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Practice Report: Rams Prep for Cold Weather, A Division Title at Stake

Posted Dec 22, 2017

L.A. held a light practice on Friday morning, before it hits the road for Tennessee this afternoon.

L.A. held a light practice on Friday morning, before it hits the road for Tennessee this afternoon. The Rams will take on the Titans on Sunday in a Christmas Eve showdown that could clinch the club’s first division title since 2003.

INJURY UPDATE

After losing their Pro Bowl kicker Greg Zuerlein — who will be out for the remainder of the season with a back injury — the Rams received some positive news on the injury front on Friday.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth (rest), center John Sullivan (rest), linebacker Mark Barron (rest), and cornerback Troy Hill (illness) returned to Friday’s practice as full participants.

The only player who did not take part in the session was outside linebacker Matt Longacre (back). Head coach Sean McVay announced that he had been ruled out for Sunday’s contest.

“That means that Carlos Thompson will have to step up and fill the void [and] Samson Ebukam will get some more opportunities to rush off the edge,” McVay said. “Getting Connor Barwin back last week, we feel like we’ve got some good depth up front, but certainly it is tough to replace a player like Matt.”

In Tennessee, the Titans also turned in a relatively clean bill of health.

But the club could be without its No. 1 cornerback Logan Ryan (ankle) who did not practice all week and is listed as questionable. Aside from Ryan, Tennessee placed its No. 3 cornerback LeShaun Sims (ankle) on the injured reserve list on Friday. He will be out for the remainder of the season.

RAMS NOT DREAMING OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS

For Rams fans here in Los Angeles, the forecast for Christmas Eve is a high of 70 degrees and sunny. But for those travelling to Nashville for the team’s matchup with the Titans, the weather should be a very different story.

When the Rams take on Tennessee at Nissan Stadium this Sunday, the team will be looking at a high of 40 degrees and a low of just 23. And while there is no snow predicted in the forecast as of yet, McVay did acknowledge that the cold weather could push some players a bit out of their element.

“You always have to have some specific adjustments as far as some of your play calls and different things, especially from an offensive standpoint and how that affects your ability to handle the ball,” McVay said. “And a lot of times, especially in that weather, it feels like a rock.”

“But, it’s something that guys will do a good job adjusting to just like they did [in Seattle],” he added.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who spent the last three seasons playing in Buffalo, said there is no way to fully prepare for cold weather conditions or playing in snow. And though he much prefers playing in the sun where “your muscles are loose” and you “can take hits” more easily, he believes the Rams should be just fine this Sunday.

“To play in the cold it’s kind of hard to get warm, more injuries,” Watkins said. “So you just have to be warmed up and be ready to compete. We can’t go out there playing slow.”

PLAYING FOR THE NFC WEST

The Rams control their own destiny in the NFC West heading into Sunday’s contest. A win would guarantee the club a division title for the first time in over a decade.

As such, this weekend’s game takes on a little bit more meaning for a team that has traditionally viewed no week as any bigger than the other.

“We know what’s at stake for us. We don’t shy away from the opportunity to go in a tough atmosphere — try to come away with our 11th win,” McVay said. “And we know that if we’re able to accomplish that, that means a division championship as well. So it’s a great opportunity.”

Very few of the Rams’ starters have ever been associated with winning a division title. And while the magnitude of the game is something they talk about in the locker room, right guard Jamon Brown said the players have been careful not to “get too caught up in it.”

“We talk about it, but we also approach every week as the same,” Brown said. “The game at hand is our goal. That’s what we try to focus on and then we know the importance of the game obviously. But we never try to get caught up in, ‘this game clinches this or the hype behind the game.’ It’s more about winning.”

For cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, who came to Los Angeles this season, the game represents “something I have dreamed about.” It also allows the team to prove just how far they have come.

“It makes it all make sense by winning this game and going to the playoffs,” he said. “Everything that we hoped for, dreamed for, and set our goals for is happening right now. So we have to go out, just embrace it and take advantage.”