Practice Recap: New Rules Take Effect

Posted Aug 6, 2014

Find out how new NFL rules are influencing the Rams practice schedule, Zac Stacy offseason regimen, Madden tidbits and much more.

Wednesday morning at Rams Park saw a light special teams practice in preparation for the team’s first preseason game on Friday.


If you haven’t heard, there will be an experiment with the kicking game for the first two weeks of the preseason. In an effort to make the extra point a more competitive play, the PAT will be kicked from the 15-yard line. In essence, it’ll now resemble a 33-yard field goal attempt, but only be worth one point.

The Ram the experiment affects the most, kicker Greg Zuerlein, said he’s not necessarily in favor of a permanent change.

“I think it should stay the way it is,” Zuerlein said after Wednesday’s practice. “It’s been that way. The tradition is there. There’s no reason to change it."

“It’s turned into a pass-offensive league, and so I don’t see why you’d change it for kickers if you don’t change it for anyone else,” he added. “But, I don’t mind it. Whatever they do, we’ll adjust and go from there.”

Zuerlein said he doesn’t think kickers will miss too many extra-point attempts from the new distance, but moving it back could make teams think twice about automatically settling for one.

“I think it would be a high percentage of makes still, but I guess they’d want to make teams think about going for two more,” Zuerlein said. “I don’t know, because if you miss early in the game, at the end of the game it’s not going to be as exciting if the team [ahead] has the ball. Instead of having a tie game 21-21, you’re down 21-20 and then you just sit on the ball.”

The kicker said he wouldn’t be doing much different in order to prepare for the longer PATs. He’ll add a few more pregame kicks from the designated experimental spot, but other than that it’ll be business as usual.

As for Zuerlein’s personal outlook on the season, he said he’s not yet kicking as well as he’d like.

“I’m not hitting the ball right where I need to be just yet. But that’s what the preseason is for,” he said. “You have another month still to go to get ready for the season.”

Zuerlein was one of the best kickers in the league last year, making 26 of 28 field goal attempts. He also finished tied for fourth in the league with 52 kickoff touchbacks.


What a difference a year can make -- just ask running back Zac Stacy.

“As a rookie, you don’t know what to expect,” Stacy said of his camp experience in 2013. “Everything’s fast. You’re out here running around like a chicken with your head cut off.”

Now, with a year under his belt, he said, “If we’re talking about chickens, I guess I’m a rooster. You know, running around the yard like back home in Alabama. With his head attached.”

Having one’s head is, of course, pretty important. But that does not mean Stacy thinks anything is guaranteed when it comes to his roster spot and his role within the Rams’ offense.

“My mentality going into this season, this training camp, is you have to be an undrafted free agent trying to compete for a job,” Stacy said. “Right now, I’m just trying to go back to productivity and consistency.”

As we’ve talked about in this space, there was an increase in physicality at practice over the past couple of days. Stacy was one of the players in the center of it, with his pads consistently popping with those of safety Rodney McLeod.

“We definitely needed that,” Stacy said of the team getting physical. “Obviously, get our feet wet for the game this Friday. Just get back to the groove of things with contact and everything. So it’s good. I love it, obviously.”

“We have a mutual understanding,” Stacy added of his battles with McLoed. “We’re going to work, but we’re going to work smart.”

The second-year pro said that he isn’t sure how much he will play -- if at all -- on Friday, but he will be prepared if and when he’s called upon.

“I’m ready to go,” Stacy said. “Whatever the case may be, whatever opportunities they give me, I’m ready to take advantage of it.”


Today’s question comes from @jonconnor_ who asks: which second year player do you see making the biggest leap from his rookie season?

@MylesASimmons which second year player do you see making the biggest leap from his rookie season?

— Jon Connor (@jonconnor_) August 6, 2014

With such a young and talented roster, this is actually a pretty tough question. Speaking of Stacy, he’s probably a candidate here, but he did a bang-up job when he played last year as a rookie. Same thing goes for linebacker Alec Ogletree. I’ll sort of cheat the question and say two players -- wide receiver Tavon Austin and safety T.J. McDonald. I’d go with Austin because from the looks of practice he’s going to spend a lot of time on the field, and McDonald because his injury kept him off the field for a significant portion of 2013. Both should be key contributors to their respective units.

Thanks for the question, Jon. If you’ve got a question, hit me up on Twitter @MylesASimmons at any time.


…Zuerlein explained the process of how the kicking balls are distributed and broken in during pregame.

“The refs bring them in, they get them out of the package. I think it’s 30 minutes or something like that to break them in, and that’s what you have to use for the game,” Zeurlein said. “So you have six balls -- we get to break in three and the other team gets to break in three and then they just rotate through.”

Interesting little look at how that works.

…EA Sports sent a couple of Madden developers to take pictures of Rams players for the game’s new facial-recognition technology. Though Madden 15 will be released late this month, a few players will get the new technology for this year’s game. Most players, however, will see their enhanced video-game faces in Madden 16 and beyond.

Here’s a shot of defensive end Robert Quinn getting his picture taken by the contraption.

That’s 12 cameras that go off simultaneously -- pretty intereting stuff. We’ll have much more on the facial technology and the Rams rankings in Madden 15 later this week.


It’s just about game time. The Rams won’t have media availability tomorrow, and will kick off the preseason on Friday night against the Saints at the Edward Jones Dome.