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Practice Report: Rams Begin Wild Card Week, Talk Approach to the Postseason

Posted Jan 2, 2018

The Rams held their first practice of the week on Tuesday, as they get set to welcome the Falcons on Saturday.

The Rams got back to work on Tuesday afternoon, kicking off their official preparation week for the Falcons. L.A. held an expanded walk-thru at Cal Lutheran, bumping up its normal practice routine by one day to adjust for Saturday’s kickoff.

Check below for three of the key storylines from Tuesday:

INJURY UPDATE

There was no veteran rest day given for the Rams who normally sit out on the first day of the preparation week. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, center John Sullivan and outside linebacker Connor Barwin were all full participants.

But there were several players who did not take part in the walk-thru. Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (shoulder), defensive back Blake Countess (concussion), and wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) were all non-participants.

Although he sat out of practice, head coach Sean McVay said the team is anticipating Cooper to be ready to go come Saturday saying, “I think it’s going to take a lot to keep him out of this game.”

Linebacker Mark Barron, who has been inactive for the past two weeks with an achilles injury, returned to the field in a limited capacity.

McVay said Monday that Barron was feeling good and was “getting ready for a playoff game on Saturday night.” He did note that this week would serve as a “gauge on if we can expect him to play,” but that “things are looking good for him.”

In Atlanta, two of the Falcons most important offensive weapons were sidelined on Tuesday as wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle/ribs) and running back Devonta Freeman (knee) did not participate in practice.

ADJUSTING TO A SATURDAY GAMEDAY

The Rams will have just six days to prepare for the postseason. The team welcomes the Falcons on Saturday instead of Sunday to kickoff the NFC’s Wild Card Weekend.

With the short turnaround, McVay and his staff were forced to begin their official preparation week on Tuesday — which is usually the players’ day off. The Rams will return to the field on Wednesday and Thursday for practice, before hosting another walk-thru on Friday.

“Obviously it makes a difference in preparation,” left guard Jamon Brown said of the change. “You look at earlier in the week we don’t get the day off like we normally do on Tuesday. So pushing everything up, you have to recover a lot more and a lot faster than normal.”

Fortunately for the club, McVay was able to rest many of the team’s key players in Week 17’s contest against the 49ers. And for that reason, wide receiver Robert Woods said the shorter week should have less of an impact on the team’s ability to compete on Saturday. 

“In this instance it doesn’t really matter to us,” Woods said, “having been able to recover last week and having some time off to be fresh.”

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth echoed the receiver, noting that in a “really long season,” such as the Rams are going through right now, the time off has been especially helpful heading into a playoff game.

“For me, I didn’t get any younger during the week off,” Whitworth joked. “I’m still 36, and still really old to be doing this, but you do feel better, you feel fresher. And I think that goes for everybody. Just to get a chance to rest some of those little things that were nagging, you definitely feel better.”

A PLAYOFF MENTALITY

On Saturday, the Rams will welcome the defending NFC Champions in the Falcons. The Atlanta roster features a lot of playoff game experience, having made an appearance in Super Bowl LI just one year ago.

In the Rams locker room, however, only six players on the active roster have any playoff experience at all and the franchise is 12 years removed from its last playoff appearance entirely. And while it might appear a bit intimidating to those outside of the club, the Rams did not seem too concerned about the lack of playoff experience on their roster.

“Every year is different, every season is different,” Woods said. “This is a whole new Atlanta team and a whole new Rams team.”

“We can’t really focus on that,” Brown added. “If you look throughout the season, we’ve played in a lot of big games and a lot of big-game environments. The thing for us is to just focus on what we can do and what we can control.”

Those “big-game environments” include matchups win the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded Eagles and Vikings, a dominant performance in Seattle, and a division-clinching win over the Titans.

“We had a bunch of big games against top teams this year and so I think that experience will translate to this game,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “Just the experience in some of those, when everything’s a little bit more heightened. Every play has a little bit more meaning to it.”

Will there be a different mindset heading into a game with a lot on the line? Not for this team. Many players said that the key to Saturday will be focusing on staying consistent and keeping with the same “one game at a time” outlook that got them to this point in the first place.

“There is no change in our approach,” Brown said. “One thing we don’t want to do is put more pressure on ourselves than we need to. We’ll approach this week with the same mentality and obviously with as much urgency as possible because it is a playoff game.”