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Practice Report: Rams Alter Routine in Face of Fires, Hekker Lends a Helping Hand

Posted Dec 6, 2017

Although Los Angeles’ schedule usually includes a full practice, head coach Sean McVay adjusted the team’s routine in light of the fires currently raging through the Ventura County area.

The Rams held a walk-thru session on Wednesday to kick off their preparation week for the Eagles. Although Los Angeles’ schedule usually includes a full practice, head coach Sean McVay adjusted the team’s routine in light of the fires currently raging through the Ventura County area.

Check below for several updates from Wednesday:

INJURY REPORT

McVay mentioned that if the team were to have practiced, center John Sullivan, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, and linebacker Mark Barron would have been given their usual Wednesday rest days.

Additionally, McVay said outside linebacker Connor Barwin (forearm), wide receiver Robert Woods (shoulder), and middle linebacker Alec Ogletree (elbow) also would have been non-participants.

According to McVay, Ogletree — who injured his elbow during last week’s contest against the Cardinals — is making “good progress” and is expected to be “ready to go” this week. And although Woods continues continues to make progress with his rehab as well, it is still unclear when he will be ready to return.

“As far as what exactly that means with his availability, don’t have any specific updates,” McVay said of Woods. “But, I know that he is anxiously awaiting his return and he’s doing everything he can in his power. We’ll be excited when we’re able to get Robert back.”

MINOR ROSTER MOVES

Ahead of the walk-thru session, the club made a few minor changes to its roster signing outside linebacker Ejuan Price and linebacker Cameron Lynch to its practice squad.

Lynch first signed with the Rams in 2015 as an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse. He spent the 2015 season with the club, appearing in all 16 games mainly as a special teams contributor. Lynch was waived in the roster reduction down to 53 players in 2016, and has spent the last two seasons with the Buccaneers.

A 2017 seventh-round draft pick out of Pittsburgh, Price appeared in the Rams Week 10 victory over Houston as a member of both the defense and special teams unit. He returns to the practice squad after being waived by the franchise late last week.

A BREAK IN THE NORMAL ROUTINE

The Rams will slightly alter their schedule this week as they continue to adjust to the fire conditions surrounding their facility. McVay said the ultimate goal is to put “players in a healthy position” and allow them to be as fresh as possible for Sunday’s game.

If the air quality improves at Cal Lutheran by tomorrow morning, the team will be able to go about their normal operating procedure. However, if smoke continues to be an issue, McVay said the club has “contingency plans in place to go down to USC.”

“With where the fires are now, going down a little bit further to that area, we might have to explore some alternative options,” he said, “so that we can actually make sure that we get a good practice in and get out on the field and do those types of things. But, hopefully, the anticipation is to be able to use our own place.”

And while moving practice to Downtown L.A. does represent a break in the team’s normal routine, McVay says it doesn’t concern him too much. He believes that many of the players have developed the ability to “adapt and adjust” to various changes that occur throughout the season. The head coach mentioned the long trip to Jacksonville and then to London as examples of how the team has prepared well in unusual circumstances already this year.

“With the way that just the natural progression of what the season does taking a toll on guys, sometimes you do even look into it when you get later on of making it more of a mental approach,” McVay said.

“Really, we just kind of make the most of whatever the situation is that we have to deal with,” he continued. “I think it ends up kind of being a blessing in disguise as far as just for our preparation, not to be confused with how serious all the stuff that is going on is.”

A “PLAYERS DAY OFF” WELL SPENT

As of Wednesday, the Thomas Fire in Ventura County has affected nearly 65,000 acres of land and still has zero percent containment, according to ABC 7 News. As such, thousands of families have been displaced and hundreds of homes have been lost.

The brush fire is just one in a series of blazes that has erupted in Los Angeles this week. And with the devastation, thousands across California have begun to reach out and lend a helping hand — including Rams punter Johnny Hekker.

On Tuesday during the players’ day off, Hekker and his wife Makayla arrived at the Red Cross Shelter at the Ventura County Fairgrounds to deliver supplies to the fire victims — passing along a truck load of clothing, undergarments, socks, toys, and baby supplies.
“Really, just walking around the store there, I couldn’t grab enough stuff,” Hekker told the Ventura County Star’s Joe Curley. “I really want to go back and just buy out the whole place because there are so many people here who are in need of so much.

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Lending a helping hand is not out of character for Hekker, McVay said on Wednesday. He said that it didn’t surprise him at all as to how Hekker spent his day off, describing the Pro Bowl punter as both empathetic and genuine.

“I think that example just demonstrates and represents who Johnny really is,” McVay said. “He’s a great person, great leader. I bet you he’d be the first to not feel like he needs any sort of credit for something like that.”