The St. Louis Rams kicked off their offseason conditioning program Monday. Access is as limited as the on-field work players can do during this time, but there will be plenty of things worth watching as they head toward the more open organized team activities.
As required by the collective bargaining agreement, participation in the offseason conditioning program is "voluntary" but, of course, strongly recommended. And some players can collect bonuses for participating. The program, which runs through mid-June, will lead to the aforementioned OTAs, where players can finally get on the field in a more practice-like environment.
In the meantime, here's a few things to keep an eye on over the next two months.
1. Bradford and Long's recovery: Season-ending knee injuries to quarterback Sam Bradford and left tackle Jake Long came weeks apart, leaving Bradford further along in his rehabilitation. But the Rams have remained optimistic that both players will be able to make timely returns with Bradford's sooner and Long's still coming in time to start the regular season at his normal spot on the line. The offseason program will be different for both players as they focus on rehab, but it's not out of the question that Bradford could be throwing again before OTAs are complete. Only time will tell if both players are truly on track for a timely return. We'll at least get an idea of how far they've come in the next couple of months.
2. The Williams effect: Two years after he was initially hired to handle defensive coordinator duties, Gregg Williams will finally get his chance to work with the players in place and mold his defense. While Williams' scheme is one shared with coach Jeff Fisher, there are sure to be wrinkles and adjustments he'll bring to the table. In most cases, any time a scheme change or tweak is made, the first exposure and installation of it comes during this time. Although players can't practice at full speed in the traditional sense, it can lay the foundation for training camp. Likewise, it's also a chance for Williams to see his players' strengths and weaknesses up close, which can change his approach to how they'll eventually be deployed.
3. A Britt bounce back: The Rams' signing of receiver Kenny Britt is a low-risk one that they hope comes with a high reward. Coming off his least productive NFL season, any production they can get from Britt would be a nice bonus. In fairness, Britt has battled knee issues in recent years and should now be far enough removed for those problems to be less of a problem. The offseason program represents a fresh start in new surroundings for Britt. If he's to make good on the promise he once showed, he must do it now.
4. What about Barrett?: Each member of the 2013 rookie class provided at least some sort of contribution last season. Except for offensive lineman Barrett Jones. Jones' rookie season amounted to little more than a redshirt year as he recovered from a foot injury and worked to add size and strength. The former fourth-round pick came to St. Louis with an impressive résumé and some expectations that he could be a long-term contributor. There could be some opportunity to make those contributions as soon as this season, but much will depend on how Jones' offseason has gone. A bigger, stronger Jones coming out of the offseason program would provide the Rams an intriguing option for a possible starter at left guard at best and a solid interior swingman at worst.