking on in awe. Undrafted defensive end Alton Pettway waxed about being in the locker room once inhabited by Marshall Faulk and having a locker next to Leonard Little.

While there is a time and place for that boyish enthusiasm, most of the players recognized that time was Friday and the time to focus on business has already arrived.

“It’s like the little boy thing,” Carriker said. “You get the butterflies inside, you get anxious, you get excited (and) then you get ready to play.”