The Rams wrapped up a padded session at Cal Lutheran on Thursday afternoon. With just two days remaining until the team takes on the Colts, there was a lot to be done on the practice field. But in anticipation of the season opener on Sunday, one of the most important aspects of the game week was taking place off the field — the selection of team captains.
Earlier this week, head coach Sean McVay told the media that captains would be decided upon by the players.
"I think it's a big deal that you let the players vote for it," McVay said. "We've got a lot of guys that I think are capable captains, but we'll let the players vote on that."
The Rams have since elected running back Todd Gurley II, middle linebacker Alec Ogletree, punter Johnny Hekker, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, linebacker Connor Barwin, and cornerback Trumaine Johnson as their six captains. Gurley, Ogletree, and Hekker were each captains in 2016 as well.
"For that to be my second year in a row to be a captain, it means a lot" Gurley said after practice. "It just means a lot for what the guys think of me. So, I appreciate that – just trying to work hard and try to be the best leader, the best teammate I can be. When you have that 'C' that gives you just a little bit more edge to do a little bit more, say a little bit more, because they voted for you for a reason."
Veterans Whitworth and Barwin both joined the Rams in the offseason as free agents, and over the past few months have cemented themselves as team leaders.
"I think when you look at targeting those types of players in free agency, what you like is clearly the production as a player, but also as a human being and the way they go about their business," McVay said. "They're pro's pros — we talk about that all the time. They both have a nice, natural way about it. It comes off authentic and genuine and whatever is true to their personality. I think their teammates sense that and that's why the way that they lead in different ways has been received so well from different guys that have been here."
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who signed a franchise tender for the second year a row, has also provided the Rams with a strong veteran presence among the defensive backs. And though he and the team did not reach an agreement on a long-term contract, the sixth-year pro has been making the most of his 2017. McVay said he was proud of what Johnson had done during through the preseason and called him "a motivated player" who sets "a good example for the [DBs] room day and day out."
After practice, Johnson expressed his excitement at being named a captain for the first time.
"It's an honor," he said. "I'm really just appreciative of my teammates. I didn't expect it at all, but it's an honor, like I said, to have that come from my team."
COOPER EXCITED TO PLAY IN FIRST SEASON OPENER
Check out photos of the Los Angeles Rams during practice in preparation for Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts.
On Sunday the Rams will face off against a Colts team that will be without three of their primary starters: quarterback Andrew Luck, center Ryan Kelly, and cornerback Vontae Davis.
Davis, a nine-year pro, was projected to be the Colts No. 1 cornerback this season. Last year, he recorded 37 total tackles and one interception. But after suffering a groin injury, he is now expected to miss his second-straight season opener.
For the Rams' receiving corps, the absence of Davis in the secondary could mean more opportunities to open up the passing game.
"Absolutely, every time one of their star players is not playing, you have to take advantage of that," wide receiver Pharoh Cooper said. "I know the coaches have alerted us and told us that because they have seen it on film. So we're just going to try and attack, try our best to get open. And without their best corner playing, it should open up a lot of passes."
Selected in the fourth round out of South Carolina in 2016, Cooper is excited for what this season will bring. After bringing in playmakers like Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins, and Cooper Kupp, wide receiver appears to be one of Los Angeles' strongest position groups.
Though Cooper suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Rams' opener last season, the wide receiver is ready for the chance to show off his improvement from Year 1 to Year 2.
"You know last year at this time I was hurt, in a cast on the sidelines," he said Thursday. "So this year it's a blessing to be healthy and be able to suit up for the first game when I couldn't do that last year. I'm ready to play fast and come out aggressive, every time I get the ball I'm just going to try to make a play."
That same attitude can be found across the Rams' locker room as the team prepares to make a lasting mark on their home fans, against the Colts on Sunday.
"Everybody's focused," Cooper said. "When it's practice time ,we get on the field and it's serious and when we come back in here, it's all fun and games. You've been working hard since OTA's in March and June and you always want to win every game, but starting off with a home game is always fun. It's always good to win at home and leave that first impression for your fans."