I hope all of you are enjoying your summers. We're on that grind here in Rams camp.
We just wrapped up our last two-a-day of camp a few days ago and while it takes some pressure off of us, I can't say that I'd rather be without them. I think we need them. Two-a-days in training camp are definitely a necessary evil.
It allows for the team to start forming a sense of continuity and also it's hardening the team to become tough, working through tough, grueling, hot, sweltering summer days. It's one of those things that, although you hate it as a football player, you understand why there's a need for two-a-days.
An average two-a-day for an injured player or someone nursing a nagging injury begins at 6:30 am to get ready for the first practice. We have an 8:15 am practice and practice is two hours. When we finish practice, we get to shower down and have lunch. After lunch you have offensive meetings for another hour, then you get a short two-hour break. Then you come back for more meetings for 90 minutes. You have snack for an hour, then another two-hour practice and one more 90-minute meeting.
"I try to lead by example," wrote Steven (St. Louis Post Dispatch).
The idea of two-a-days is to build team unity and that works, but at a certain point you also get sick of seeing everybody. After two weeks of going through such a long schedule where actually your day is 14 hours easily, you do get tired of seeing each other. You get tired of competing against one another, so nerves and people reach a boiling point where the tension produces a short fuse.
But I also think it allows for team continuity. It allows for the team to grow. You're around guys for so long that you eventually begin to talk and you get to find out each other's background. You learn about each other's family, where guys are from, what schools they went to, their story and how they got themselves into the NFL.
When the breaks do come during those days you have to manage your time wisely. Every player is different. Some guys are trying to take care of injuries, some guys go and take a nap, while some guys read books. Everyone is different, you're talking about 90-plus men so everyone doesn't spend their time the same.
For me, with my two hours I'll go see my chiropractor if I have an appointment with him. Sometimes I'll go catch up on some reading or if I'm just downright tired I'll take and hour and a half long nap then give myself 30 minutes to get back to where I need to be. It's also used for day-to-day things like going to check my mailbox. Since you have such a short amount of time you have to manage it right.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
With one preseason game down, we're well on our way into training camp, but since not many cuts have been made so far, there's not as much excitement as there is nervousness around.
Guys are fighting for roster spots and trying to compete at a high level to make sure that they're making an impression. You have a lot of young men walking around with playbooks and making sure that they know their plays. A lot of guys are asking veterans for advice. So it's not so much excitement right now. That'll come later, in a couple weeks, as the regular season approaches. Right now a lot of young men are just nervous as they try to live out a life's dream and make it on an NFL roster.
For me, these few weeks are just about getting ready for that 16-game grind of the regular season.
I just try to lead by example. I'm a huge proponent of leading by example. Whether that's doing extra wind sprints after practice or taking weight training very seriously. When I'm on the field and in practice, I'm playing at a fast pace where I'm actually working on getting out of my cuts, making sure that I'm seeing the blitz coming or that I can see the safety. I'm also reading the defense to see something may do to tip their hand or something that they may be trying to give away.
Camp is really about refining the small details of my game that I continue to work on on a daily basis. That way, when it comes up in a game, I'm not thinking about it and I'm not second-guessing myself. I'm able to just to react to it because of the muscle memory that I've built up.
In preseason games, I'm not quite sure how much playing time I will get. I will definitely play in the preseason and I think I'll be going this Saturday against the Cleveland Browns. I'm pretty much certain that I will. Playing a few snaps in these games is important because it's something that allows for me to get adjusted to the flow and speed of the game.
"I just try to lead by example. I'm a huge proponent of leading by example."
I get to take some hits, get banged up. You have to be prepared for carrying the ball and going to the ground. The physicality of preseason steps up another notch when you're going against other teams. There's still the need in football for you to kind of knock off the rust, get the timing of the play back and a feel for your offensive line. That's where the preseason will help you out as a team.
It also allows for you to see the things that you're good at or you're bad at and gives you extra time to work on them before the regular season starts. We all need that individually as players and it also helps the coaching staff figure out what things we do well and what things we don't do well. It allows for some refinement from week-to-week.
Last week we played the Minnesota Vikings and while I didn't play any snaps, I had a very vested interest in the game. The first thing you want to see is, how well does your team compete and how do guys respond to adversity? It's the overall character of your team and how we are built.
The second thing I watched was our rookies. I wanted to see which guys carried over the things that they were taught so far technique-wise, scheme-wise. You want to see if they're applying those things they learned in offseason workouts and training camp. It's so easy to get under the lights in the flow of the game and completely negate the things that you've been working on and just go back to the habits that have gotten you to this point. It's a bit confusing but some things you learn from college may not necessarily work for you in this scheme of things. So you have to rewire yourself to do things the way that the coaching staff wants you to.
"Sam is great. He's very poised and he's moving right along right where I think he should."
I liked that we were able to move the ball with all the units. First, second and third string guys were able to move the ball up and down the field. It's just a point of finishing the drives and allowing guys to continue to blossom with the scheme. I didn't like the fact that as an offense we still didn't put up any points. We came up short in short-yardage situations on a 3rd and 1 or a 4th and 1 and we couldn't convert. You kind of want to see the toughness of your team take over in those situations.
Even if you don't have all your starters, you still want to feel like your offensive unit is able to convert in short yardage situations.
Still, I like the direction that we're headed in.
Whenever you're in the first year in a system, it's going to be difficult. A lot of players come from different backgrounds, different offenses, different terminologies. So now in year two, for everyone to be under one scheme, to know the language of that scheme and to know the purpose of the offense and how things work, it allows for things to grow so much faster.
It gives the offensive coordinator the ability to call games freely because he doesn't have to worry about guys understanding the concept. It actually allows for our coaching staff to be more creative and it allows for us to be more of an explosive offense instead of running some of the basic generic plays.
I'm also really confident in the guys we have under center right now. Sam is great. He's very poised and he's moving right along right where I think he should. He's definitely putting in the time outside of practice to make sure he knows his playbook and he's putting himself in a good position to be able to lead this team sometime in the near future.
He has a demeanor that's very commanding. He's quiet but confident at the same time and you can tell that he's a poised player. He doesn't get rattled very easily. He's shown all the signs of a good leader and things that you want in your quarterback.
Having A.J. Feeley in here has been good for us as well. You always want a veteran quarterback as well when you have a young quarterback. It allows for him to try and groom the younger quarterback, talk to him about what it takes to lead team and how to deal with the long NFL season. He presents a wise person for that young quarterback to go to for advice.
People might think that having two new quarterbacks in front of me takes a lot of adjusting, but it's really not that difficult. It's a matter of getting to know one another, spending time with each guy.
I would say the hardest thing is probably getting adjusted to the way that each quarterback throws. Every quarterback is just like a pitcher. The ball out a little different from each guy. Just trying to be able to read the ball out of his hands and get adjusted to the speed and the firmness of the throw is probably the challenge that I've been dealing with the most this year. But I'm getting adjusted to each quarterback's rhythm.
"You never want to go out on a football field just trying to survive. You have to compete at a very fast level, at a very high level."
Our offensive line is getting healthy so that's a great thing. We were just able to have our starting offensive line pretty much back together on the field for the last two days. You always need that. You want continuity on that offensive line to build on and hopefully everyone stays healthy and you're able to finish the season with the same five guys that you started the season with.
I don't think I've had that one time in my NFL career where all five guys on the offensive line have stayed healthy and together from the beginning of the season to the end. To be able to have a young, athletic group like I have now and have them play together, with the continuity where they gel together, it's going to be amazing. We have talent up front, a lot of big guys up there, now we just have to make sure that we keep them all healthy and they stay on the field.
Wide receiver on this team is wide open and it's a position where you have a lot of young players working hard to be “the guy.” We have a very young core of guys that are working on their craft each and every day. I think they're doing well as a group. We don't have just one guy to lean on. We have a group of receivers that we're all trusting to make plays now and in the future.
So far in camp though, I've been very impressed with Sam and his development as a young quarterback. Also, at left tackle, Roger Saffold is doing a very good job. He has a huge responsibility on the left side and being a rookie that's a lot of pressure on him, but I think he's handled it well.
I'm very happy with some of our draft picks and our free agents that our general manager Billy Devaney has gone out and signed. I think it will be interesting to see what kind of talent they blossom into through their development over the year and the next two years.
CAN'T FIGHT THE HURT
We're also getting to that point in camp where injuries starting popping up on every team around the league.
But what I've learned is you can't think about not getting injured. You don't want to just try to survive. The ones who just try to survive end up hurt. Injuries are a part of this game. You just hope that the injuries you have are not too serious and that guys are able to bounce back from it in a timely manner. Camp allows for guys to get good work and allows for the team to build chemistry they need amongst starters. But with injuries, it also allows you to build the depth that you need.
You never want to go out on a football field just trying to survive. You have to compete at a very fast level, at a very high level so you're allowing yourself to get out of the way of piles and not get rolled up on.
In my eyes, I never want to rush to the start of the season because these next two or three weeks are very important for our coaching staff and our scouts to make the right picks on these guys. You're hoping that the long process of this grueling training camp will weed out some of the guys that aren't mentally or physically strong enough. You allow for this process to strain the real talent and the real toughness of the team and then you pick your 53 quality guys from there.
So although I'm very excited about September 12, our opener at home against the Arizona Cardinals, I don't want to rush it because I want to make sure that we select our best guys and that our best guys suit up when the regular season starts.
"We just recently named the winner of my gold cleats in our Madden highlights contest and that was really fun to do. Those clips were amazing."
That's a mentality that I've gained as a veteran. Sometimes you can become so caught up in your own personal needs and goals that you forget that to win a championship and be successful in this league, you need a great blend of talented explosive players as well as good core role guys. We need a good mixture of those two and I think that we're sifting our way through to make sure we have the playmakers as well as some guys to play some key roles on our team.
MORE TO COME
Off the field, I've been taking it easy.
The film crew wrapped up with me and now they're back in Los Angeles editing the things that we shot over the whole month of July. I'm hoping that the footage that we've put together is very entertaining and people find that it's somewhat informational as well as an inside look at my day and my life.
We don't want to go to in detail with what's going to happen with it, but in due time we'll start telling more and more about it. But right now they're editing it and trying to see if there are other shots or other things they may want to add or take away.
We just recently named the winner of my gold cleats in our Madden highlights contest and that was really fun to do. Those clips were amazing. It was great to see some of the editing and the detail of not only the game itself, but how some of my fans tried to string together highlights that somewhat mimic my running style and the passion that I play with.
It's pretty cool to know that some of the things that I thought may go overlooked by a general fan, that they're not overlooked. My fans are tuned into the way I play the game and how I care about the game and my style of play. It was very neat to get to see that in action. Then to have a winner from England is just amazing.
I'm not much of a gamer myself anymore so it was cool to get a look at that stuff. I used to be a huge gamer in college and growing up but once I got to the National Football League I kind of got away from it and I spend more of my time just trying to self educate. I read books as much as I can and I like to keep myself informed.
I read at my own pace. Sometimes I can read three or four books through the next five months of the football season and sometimes I could go through a book a month. It just all depends on how I'm feeling, the pace that I'm reading at and what's inspiring me at that moment.
When I'm not reading, I'll turn on the Travel Channel and I also watch a lot of news to make me aware of what's going on in the world and some of the daily issues that people are dealing with and I may not be dealing with. It's all just a way for me to stay educated and grounded.
I hope you the fans enjoy this new blog feature on my website, I'm looking forward to interacting with you all more as the season goes on.