NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and rookie wide receiver Tutu Atwell, linebacker Ernest Jones, defensive lineman Earnest Brown IV, tight end Jacob Harris, running back Jake Funk and cornerback Robert Rochell each met with the media Sunday after arriving at the team hotel for Training Camp presented by UNIFY Financial Credit Union to discuss several topics surrounding the start of training camp, including:
- The new challenge ahead (Stafford)
- Building more muscle (Atwell)
- Signing their contract (Jones)
- Learning from Aaron Donald (Brown)
- Studying prominent examples at their position (Harris)
- The opportunity at running back (Funk)
- Learning from Darious Williams (Rochell)
Here are some of the top takeaways from those conversations, which you can watch in their entirety below.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford excited for new challenge
For the first time in his NFL career, Stafford enters training camp with a different NFL team after going through his first 12 as a member of the Lions.
Now on a Rams team with high expectations for this season and a talented roster to go with it, Stafford is excited about the opportunity ahead of him.
"It's a bunch of new experiences for me," Stafford said. "Where we're playing, where I'm living, my teammates, coaching staff, all that is new for me, so it's definitely invigorating and a challenge for me. Something I'm looking forward to."
Wide receiver Tutu Atwell has talked with Rams about adding weight to his frame
Atwell revealed Sunday afternoon that he and the Rams have discussed putting weight on and getting him to around 160 or 161 pounds. He said he currently weighs 155.
"We're going to do whatever we can to work it out," he said.
Is it tough for him to gain weight?
"It's very tough," Atwell said with a laugh. "I've got a fast metabolism, it burns fast. I mean, it is what it is. I'll try my best. The coaches know that. So we're just going to do what we've got to do."
Linebacker Ernest Jones' contract signing an emotional moment
Ernest Jones officially signed his contract on Friday, a moment that made him think of his family and the hard work his mother, Porsche Wells, put in when raising him.
"It was tough early on, but I had a mother that, she was a fighter," Jones said Sunday afternoon. "She was always gonna make sure that what needed to be done was done. And I'll just say something about her growing up. We used to always eat – all we had was hot dogs, so we (would) eat hot dogs all the time. And one day (when I was five or six years old), I came in and I was like, 'Nah, I can't do this no more.' I watched that lady get up and go out and work. And the next day she had hamburgers, steaks. That got me there, that made me want to (go), 'Okay, I'm gonna make sure that we're not eating hotdogs no more, that we could go get a steak and go have fun and live our lives.'"
Wells works as a nurse in their hometown of Waycross, Georgia. When it comes to the post-contract-signing thank you gift to his mom, both he and Wells have some ideas.
"We'll have to talk. My mom, she's a good one, but she got some things that she wants. And she deserves it," Jones said. "So we're going to do a beautiful dinner. Didn't have much growing up, so the first thing I want to do is buy them a pair of shoes so they can (see), okay, that's my appreciation. That's where I'll start, right there."
Defensive lineman Earnest Brown IV wants to learn as much from Aaron Donald as possible
Playing alongside the reigning NFL AP Defensive Player of the Year – and just the third player to win the award three times in its 50-year history – Brown intends to soak up as much knowledge as possible from Aaron Donald.
"I want to make sure to get as much knowledge from him as possible," Brown said. "One of the greatest of all time."
When it comes to his development, Brown said the Rams want him to "move inside and outside most of the time."
Tight end Jacob Harris shares who he's been studying as he learns the position
A wide receiver at UCF, Harris said he grew up watching Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans. Now that he's playing tight end, his attention has turned to film of the Raiders' Darren Waller and the Bears' Jimmy Graham.
"The more I heard the possibility of (moving to) tight end, I started watching guys like Darren Waller and Jimmy Graham, guys who are big receiving tight ends who also have a big presence in the blocking game as well," Harris said.
The blocking aspect is especially important. Harris said one of the biggest differences between playing wide receiver and tight end is reading the defensive lines, but the process of understanding that is something he embraces.
"Because at receiver, you're only reading coverages, safeties, how the DBs are playing you," Harris said. "But then at tight end, it brings in a whole different aspect of, now you've got read the front – is it a five-technique, six-technique? Different d-line fronts. You're reading how the linebackers are playing, whether it's 3-man, 4-man. Are they zone-in? Are they man-in? So there's a lot more that comes into play, but like I said, it's great because it's more knowledge to the game and more knowledge that I can expand my mind (with)."
Running back Jake Funk's mindset remains the same in wake of opportunity
In wake of Cam Akers tearing his Achilles last week, there's more opportunities in the running back rotation. Funk said his approach is still the same, whether Akers was active or not.
"You've got to come in and prove yourself every single day," Funk said.
As he works to do that, he'll have a good foundation of advice. Funk said he spent the offseason working out in Florida at the same facility where rookie running back Michael Carter and veterans Le'Veon Bell and Carlos Hyde trained, along with players at other positions.
"I try to pick everybody's brain as best I can," Funk said. "The biggest thing (the guys that are already in the league) told me, was that you have to show up every single day. And that being in the film room is what separates guys – being able to study film, break it down, because that ultimately translates to faster play because you're thinking less and playing more."
Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams' influence on cornerback Robert Rochell
Rochell said this spring that he models his game after Ramsey. Since then, he's had the chance to talk to him several times and also hang out with him.
"Definitely a great guy," Rochell said. "The type of guy I thought he would be."
Besides Ramsey, Williams has also been a valuable resource for Rochell.
"I was working with Darious one day, and he was just telling me, working on pad level, how I change direction and my eyes," Rochell said. "Keying back into things like that, little things that make a difference in a pass breakup, in an interception. Looking at a guy who made multiple plays throughout the year, and just taking that advice and growing with it and accepting it and listening to him. That was probably the biggest thing I'm harping on, for real."