After weeks of long workouts in the weight room and difficult conditioning drills on both the indoor and outdoor practice fields, the Rams got back to business on Tuesday afternoon.
Having what amounts to almost perfect attendance for more than a month of the offseason conditioning program, the Rams players and coaches stepped on the field for the first of 10 Organized Team Activities at Rams Park on Tuesday afternoon.
For the Rams, the start of OTAs means the beginning of what they call “phase three” of the offseason program. Unlike the first two phases – conditioning and on field skill development work – this third and final chapter allows for some real football to take place.
That’s not to say the Rams will be in full pads and doing live tackling drills – they won’t – but what they can do is put on some shells and actually go through practices featuring the entire roster with the offense and defense being allowed to work together for the first time.
It’s also the first time the rookies and the veterans will be on the field together for practice work following an offseason that saw the addition of veterans such as offensive tackle
While there is plenty of work to be done integrating those new pieces into their respective schemes over the next few weeks, the approach to the OTAs and the end of this year’s offseason program will be a bit different according to coach Jeff Fisher.
While last year featured a new coaching staff dealing with a heavily revamped roster, this year there is more of a basic understanding of how things work which Fisher believes will make for a smoother transition for all involved.
“I feel like we can get done what we need to get done in the offseason program using phase two, skill development days and the 10 OTAs,” Fisher said. “I feel like we can get everything installed. This is the second year in the system now, so we can get in installed. They deserve the break in mid-June. When they come back in July we’ll continue to reinstall.”
Based on that philosophy, Fisher has opted to eschew the usual mandatory full-squad minicamp that usually serves as the final function of the offseason program.
Pleased with his team’s attendance and hard work for the duration of the offseason program, Fisher will instead allow his team to go through the 10 OTAs and then allow them a bit of extra time off before re-convening in St. Louis for training camp in late July.
The OTA schedule for the rest of this offseason programs includes practices on Thursday and Friday in addition to today as well as practices set for June 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, 13 and 14. After that final OTA, the veterans will be excused and the rookies will stick around for the second annual rookie week which allows them to get to know their new surroundings a bit better.
Fisher said the decision to pass on a final minicamp was wrought by looking back on last year’s system and his belief that it’s unnecessary to push his veterans too hard during a relative down period.
“After going through the experience last year, I just felt like we could just get by with the OTAs,” Fisher said. “We’re permitted to have 10 OTAs and we’re also permitted to have a three-day mandatory minicamp. I thought it was important because of the commitment that they made to have a week off, come in and work for four or five weeks and then take a break for the ‘vets,’ that way we could focus on the ‘rooks.’ It just didn’t leave us time for the minicamp.”
Given the time the Rams have during the rest of the OTAs as well as plenty of opportunities in training camp to do installation work as well as the hard work already put in by the team, Fisher believes it’s only fair to allow for a reward for the veterans.
“I guess I’m kind of old fashioned, that’s a long day and it’s a three-hour practice and all that stuff,” Fisher said of the potential minicamp. “In the offseason, I don’t think those things are necessary and particularly it relates directly to the commitment that they’ve made to the offseason program. They’re here every day. They’re coming early and staying late. They’re having fun and they’re determined.”