THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the offseason program was virtual and players could not work out of their own facility, Rams defensive lineman Greg Gaines found a unique and perhaps unconventional way of maintaining his strength.
He cut down a tree and used the log to do squats at his parents' home in Idaho.
Gaines didn't get to put that power to use too often during the 2020 season as a rotational player behind Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Morgan Fox and Sebastian Joseph-Day. However, that's been a different story this year.
With Joseph-Day on Injured Reserve due to a re-aggravated pec injury, Gaines has been asked to do more and put that strength to good use.
"Greg's a great guy," fellow defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson said back in October of the 2019 fourth-round pick. "Very competitive, wants to compete at a high level. Does everything the right way. We love each other, we're a family here, preach 'We not Me.' Greg is a person that on the field, off the field – off the field, he's funny, on the field he's (expletive) getting after it."
Gaines has had a sack in three of the Rams' last five games for a career-high 4.5 on the season, while playing season-highs of 72 snaps in two of those games he recorded a sack in. He has also had at least one QB hit in each of those five contests.
In a pivotal Monday Night Football win over the Cardinals, Gaines' third-down sack of Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray forced them to for a field goal as they were driving and attempting to reduce the Rams' 10-point lead. While the Cardinals recovered the ensuing onside kick, the seven-point lead meant it was touchdown or nothing to either force overtime or potentially win the game.
"Going into this week, he was talking about, he don't think he going to be able to catch Murray. I told him, 'you fast enough to catch him, man, don't worry about that,' and he did that today," Donald said after the Cardinals game. "Greg's playing lights-out, man. It's been fun to watch him play, making plays every single week, making big plays for us. Playing with Greg right now, it's a lot of fun. He's explosive, he's quick, he understand the game, he can rush, he's stout in the run."
For Gaines, the recent uptick in production is simply finding a rhythm within and maximizing the opportunities he's been given.
"It's been really fun," Gaines said on Dec. 18. "I just love just being able to play and before, it was like, I only come in for one two snaps at a time, so it's really hard to get in the groove, get a feel for the game. So being able to have this time and like, being able to show what I could do, it's really fun. I'm just having a great time. I feel like all the other guys are having fun. We got a good vibe going. We're trying to keep it rolling."
Asked again this week about Gaines' contributions, Donald said Gaines has surprised some people – himself included.
"I sent a text message to him yesterday and just told him how proud I am of him, man, because he's been playing some good football every single week," Donald said Thursday. "It's been consistent ball. Playing at a high level, he's flying around, he's explosive, he's doing a lot of things to help us win these games."
As for maintaining that strength, Gaines has a more traditional setup these days.
"No, I didn't break that out," Gaines said with a laugh. "I have an actual gym thing in my garage now. Like a weight rack with real weights and bars."