OTAs Day One Recap

Posted Jun 3, 2014

The Rams practiced with a quick pace in the team's first of 10 OTAs.

While organized team activities typically are met with a certain degree of intrigue as the first full-scale practices of a new season, there was a reasonable consensus that Tuesday at Rams Park felt a bit different compared with other recent first-day outings.

During what was approximately a two-hour practice session, the Rams took on a conspicuously quick tempo throughout. The energetic pace was certainly caught the attention of the more veteran Rams, particularly during team defense.

“We practiced fast today,” said LB James Laurinaitis, who is beginning his sixth season in a Rams uniform. “We were flying around, (defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams) is aggressive—period, so we’re trying to compete with this offense and trying to win.”

The up-tempo pace can be traced partly due to a level of increased expectations throughout the roster, where terms such as ‘potential’ and ‘future’ are found much more infrequently than in previous seasons. For a team that has remained near the .500 mark during the last two seasons despite playing in the league’s most challenging division, being competitive is no longer given the credence it held in recent years. Adding what has been widely considered one of the league’s best draft classes to the roster has only added to the sense of urgency for Laurinaitis and many other veterans as they prepare for a third season under Head Coach Jeff Fisher.

“Tradition says Year Three should be your production year, individually and under a head coach,” Laurinaitis said. “As a whole, I can speak as a vet, there’s a lot of pressure. For guys like Sam (Bradford), myself Chris (Long), guys that are supposed to be the foundation of this organization, enough about the future. Make the future now. I’m excited, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

For third-year receiver Chris Givens, Tuesday’s opening of organized team activities couldn’t have come soon enough. Following what he has described as a humbling sophomore campaign, Givens returned to the Rams’ facility with a renewed level of focus, if not a sizeable chip on his shoulder. Part of his struggles, however, could have been traced to playing half of the season without QB Sam Bradford, who left last year’s Week 7 game at Carolina with a torn ACL. At least in an official setting, Tuesday marked the first time Givens and Bradford returned to the Rams Park practice field. Though the sample size is small, it was enough to bring a smile to Givens’ face.

“Sam hasn’t missed a beat,” Givens said. “I know they want to get him ready for the first game of the season, but I feel like he’s right where he wants to be.”

Despite entering just his third NFL season, Givens represents one of the senior-most members of the Rams’ receiving corps, a position the team elected to primarily leave intact during the offseason, save for the signing of veteran Kenny Britt. His veteran status has allowed him to gain perspective on the trajectory of the franchise, and like Laurinaitis, the difference between Tuesday’s opening day of OTAs and previous years was easy to discern for Givens.

“This year, in the locker room before we went out, it’s just a completely different level,” Givens said. “You can feel it in the atmosphere and see it guys’ eyes, that this is a year to get over a hump and move to the next step.”

On Tuesday, they weren’t wasting any time getting trying to take that next step, either.