Since the day he was hired in January, Rams head coach Sean McVay has talked about his excitement to get players back in the building for the start of the offseason program.
That day finally came, as McVay reported 100 percent player attendance for the first day of Phase I at the Rams facility in Thousand Oaks on Monday.
"I think starting out, this has been a long time coming for us," McVay said. "I know our whole coaching staff was really anxious to get to this day — get around our players, start to get to know these guys."
In Phase I of the three-phase offseason program, coaches may meet with players in the classroom and begin the installation process. But only strength and conditioning coaches may work with players on the field. Because the Rams have a new head coach, they will also hold a voluntary veteran minicamp the week of April 24.
But Monday was a day for first impressions, and by all accounts they were positive from both the player and coach perspectives. McVay was upbeat in describing the message of his first team meeting.
"I was definitely very excited for it," McVay admitted. "But there was full attention, guys were locked in, they were engaged, they were ready to go. We had everybody there. I think it was definitely, exactly the way that we wanted to come off as a coaching staff."
Multiple players mentioned McVay's energy as a factor they noticed straight away.
"Very energetic — he's a guy that brings a lot of emotion and he wanted to set a different culture for us," middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "I felt like, for day one, coming in as a new head coach, he did a great job of addressing the team and letting us know what he expects from us and what we should expect from him."
"He's got that energy about him, that swagger about him that you like in the coach and it's definitely great to see that," running back Todd Gurley II said.
One theme McVay touched on with the team was accountability. Both Ogletree and defensive tackle Aaron Donald mentioned it in their media sessions, and McVay explained why he sees it as critical to success.
"He's got the mindset to win, and [talked] about holding everybody accountable. I think that's what we need to do," Donald said. "Not letting each other get comfortable, not letting each other slack, pushing each other so we can have success on the field come game time."
"I think it's very important for each player, each coach, to be accountable — take full responsibility for our performance, for your actions, no excuses, no complaining," McVay said. "We're looking for mentally tough players, mentally tough coaches — you take accountability, you take full responsibility for whatever was done. And if it's something that we need to get corrected and fixed, we all do that and we move forward and we don't blink. That was kind of how we implemented the accountability process and why that's so important for us moving forward."
While it's only been a day, Ogletree said he can already sense a kind of culture change within the building.
"Just meeting coach McVay and the rest of the coaches, you can definitely tell it's a different culture, as far as what they expect from us and how things are going to go," Ogletree said. "It's exciting for me and some of the guys that have been on the team for a while. We feel like something that's kind of been missing from us, from this organization. It's going to be good, we're definitely excited about it and ready for move forward."
One way that was visibly evident on Monday was players, coaches, and other team employees wearing dark blue T-shirts with "We not Me" imprinted on the back. Quarterback Jared Goff and McVay were among those who wore the shirt to their media session.
"You see the T-shirts that people are walking around with, with the 'We not Me' — it's always going to be about the team," McVay said, shrewdly calling the shirts a collective idea. "All the decisions that we want to make are going to be from a standpoint of what's in the best interest of the team, before any personal agendas and that's what we want to embody as a coaching staff and with our players as well."
And so with Day 1 complete, the next task for Los Angeles will be to continue building the foundation of how the team will function on and off the field in 2017 and beyond.
"We've got some time right now, so we want to make sure we do a great job establishing a foundation so that it can be conducive for that long-term success," McVay said. "But I think today went as well as we could've hoped and looking forward to tomorrow already."