Rams set for start of OTAs
By Nick Wagoner
The silly season is over. As of Tuesday morning, the focus of the National Football League has shifted from the rumors, speculation and innuendo that go with free agency, the draft and the trade market back to the meat and potatoes.
“The football part of it, being on the field, smelling the grass and having the fields lined and the ball being tossed around and guys being confident in what they are doing,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo on Monday. “And we have guys that were hurt last year that get to resurface so we get to watch them now. It really is the first time together so we get to start molding this all together.”
For the Rams, it all starts at 10:40 Tuesday morning when the majority of the team will step on the fields at the Russell Training Center for the first Organized Team Activities (OTAs) of the offseason.
It will be the first of 19 such practices scheduled to take place in the next few weeks, culminating with a final workout on June 17 and a full squad minicamp the previous weekend. For those unfamiliar with the OTA concept, think spring football for college teams or spring training for baseball players.
Unlike those endeavors, though, OTAs aren’t about practicing at full speed with all of the available equipment.
In other words, the Rams will not be wearing pads (per league rule) and there will be no full contact periods during the practices.
Instead, the OTAs provide the players with an opportunity to meet and get to know some of their new teammates as well as begin getting acquainted or re-acquainted with the system and the playbook.
In the case of the Rams, Spagnuolo expects a departure from what the OTAs were like last year.
“The very first year it was so much about kind of getting guys to understand how we wanted to practice, the tempo and how fast and the organization of it,” Spagnuolo said. “Because when a whole new staff comes in, the players don’t know what is expected and you feed it to them so you spend a lot of time on the actual organization and operation of practice.”
In year two of the Spagnuolo era, the tempo has already been set. The bulk of the players on the roster were either in St. Louis last year or have played in a system similar to what is already in place here.
“Now that we have gotten through that and we have veterans here that know how we operate and do things, I am looking forward to these OTAs being all about getting the football right,” Spagnuolo said. “And by that, I mean if we run a play that isn’t right, we will go back and repeat it. Last year we had to worry more about keeping the tempo of the practice and making sure everybody got a certain number of reps. The practices won’t be as long but we have to make sure we do it right. That will be one of the things we stress.”
It can also mean the next step in an important series of steps for the players looking to recover from injury. Running back Steven Jackson (back surgery) and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (shoulder surgery) are among those who will not be able to participate as they continue to rehabilitate.
However, the Rams will have some formerly injured players back in the mix including the likes of offensive tackle Jason Smith, defensive tackle Gary Gibson and receivers Laurent Robinson and Brooks Foster. All of those players will be back at full speed after an offseason of recovery.
Even players who aren’t fully recovered such as end C.J. Ah You, cornerback Bradley Fletcher and receiver Keenan Burton will be able to do some work on a limited basis as they continue their recoveries from injury.
The only other player who will not be able to participate is rookie receiver Mardy Gilyard, whose inability to play has nothing to do with an injury.
According to league rules, a player cannot practice with his team (save for a rookie minicamp allowance) until the graduating class at his school has completed the semester. Because Cincinnati is on the quarters system, Gilyard is not eligible to come to St. Louis until June 16.
In the meantime, receivers coach Nolan Cromwell will stay in touch with Gilyard and strength coach Rock Gullickson will likely pay a visit to Cincinnati to ensure Gilyard is staying up to speed.
“What we don’t want to have happen is to come in right on the 16th without having done anything and we go out there and try to get him to stay up to speed with what we are doing and he gets hurt,” Spagnuolo said.
Of course, Gilyard would have already faced a difficult task in staying up to speed just like the rest of his rookie brethren will upon the start of the practices.
Spagnuolo says the layout of the offseason is meant to ease the rookies in during the rookie minicamp that was held oat the end of April. There, rookies get the full attention of the coaching staff and can learn along with the rest of the first-year players.
Upon the start of the organized team activities, that changes.
“At some point, you have got to throw them in the fire and that’s where they are right now,” Spagnuolo said. “Now they get to go against guys five, six, seven, eight years older than them, real men that have been through it that know it and are not going to wait around for them. Everybody on this football team is hungry to win football games. They can’t wait for a bunch of rookies that aren’t ready to go. They have to get up to speed."
Re: Rams set for start of OTAs
Got a little tingly reading that. Heeeeeere we go.....
Just confirms your excellent point in the coaching thread, Maui, that this staff , like the players, should be better this year.Or at least in a better position to be better.
Sucks about Mardy. But it sounds like that kid is used to working without a net.I hope Fletcher, Burton, & CJ are close. Three promising young guys & injured a long while back.I hope The Rams are just being cautious.