As offseasons go, the Rams were tied for the shortest.
Of course, that’s what happens when a team wins a conference championship and appears in the Super Bowl.
Now the calendar is just over two months later, and the 2019 Rams have begun their offseason program at the team’s facility in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Entering Phase I, the Rams are able to hold meetings in the building on scheme, but only strength and conditioning work may take place on the field — and the team’s offensive, defensive, and special teams staff may not be present. This will go on for the first three weeks of the offseason program.
While this aspect of the offseason is completely voluntary — as is everything else until mandatory minicamp in mid-June — McVay said the Rams had strong attendance and that everyone was accounted for. McVay mentioned that outside linebacker Dante Fowler, cornerback Marcus Peters, and inside linebacker Cory Littleton were not in the building for Day 1, but noted that each of those players had communicated their plans well in advance.
Check out photos of the Los Angeles Rams players back in action for the offseason program.
“We just like to be in communication with our players,” McVay said. “Certainly it is voluntary — we understand that. But as long as we just know that they’re in a good place, or what’s going on with them, [it’s fine].”
Players who were in the building for Day 1, however, included quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, defensive lineman Michael Brockers, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald — each of whom addressed the media.
For McVay, it’s a bit different to have Donald in the building for Day 1 given that the defensive tackle has not attended the vast majority of the last two offseason programs while the team and his representation were negotiating his lucrative contract extension.
But that’s now behind the player and team, as McVay and Donald both said they were going to sit down and come up with a solid plan for the reigning back-to-back AP Defensive Player of the Year.
“Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about him holding out or anything like that,” McVay said with a smile. “But I do think we want to be mindful of, [we’d] like you to be here, but understanding of some of the other things going on. … You don’t worry about Aaron working on his own and getting things done that are all geared toward getting us ready to play football whenever our opener is.”
“I’m gonna be here,” Donald said, before noting he’ll probably go back and forth from L.A. to Pittsburgh, where he regularly trains at his Alma Mater. “Gotta be around my guys and grind with them, but still want to be back in Pittsburgh and getting some work, too.”
Because the Rams are in Year 3 in both of their offensive and defensive systems, they aren’t necessarily in a position where that much learning and alignment must happen during this time of year. But McVay said the main goal of the offseason program will be to establish an identity and culture, so the club can begin answering the question, “Who are the 2019 L.A. Rams?”
“It’s a new year. It’s a new team. You want to continue to try to establish what this year’s culture will be, get some of these guys who are newer to the building comfortable with their surroundings and, really, figure out that identity. Everything that we try to do is built around our players’ strengths. And as this thing continues to progress, we get a better feel for what those strengths are. With some of the continuity that we do have, I think we have a better idea of anticipating. But we’ve got some new bodies that we’re really counting on, expecting big things from on the defensive side. So there’s going to be and adaption, we’re going to try to evolve and improve. And a lot of that is just specific to situations or just executing at a higher level.”
And while the Rams aren’t dwelling on their Super Bowl LIII loss, there are elements to take away from that game. As Los Angeles begins its quest for another shot at a Lombardi in 2019, McVay’s message appears to have three prongs: learn from the past, produce in the present, prepare for the future.
“I think last year was a great year for us. We had a lot of good things that took place. But there’s all 32 teams feeling good right now. They all have the same goals. And you’ve got to wipe the slate clean,” McVay said. “I think you want to learn from the past. You want to be able to take some of the things that we learned that help us sustain a certain level of success, not lose sight of those things. But understand that you have to earn it every single day. And I think our players will take that approach, but we’ve got to produce right now. We can only control what we do today.”