Rams, Fans Grind Through Scrimmage

Posted Aug 7, 2011

Rams Coach Steve Spagnuolo’s main goal for Sunday’s annual scrimmage at Lindenwood University was to create an environment that was as similar to a normal game setting as possible.

Spagnuolo had the team bus to the stadium as they would on a normal fall Sunday and the Rams went through their typical pregame routine. The part that really made the atmosphere? Between 8,000 and 10,000 Rams fans who braved the 100-degree temperatures to cheer on their team.

“The best thing about the day was all the people that were here,” Spagnuolo said. “I want them to know that we really appreciate them coming out.”

The Rams opened the practice with the first-team offense battling the second-team defense, and then the defensive starters squaring off against the second offensive unit. Each play brought a rousing applause from those in attendance, and QB Sam Bradford was grateful for the fans’ enthusiasm.

“The fans really impressed me a lot today,” Bradford said. “I thought the turnout was great. The support from our fans today was awesome and I really appreciate that. It was fun to get out here and play in front of them.”

Sunday provided many of those in attendance to see some of the newest Rams in action for the first time. Perhaps the loudest responses from the fans came when running back Cadillac Williams darted right and ran off tackle for a 7-yard gain on the opening series of the scrimmage. Moments later, wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker secured a first down for the starting offense and was greeted with a roar, and cornerback Al Harris received a similar welcome when he broke up a pass during the drill. Running back Jerious Norwood also received a loud response after a sliding catch that resulted in a first down.

The newcomers weren’t able to take the field until last Thursday, so their quick contributions were impressive to their new coach.

“For 16 of these guys, you remember the guys who couldn’t practice, this was really just their fourth practice,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s pretty early to be doing some scrimmage work.”

One of the bright spots on the afternoon came during a red zone period when tight end Billy Bajema, wide receiver Brandon Gibson and wide receiver Danny Amendola (twice) found the end zone to help the first-team offense go 4-for-5 during the drill.

“The red zone is important for us,” Spagnuolo said. “We try to do as much of that as we can. We have a lot of that next week. So that was encouraging.”

While it’s may be easier for fans to gauge the performance of the offense in a scrimmage setting, Spagnuolo liked what he saw from his defense as well. The Rams were tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks last season, and they could have racked up several Sunday had the format of the scrimmage allowed them to.

Spagnuolo instead asked his defenders to simply run past the quarterback to test the linebackers and secondary in coverage.

“There were probably a couple, at least two or three instances out there where we would have sacked the quarterback,” Spagnuolo said. “Chris Long really wanted to get mad at me one time, but the reason I didn’t call them was because I wanted to put pressure on the guys in blue and see how they responded. I think the first group did a pretty good job.”

Bradford was sure there would be some corrections to make after the team studies the film from Sunday’s scrimmage, but overall, he felt Sunday was a great experience for him and his teammates.

“I just thought it was fun to get out here and play in the closest thing to a game-like format that we’ve had so far,” Bradford said. “To get out here without the coaches on the field, without scripts other than a couple of the special categories. It was just fun to get out here and play football today.”