It was a seamless minicamp for most of the Rams' rookies. Or, at least it was one without the usual logistical issues.
The draft was a week later than usual this year, meaning teams could choose one of the two weekends after the draft to hold rookie minicamps. However, most rookies are then able to join their teams May 16 for the start of OTAs (Organized Team Activities).
Clubs that held rookie minicamps the weekend of May 6 would have to send the rookies home afterward, only to have them return less than 10 days later. But the second weekend was just two days before May 16. The Rams took it a step further, scheduling the rookie camp from May 13-15 (Saturday-Monday) rather than the usual Friday-Monday.
So, the camp ended Monday, May 15, and rookies moved right into the OTA portion of the off-season program.
Rams coach Scott Linehan was pleased with the work the young players received at the minicamp.
"What we tried to do was catch up all the rookies and try to give the first-year players some more opportunities this weekend. We will get cranked up and multiply it times 10 tomorrow (Tuesday).
"We say we didn't give them a lot, but we gave them quite a bit. We gave them basically what we gave the veterans in their minicamp. We wanted to see what they could absorb and dig in and translate on the field. They have done a nice job."
Now, Linehan and the other coaches will see how they perform with seasoned veterans around.
"We got established what we wanted to get done," Linehan said. "I think the rookies really responded well to the pressure on them. They had to take every rep basically without any rest and keep a certain level of tempo. We tried them and we tested them and they passed with flying colors. Now, the next test is to step in and fit in with the veterans."
Getting in something resembling football shape is also important. Rookies worked out throughout the off-season, but that was mostly in drills and being timed for NFL teams. Working at the tempo demanded on the NFL level will test new inexperienced players.
Said Linehan, "I think all of our rookies need to get in a little better shape so they can perform better, consistently, throughout practice. That's a little bit of an issue for rookies always, because it is different."
Cornerback Tye Hill, the Rams' first-round pick, explained how different.
"I thought it was going to be more of a walkthrough type event, and it was more of a high-tempo, get-after-it event," Hill said. "I thought I did pretty good for just getting back into football shape. Playing wide receivers, I haven't done any of that stuff since the Senior Bowl."
Concluded Linehan, "It changes dramatically," Linehan said of the veterans arriving. "You never, ever in any professional sport do you get comfortable with your position. You always have to compete. You want to get them through the initial phase so they are not paralyzed mentally so they can go out and compete. That's what we wanted to go out and get done. It will pick up pretty dramatically for them all once we get the other guys out here."
—First-round pick Tye Hill on his first minicamp experience: "The tempo is crazy. It's high tempo. I kind of expected it, but expecting it and it actually happening are two different things. By the end of practice, I thought my lungs were going to explode.
"During the walk-through, we were actually running full speed. We were going a little too fast a little too early, and that caused a lot of fatigue."
But the former Clemson cornerback showed a lot of ability and technical savvy in terms of his technique. Coach Scott Linehan liked what he saw.
"What he showed was, obviously the skill level, but (also) what you don't get to see until you're around him: the competitive side," Linehan said. "He's got a great spirit about him. He's a humble kid. He's got confidence, but he knows he's got a ways to go. He keeps his mouth shut and goes about his business and improves every day. And that's what we're looking for."
Guard Tony Palmer said of the tempo: "You make mistakes, but you don't have a lot of time to think about them. We're definitely playing at a different tempo. Definitely faster."
—Linebackers Jon Alston, a third-round pick, and Tim McGarigle (seventh), will not be available until June because the semester at their colleges — Stanford for Alston and Northwestern for McGarigle — are on a quarter schedule.
Said Alston, "I'm disappointed that I won't be here for OTAs because I know how valuable those are for experience. But I'm going to get the tapes sent to me, and I'll have a chance to learn."
McGarigle, jokingly, claimed that he and Alston said that, "If you go to a 'smart' school, you have to stick around and go to more school."
—After a rookie year in which he practiced once because of a knee injury and then had some run-ins with the conditioning coaches, offensive lineman Richie Incognito has done all the right things this year.
He has worked hard in the off-season program, lining up at guard in the April veterans minicamp, and then being at center for the rookie camp.
"He did a great job," Linehan said. "We worked him at center; I think that was good for him. The first minicamp he was trying too hard to make sure his knees were good and playing guard and had some pressure on him. This one, he had to put a lot of thought into making the calls at center. He did an excellent job and showed he can play that position. He gives us another thing to look at."
QUOTE TO NOPTE: "You want to teach them how to practice, what our expectations are in a practice setting. Are we on our feet? Are we cutting? Do you run from drill to drill? How does the whole thing come together? So, when the veterans come in, (the rookies) are not lost." — Offensive coordinator Greg Olson on what is gained from a rookie minicamp.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: P Bryan Barker; RB Aveion Cason; CB Terry Fair; OG Tom Nutten; TE Roland Williams.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: CB Dwight Anderson; DT Jeremy Calahan; S Dwaine Carpenter; TE Jerome Collins; DE Clifford Dukes; LB Mike Goolsby.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: WR Isaac Bruce; WR Kevin Curtis; DE Brandon Green; CB DeJuan Groce; LS Chris Massey; WR Shaun McDonald; OG Blaine Saipaia; QB Jeff Smoker; LB Drew Wahlroos.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: CB Fakhir Brown; S Corey Chavous; RB Tony Fisher; QB Gus Frerotte; DT La'Roi Glover; WR Brad Pyatt; FB Paul Smith; LB Raonall Smith; OT Todd Steussie; P Matt Turk; LB Will Witherspoon.
PLAYERS LOST: S Adam Archuleta; LB Chris Claiborne; S Mike Furrey; RB Arlen Harris; CB Corey Ivy; DE Tyoka Jackson; CB Chris Johnson; DT Damione Lewis; LB Jeremy Loyd; TE Brandon Manumaleuna; QB Jamie Martin; OT Matt Morgan; NT Ryan Pickett; OL Rex Tucker.