THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Rams safety Taylor Rapp is as prepared as he possibly can be for his second NFL season, and he has a strenuous test of mental and physical fortitude from the offseason as well as lessons learned from his rookie season to thank for that.
As it turns out, playing in a football game and completing a challenge of burning 10,000 calories in a single day this summer share more than just kicking an athlete's metabolism into high gear.
"It involves a lot of mental toughness," Rapp said during a video conference with local media Wednesday. "A lot of the reason that I wanted to take part in it, (is) because I wanted to stretch my mental toughness and see if I could push through it. It was a great thing, so I can see that it definitely correlates to the game and even life, really."
That exercise, of course, has not been the first time he's been mentally tested in the last year.
Six months before he biked 125 miles, swam 1.25 miles, ran three miles and hiked four miles in a day, he was in coverage against then-49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders during the Rams' Week 16 matchup at San Francisco when Sanders hauled in a 46-yard pass on 3rd down to set up a game-winning field goal for the Niners.
Asked about the play by reporters at his locker postgame that late-December night, Rapp took responsibility for it and owned it. Asked about the play by reporters on Wednesday, his response and approach was no different.
"Obviously, that's not how anyone wants to end the game or anything like that," Rapp said. "I definitely could have played better technique and stuff like that. It is what it is, it happened. All you can really do is you can't worry about it, it's in the past. Don't let it happen again and stuff like that. You don't let it hurt you, but you use it for motivation and fuel and positive going forward."
Rapp's strength in vulnerability and ownership in that moment as a young player resonated with Rams head coach Sean McVay.
"I loved his response," McVay said during a video conference with local media this week. "He's the kind of guy that represents exactly what we want in our locker room and I would expect from all of our players though. When we talk about accountability and coachability, I think both those situations represented exactly what we want with our football character that he embodied there."
More recently, a minor knee issue came up during the second week of the Rams' acclimation period in training camp which started Aug. 3.
The setback sidelined Rapp for a few weeks, and while Los Angeles' third-leading tackler in 2019 remained engaged by attending meetings and watching practices to accumulate mental reps, the lack of live action had him eager to get back on the practice field. He finally made his return this week, albeit in a phased approach.
"It's tough (learning the defense without physical reps)," Rapp said. "Going back to when you guys asked me how it felt being out there, I was so eager to get on the field because before I had to shut it down for a few weeks, we never really got into live practice. So, I never really put on the helmet or even went against our offense. We were doing jog-thrus and walk-thrus or whatever, but I never really got to strap on my pads or my helmet. It felt great being out there, definitely."
McVay said Rapp will be ready to go for next week's season-opener against the Dallas Cowboys. And as Rapp prepares for that game, he'll have a solid foundation of mental toughness to build upon.