Rookie Corners Settle In

Posted Jul 30, 2012

Two days into Jeff Fisher’s first training camp as head coach of the Rams, one thing he doesn’t have to worry about is holdouts.

When the Rams finalized deals with rookie cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson last week, it solidified the roster and gave Fisher and staff a full complement of players to work with.

Despite some outside fears that Jenkins or Johnson would go through some sort of protracted holdout, neither was part of any type of holdout and both were in camp in plenty of time for the start of full squad training camp on Sunday.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, that should become the expectation.

“Well, in the new system that’s basically the way it is,” Fisher said. “In the past we’ve had the philosophy, ‘We’ll coach the guys that we’ve got and when they get in, they get in.’ Under the new system, it’s pretty easy to get them back into camp on time. (Executive Vice President of Football Operations/COO) Kevin (Demoff) and (Senior Assistant) Tony (Pastoors) with the support of Mr. Kroenke, they did a great job upstairs.”

With those young corners in camp on time, they had nothing to worry about but learning on the job and getting down to business. On that front, so far, so good.

Jenkins, the second round pick, has already been plugged in with the first team defense and is competing to lock down that spot on a more permanent basis.

Although he was unsigned right up until just before rookies reported, Jenkins hasn’t let his focus waver.

“That was the business side of it,” Jenkins said. “I wasn’t worried about the contract. I just wanted to come back and play football. I wasn’t too concerned about signing because I knew one day I was going to sign. I just wanted to show everybody that I could play football.”

With any other drama surrounding him in his past, Jenkins has turned his attention solely to football. He’s not letting whether he starts or not concern him but he is excited to prove to people that he loves the game and wants to make the most of his God-given talents. 

“My goal is to help the team out the best way I can, whether it’s special teams or cornerback, whatever it is, just come out and compete get on the field some way, some how,” Jenkins said. “I block that (other stuff) out. I use it as a motivation and just play football. People are going to say what they want to say and I know what kind of kid I am and who I am. I am just ready to play football.”

Jenkins impressed nearly everyone who saw him back in the spring and has done nothing in the first two days of camp to diminish those views. In fact, with fans now attending camp, Jenkins has been able to open eyes to his considerable talents beyond coaches, teammates and media.

In the process, he’s made it clear there is nothing else he’d rather be doing.

“(Football) is very important,” Jenkins said. “My whole life, that’s all I knew is football. I refuse to let anyone take it away. I am just excited. It’s just a dream, a dream come true and I am looking to make the most of the opportunity.”

Likewise, Johnson is settling in just fine as well. He’s working in a backup role but is hoping to make a quick impression. Despite constant outside chatter that he’d move to safety, nothing of the sort has been mentioned to him.

Instead, Johnson is focusing on playing corner, both outside and in the slot. In Monday’s practice, Johnson got beat deep by rookie wideout Chris Givens but never gave up on the play and knocked it away at the last second.

It was the type of play being preached by Fisher and Co. and the type of play that could help Johnson get on the field sooner than later.

“I came out here and the big adjustment for me was the speed,” Johnson said. “But besides that, it’s just football. I feel like I can play football. It’s what I have been doing all my life.”

MAKING TIME: With 90 players in camp and only a limited amount of time allotted by the league for practice each day, repetitions in training camp can be hard to come by, especially if you don’t find yourself a starter or second stringer.

That has caused Fisher to find ways for some of the younger players to get repetitions and he’s gone about it in creative ways. One of those ways is by leaving time at the beginning and end of practice for a rookies only portion of practice.

“Well, theoretically there’s fewer reps,” Fisher said. “We have a larger roster. Sometimes that doesn’t make sense, but we’re working with it. So you have to make up with it through the walk-throughs and through the meeting time and when they get the reps they have to take advantage of it.”

Making matters more complicated is the league rule on the amount of practices a team must have before its first preseason game. Teams like the Rams with a later start date on camp than most teams will be short a few practices compared to other teams which means less reps all the way around heading into the regular season.

“It’s interesting,” Fisher said. “If you look the Broncos they were in pads yesterday and the day before and they started Thursday or something. So there’s some competitive issues out there when it’s all said and done and we’re all kicking off on Sunday and I would think you have so many fewer practices, the sooner you start your preseason the better off you are, competitively, at the start of the season because you gain an advantage in the number of practice sessions.”

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Fisher has said on multiple occasions that the moment he first felt like he was back was the first day the players arrived back in the spring. The relationships he built with his players were the most important thing for Fisher in his 16 years as coach and he was excited to resume that.

In the spring, that’s precisely what happened and Fisher said he’s much more comfortable recognizing names and faces now than he was when he first arrived.

“Well, a lot better than I did in the first team meeting,” Fisher said. “Yeah, I’m much more familiar with everybody, the entire staff is. Not in-depth personality wise, but from an ability standpoint and a trust standpoint it’s all coming together.”

INJURY REPORT: The Rams had no real changes to their list of players missing practice on Monday as receiver Danario Alexander (hamstring), running back Daryl Richardson (hamstring), center Scott Wells (knee) and Rokevious Watkins (conditioning) didn’t take part in team practice.

Watkins did, however, participate in the individual drills and Fisher said he’s closer to returning to the practice field on a full time basis.

Alexander and Richardson are expected to return sooner than later. Both suffered their injuries in the offseason before returning to St. Louis.

“They were working and training and they had some minor pulls so we want to make sure we get them put behind them,” Fisher said.