The second team offense huddles up before a play.
As the Rams opened the first official training camp practice of 2012 on Sunday, they also ushered in a new era of football under coach Jeff Fisher and his staff.
Along with him, Fisher brings something different to the Rams, something intangible that maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it but make no mistake, it’s there.
“He doesn't say much but when he speaks, everyone listens because if he is saying something, it's for a reason and it's extremely important," quarterback
Since Fisher last coached in the NFL, much has changed about the rules and regulations of when teams can practice, how long they can practice, even what they can wear in those practices.
“Working through that has been a challenge,” Fisher said. “Scheduling took a lot longer. I had made a habit of scheduling training camp from scratch every year. I don’t just follow the previous year and pass it out. You have to schedule based on your football team and your needs and your strengths and weaknesses.”
But the always calm and cool Fisher appeared unfazed by any of those changes on Sunday as the Rams practiced in front of a crowd believed to be about 1,600 fans deep.
That crowd was treated to an afternoon of a typical Fisher practice. In other words, it was a practice with a lot of energy, a lot of moving around, a lot of situational work and, of course, a practice with a relentless pursuit of fostering competition.
For his part, Fisher acknowledged that he was excited to be back coaching at a training camp practice though no more excited than he’s been to coach at any of his 16 previous training camps as a head coach.
“I feel like this one is my first one all over again,” Fisher said. “Every training camp felt like my first one. I’m very excited about this.”
To watch Fisher in a practice is to watch a coach who has clearly been here before and one who has an unending air of competence about him. Unlike some coaches, he doesn’t flit from one drill to the next or scream at the top of his lungs.
Not that there’s any correct way to be a coach but Fisher clearly has confidence in his assistants. For the most part, he lets them do their thing and when the time is right, he chimes in.
On the whole, though, for fans in attendance expecting fire and brimstone from Fisher, the most they got was a firm instruction or two for players on where to go to participate in the next portion of practice.
Maybe it’s not sexy but it certainly rings true to the players Fisher leads.
“I think the greatest thing about Coach Fisher is he is confident and he’s so confident he doesn’t feel like he has to come out and give us a bunch of lip service every meeting or every practice,” Bradford said.
As for the players, Sunday’s practice was nothing more than an extension of what took place in the spring with a little more urgency sprinkled in because of how close the regular season is.
Back in Organized Team Activities and minicamps, the Rams installed their schemes a couple of times in an effort to have a good working base upon returning. According to
“We emphasize so much during the last couple weeks of the OTAs and the mini camps that we’re just going to carry this momentum right into training camp and just take a little break,” Fisher said. “That’s kind of been the approach. They’re excited about getting out, and they also understand how critical every rep is considering the fact that we just don’t have the number of practices that we’re used to in the past. So the walk-throughs are important, the reps are important. There’s a lot of talking going on, a lot of coaching – by coaches and players and players to players – and that’s important when you’re limited from a time stand point.”
Running back Steven Jackson was pleased with how his teammates retained information from the spring.
“I thought the first practice went pretty good,” Jackson said. “It felt good to get out here. It was a fresh start to the new regime. Guys were flying around. I think there was a lot of carry over from the spring until now, which is camp. I think a lot of guys retained a lot of information, so we were able to move at a pretty fast pace.”
Many times at the beginning of camp, the offense is a bit behind the defense but Bradford was as crisp and sharp as he’s ever been at this stage of camp and the offense seemed to follow his lead.
The competition was legit as well as Fisher continued to let the top offense square off against the top defense in an effort increase the stakes on every practice snap.
“It’s just fun to be back out here again,” Bradford said. “Obviously having OTAs and minicamp were great but certainly nothing like training camp. We spent all day meeting yesterday, spent all morning meetings so it was really nice to get on the field and actually get to play football today.”
The Rams were able to avoid moving Sunday’s practice indoors after a morning rain shower came through St. Louis but cleared up in time for the workout. By the 3:30 start to practice, the sun was out and beating down on the Rams.
The heat didn’t seem to bother the Rams much, though, as they went through a lot of situational work in 11 on 11 drills and wrapped up practice with a 15 to 20 minute session intent on getting rookies who might not work much in practice some much needed repetitions as well.
That quartet is expected back in camp sooner than later.
“Daryl is probably three or four days away,” Fisher said. “Alexander is maybe about a week away. Then of course Scott Wells is still rehabbing the knee.”
As the grind of training camp dawns on them, the Rams will get back to work on Monday afternoon before they can finally put the pads on for the first time on Wednesday. That’s when the fun really begins.
“I think there’s a sense of excitement in our locker room this year,” Bradford said. “I think everyone’s ready to go, everyone’s excited to be out here and I think it showed today in our practice. I think it was very up-tempo. I thought guys came out, everyone was flying around. Hopefully we can sustain that and do that everyday.”