Rams players plan to work out together

BY JIM THOMAS
Saturday, May 7, 2011

As the lockout grinds on, cornerback Ron Bartell and other Rams veterans are organizing team workouts in both the Phoenix area and St. Louis.

According to Bartell, in an exchange of text messages, the workouts will involve defensive backs, receivers, quarterbacks and linebackers. The Phoenix area workouts would be the first week of June. But the players also are trying to get some work done in St. Louis the week before Memorial Day.

Bartell and other Rams veterans have been contacting the team's 2011 draft class to have them participate in the workouts as well.

Several Rams offensive linemen (plus some players at other positions) have been working out for the better part of two months at a fitness center in the St. Charles area. A couple of weeks ago, quarterback Sam Bradford threw to a group of Rams receivers in the Houston area a group that included wide receiver Donnie Avery and tight end Fendi Onobun among others.

Danny Amendola was among the players who dropped in at Rams Park on April 29, the only day since the lockout began that players were able to visit with coaches and receive playbooks. But by the end of the day on the 29th, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the NFL in granting a temporary stay of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson to end the lockout.

Lockout conditions immediately returned while the league and the players waited for an additional ruling from the 8th Circuit on a league request for a permanent stay. A permanent stay would impose lockout conditions throughout the appeal of Nelson's decision; the appeal is scheduled to start June 3 in St. Louis.

As long as the lockout continues, players cannot talk with coaches or team officials and cannot be at team facilities. A ruling on the permanent stay was expected Wednesday or Thursday. But now, the earliest a decision on the stay can be rendered probably is Monday.

If the 8th Circuit decides against the permanent stay, the "league year" could in theory begin immediately with free agency, trades, minicamps, and the spring practices known as OTAs. If that's the case, the planned workouts by Bartell & Co. become moot.

Getting such a large group of players together isn't an easy undertaking, particularly without the help of team officials, so the planning is proceeding as if the lockout will continue.

The Rams were scheduled to have their rookie minicamp this weekend, but it was canceled. As such, it marked the first time for the Rams that actual practice time on the field has been affected by the lockout.

The Rams are scheduled to start their OTAs on Tuesday, practice sessions in which most of the team's veterans normally are expected to attend. Team meetings and a team barbecue are scheduled for Monday. Obviously, those plans are now in jeopardy.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo actually had three different offseason practice calendars set. Which one he ends up using depends on what happens with the labor situation. In addition, the Rams have two sets of free agency plans plans that have been ready since the end of February and have since been collecting dust.

One plan is for free agency in which the minimum requirement to be unrestricted is six years experience in other words, the free agency plan that existed in the uncapped year of 2010. The other plan is for free agency in which a minimum of four years experience is needed to be unrestricted in other words, the set of rules used for all the other years of free agency before 2010.

The Rams also have a game plan ready to go for signing undrafted rookies, something that also is prohibited under lockout rules.