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    Watkins puts premium on fitness ..

    • By Jim Thomas

    OK, so you’re not going to see Rokevious Watkins in ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue any time soon. But he’s getting there.

    The Rams’ second-year offensive guard doesn’t look anything like the rookie who was held out of practice at the start of training camp a year ago because he was so out of shape. After a severe ankle injury in Game 1, his rookie season became a waste. Since then, it’s been all his waistline.

    “I’m getting to where I need to be,” Watkins said during practices this week. “Working on being in the best shape of my life.”

    The player known as “Rok” isn’t sure how much weight he’s lost over the last year. The official team roster, which listed him at (a generous) 338 pounds for the 2012 season opener in Detroit, still lists him at 338 this spring.

    It took about half of the 2012 season – maybe a little bit longer – for the ankle injury to heal. Since then his single focus has been conditioning under the watchful eyes of strength coach Rock Gullickson or Reggie Scott’s athletic training staff.

    “I’m getting the conditioning under control, my weight under control, and just being able to lock my body down physically,” Watkins said.

    Even during the current spring practice period, Waktkins said he’s working out twice a day. “I’m always doing cardio after (practice),” he said.

    The Rams had high hopes for Watkins when they drafted him in the fifth round out of South Carolina in 2012. And still do. He’s a strong man with road grader tendencies as a blocker. It has been said on more than one occasion that when Watkins gets his hands on a defender, more often than not, it’s over.

    “He’s the kind of guy that has unbelievable strength and power,” offensive line coach Paul Boudreau said at the end of the 2012 season. “He just needs to learn how to play fast and play hard for four quarters.”

    Entering the NFL, Watkins also was the kind of guy that needed more reps and as much playing time as possible as a rookie.

    “But he killed himself coming in with the conditioning that he had,” Boudreau said last December. “But he now understands, he’s in the NFL. I think he knows he has to be ready to play physically at the tempo and the style that we do.”

    It’s yet another variation of a familiar theme for young NFL players – learning what it takes to be a professional. Watkins sounds as if he has gotten that message. That message was drilled in further last month by his one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

    “It’s all on becoming a full-time professional,” Watkins said. “And then doing what you’re supposed to do at all times. Even when nobody’s looking.”

    Which entails doing those things on a consistent basis, day after day, almost on a year-round basis. Watkins got in trouble weight-wise last year during the five-week break between the end of the spring practice period and the start of training camp in late July.

    “He had a little trouble pushing himself away from the dinner table,” a chagrined coach Jeff Fisher said at the time.

    For Rams veterans, they are only a week away from completing their 2013 spring practice period and another long break before camp.

    “Rok needs to continue to focus on his conditioning, continue to focus on his weight, and focus on his football,” Fisher said Thursday. “This will be a big challenge for him. Last year when he left, he came back – let me just say – he did not meet his weight requirement when he reported to camp. This year, he needs to do that when he comes back. Make sure he’s down.”

    When asked if he was concerned about how Watkins would handle this year’s five-week break, Fisher replied: “Yes. And that’s been expressed to him.”

    But mom’s home cooking shouldn’t be a problem this summer because Watkins says he’s staying in St. Louis over the break.

    “I’ll be here all summer working with (Gullickson),” Watkins said. “Twice a day. I’m not going nowhere. I’ll be right here at 1 Rams Way.”

    Watkins is eager to play and eager to put that tough rookie season in the rear-view mirror.

    “I don’t want to play like the 50th-worst draft pick in the (St. Louis) Rams’ history,” Watkins said, laughing.

    He was in fact rated No. 50 in April on Stltoday.com’s list of the team’s worst draft picks since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995. Watkins can change all that with a strong showing in 2013 and beyond. The left guard spot remains wide open, but Watkins has been working mainly as the second-team right guard behind Harvey Dahl this spring.


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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Watkins puts premium on fitness ..

    The left guard spot remains wide open, but Watkins has been working mainly as the second-team right guard behind Harvey Dahl this spring.
    Arguably the most news-worthy piece of info isn't until the last sentence of the article.
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