Rams Wrap Rookie Mini Camp
From Rams site:
By Nick Wagoner
At the conclusion of Sunday’s morning practice, the Rams wrapped up their first and only rookies-exclusive minicamp of 2010.
And for the first time, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo implemented a new format to the camp similar to ones he’s been a part of in his previous NFL stops.
This year, the Rams had 67 players in camp and with the exception of six; all were rookies with no NFL experience. That format served two purposes.
One, it allowed the youngsters to get acclimated to the NFL process on the same playing field without having to play catch-up to the veterans.
Two, it allowed Spagnuolo and his coaching staff to do what they love most: teach.
“I thought really, all in all, it really wasn’t all that bad,” Spagnuolo said. “There was a lot of teaching. There was a lot more individual time for that reason. I thought they did a pretty good job.”
The setup of the camp was a departure from what’s been done in previous years in that the Rams brought in more than 30 “three-day tryout” players.
Those players were signed from various colleges around the country and brought in for a look-see that could potentially garner them a free agent contract with the team.
And though most of the coaches would admit that their eyes drifted toward the draft rookies and priority free agents in the early part of camp, they had plenty of opportunities to form opinions on the lesser known tryout players.
“I have got a feeling that some will,” Spagnuolo said. “We talked a little about it last night. I know they are hopeful. I know we are hopeful. A lot of teams do their mandatory camp this weekend so they have the vets and the rookies in right after the draft. I was exposed to this and kind of liked it. It gives us a chance to maybe find somebody we might not have.”
Because Spagnuolo wanted the focus to be on developing and identifying skill sets, the Rams didn’t force feed a ton of the playbook on either side.
Rather, the Rams spent a lot of time working on individual drills with some team stuff mixed in. On Sunday, for example, the Rams did some red zone work to see how the rookies would react in a more intense situation.
For their part, the players seemed to enjoy the slower learning pace provided by the format though the biggest lesson they learned was that going slow isn’t going to be acceptable when the veterans arrive.
“I love it,” defensive end George Selvie said. “You get time with the coaches and they get to coach us and let us know what we are doing wrong so it’s a great format to be with all of the rookies.”
Perhaps the only rookie without the slower learning curve was quarterback Sam Bradford. If for no other reason than the position he plays, the Rams are working quickly to get him up to speed on the playbook and terminology of their offense.
According to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Bradford handled the opportunity quite well.
“I think Sam did a terrific job,” Shurmur said. “This is the first time he is hearing things and all of the reasons for drafting him were obvious. He’s very smart. He’s got a great command of the huddle, he’s got great attention to detail and he’s very talented. You take the talent and the work hard and I think he progressed well in five practices.”
By rule, Bradford and the rest of the rookies must not depart St. Louis and cannot return until their graduating class has graduated. According to Spagnuolo, that means most everyone should be back by May 17.
In the meantime, the coaching staff will stay connected to their players by telephone to make sure much of the teaching done this weekend won’t be erased by time.
Before they departed, Spagnuolo shared a message for the players that will be back when the team re-convenes.
“I thanked them all for their efforts and the other thing I told them to remember was to think about some of their college teammates that are not in NFL camps and all of the other players around the country that are all blessed to be in this business,” Spagnuolo said. “The National Football League is a terrific way to be employed.”
And for those who won’t return?
“Then I told the guys who will not be part of it ‘Don’t give up on your dreams,’” Spagnuolo said. “Just because in five days one team decided it didn’t have a spot for you doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”
HOOKED UP: Based on the evidence from his time at Oklahoma, Bradford won’t play favorites when it comes to distributing the ball to his receivers, backs and tight ends.
But there’s no doubt the Rams wouldn’t mind seeing Bradford and fourth-round choice Mardy Gilyard form a bond that will last them well into the future.
Gilyard believes the groundwork for that connection was already being put in place this weekend.
“It’s like we got a connection, like we’ve been teammates for a little (while) now, though it’s only been one day,” Gilyard said. “We’re developing a nice little relationship here.”
RUNNING IN PLACE: One of the only positions the Rams were unable to address in this year’s draft was running back, in part because of a lack of depth in this year’s crop and also because the Rams had more pressing needs at other positions.
But the Rams moved quickly to sign a pair of potential candidates as undrafted free agents in Oklahoma State’s Keith Toston and Idaho’s DeMaundray Woolridge to provide depth and competition behind starter Steven Jackson.
This weekend provided the first glimpse at what those players bring to the table but Spagnuolo is being cautious about what he’s seen considering that the players didn’t wear pads all weekend.
“It’s hard with running backs,” Spagnuolo said. “Running backs, you want them to break tackles, so it’s really more, with (Running backs) Coach (Sylvester) Croom it’s more, can they pick things up mentally. We’ll talk a little bit more about it as we go along as a staff evaluating personnel, but (it’s) hard with a running back right now.”
HONORING SNOW: Late Rams receiver/radio analyst Jack Snow will be honored by the National Football Foundation in a ceremony this evening.
Snow’s family will be honored on his behalf.
“I just wanted to send out our congratulations on behalf of the organization,” Spagnuolo said. “He was a great Rams player.”
RAM BITS: Everyone made it through the final practice healthy with the exception of receiver Nick Moore. He suffered a groin injury that cost him the rest of the workout; he’s expected to be OK.