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Steve Avila getting comfortable at center

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – While it has been extensively noted – on this website, included – that Steve Avila played center in college, this is actually not his first attempt at learning that position in the NFL.

Avila said Tuesday that he tried to learn center as soon as he arrived in Los Angeles last year, "and I had to stop because it was just a lot to take in."

Still, the 18 games he played at left guard last season and knowing the responsibilities at that position have helped as he makes that transition.

"I started as early as I could, as soon I as I found out I was moving to center, to try to get everything packed up and ready for these OTAs," Avila said. "I feel like I did a good job with that. As soon as we started going faster, everything started feeling a bit more natural. So we still got a long way to go, but I'm really excited for it."

One of the first things Avila thought about as he began returning to his center studies was the football IQ of former Rams center Brian Allen and Coleman Shelton, who he called "two of the smartest people" he's ever known in the game of football.

"And that was just such a big thing for me," Avila said. "I was like, 'Dude, I don't think I'll ever be 'there.' But I felt like I learned a lot from them this past year."

Especially for an offensive as complex as the Rams', there's a lot of responsibility that falls on the center's shoulders – think the identifying the alignment and making protection calls for a play. And those play names have several words.

Avila said knowing those details, like knowing the correct call, is something he can control, and he feels pretty comfortable with where he's at from the mental side. For him right now, it's more about the technical part.

The technique from guard to center is a little bit different. You're lining up ahead of the rest of the offensive line and the ball being right in front of you, Avila explained, which means you have to get more depth. That was something he said was "a lot different for him," and he got "a big taste of" it on Monday when they started and went "super fast," so there was a lot of stuff he tried to fix for Tuesday. Having an offensive line coach in Ryan Wendell who played center at a high level in the NFL also helps a lot.

"Trying to understand what to do when you're given certain looks and what to do when the defender does this," Avila said. "And I know that just comes with time. I try to give myself grace because I know last year this time, I was like a deer in the headlights, and I was prepared by the season. So that's what I have to go off of right now."

He also has teammates who are willing to be patient and help as much as possible, too.

"(Rams head coach) Sean (McVay) mentioned this in our offensive line meeting today, this doesn't just fall on Steve to make sure every call is right, to get every look correct," offensive lineman Rob Havenstein said last month. "We're all working as a unit, quarterback included. Obviously Matthew has been around the game long enough, he's seen everything (and) knows everything. Super smart guy, wouldn't want anyone else back there. But it's not just Steve, it's not just on him. Everyone else is learning and growing together. … We just need Steve to be Steve."

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