The Rams are probably a few days short of officially entering the dog days of training camp, you know, the days when the soft tissue injuries start to pile up and the tempo and enthusiasm for practice starts to wane a bit.
But starting Thursday night, continuing Friday and culminating in Saturday’s scrimmage at the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams are about to enter the second phase of this year’s training camp.
“It’s an opportunity for guys to do some things,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “Keep in mind, we’ll have a limited number of plays because we’ve got a limited number of players participating but it’s going to be good for them. It’s a great way for us to finish up the first phase of training camp.”
After a four-day wait, the entire squad finally put on the pads on Thursday night. They stayed in those pads for a hot, muggy Friday afternoon practice and they’ll be in full pads for Saturday’s scrimmage in which the team is expected to go live with full tackling for at least portions of that scrimmage.
Of course, when the pads come on, the level of chippiness and intensity immediately ratchets up a level and it didn’t take long for the Rams to begin getting down and dirty.
Fisher, who wants his team to be aggressive and physical is just fine with some of that in his training camp but he has repeatedly emphasized the need to ensure none of it gets out of control and become something that can hurt his team when the games start.
“I mean they’re competing and they understand,” Fisher said. “The issue is allowing those things to carry over to the game. You cannot let those kinds of things carry over into a game. But out here you can understand and appreciate them protecting their teammates. I understand that.”
More important than any of that, though, is the preparation that goes with putting the pads on and doing some live, actual work in practices.
After nearly an eight-month layoff, everybody is itching to get the pads back on and at least do what NFL parlance refers to as “thudding.” There has been plenty of thudding the past couple of days at Rams practice but it will get ratcheted up a notch on Saturday when the team goes full dress for the first time.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Dunbar said. “Anytime you are playing in just shorts and t shirts, you are kind of just running to the ball and standing up but you really don’t know what it is until you get the pads on and hit. Yesterday was fun, today was fun. You get to dot up a little bit; you get to talk a little trash. It’s always good.”
The Rams did not wear any leg pads or lower half pads during Thursday or Friday’s practice but will put it all on for Saturday’s scrimmage.
The scrimmage is preceded by the first ever Rams Fan Fest at the Edward Jones Dome. Doors open at 10 a.m. for season ticket holders who will then get a chance to tour the dome and the Rams locker room and get a chance to see what a gameday experience is like for the players.
There will be other activities for fans as well including a tasting event and some football drills for the kids on the field.
At noon, the doors will open to the general public. Admission is free and general manager Les Snead will speak to the crowd.
Fisher said it’s good to open the house for Rams fans and give them a chance to see their team in the comfort of the air conditioning.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Fisher said. “It’s an opportunity for many of those employees to make up for the day that they’ll miss when we are in London. It’s a great opportunity not only for that but to invite the season ticket holders, the fans and the suite holders to see the locker room and go through the experience so they can really get a sense of what goes on on game day.”
The scrimmage is set to start at 12:30 and run approximately two hours. With the setting as it is, Fisher expects to get a lot of work done with his team Saturday afternoon.
The festivities will begin with normal practice activities such as individual drills, some one on one drills, some seven on seven and a little bit of team work.
When that is done, Fisher wants to get into some specific situation work with the added bonus of getting into some thudding and intensity.
The scrimmage will culminate with an opportunity for some of the young players who might not get many reps in the practice to do some live tackling.
“We are going to have a physical practice and they are going to finish up with a live period,” Fisher said. “We are going to do a lot of different things. We’ve got to do goal line, we’ve got to go two minute, we’ve got to do field goals. That’s typically the day that you do it is that next Saturday after camp starts. Then we are going to let the young guys mix it up a little bit so we tend to get a lot done.”
The live scrimmage portion for the rookies and young players will represent the first opportunity for those players to stand out with the lights on in advance of the preseason slate.
Fisher couldn’t help but get a sly grin on his face at the mere mention of a live football period, something he hasn’t overseen in more than a year.
“They’ll have some live competition at the end,” Fisher said.
As for the team, it’s not likely the scrimmage will hold any added importance for the veterans but that doesn’t mean they won’t be into it.
“I am just expecting a typical scrimmage,” Dunbar said. “Guys are going to want to get after it. You aren’t trying to hurt anybody but definitely play physical and attack the ball.”
Enter phase two.