Early schedule implications for the Rams

The St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears are scheduled to kick off the 2011 NFL exhibition schedule on Aug. 7.

That is 73 days from Thursday, plenty of time to report for camp and prepare for the opener, provided the labor standoff ends in time.

Thoughts and potential implications if the lockout drags on long enough to wipe out Hall of Fame Weekend:

  • The Rams and Bears are the only teams with five exhibition games on their schedule instead of the usual four. Veterans would surely welcome shortening the exhibition schedule by one game. Three of the last 10 teams to play five exhibition games in a season posted winning records during the corresponding regular season. Those 10 teams went 2-8 in regular-season openers, including 0-6 over the past three seasons. Even Indianapolis, which went 12-4 in 2008, lost its opener following the extended exhibition season. That team started 1-2, had a bye, then won two in a row.

  • There might be no connection between length of the exhibition schedule and regular-season performance. The last time the Rams played five exhibition games, in 2001, they won their first six regular-season games on their way to a 14-2 record. A look at regular-season records for the 10 most0-recent teams to play a fifth exhibition game: Cincinnati (4-12) and Dallas (6-10) last season; Buffalo (6-10) and Tennessee (8-8) in 2009; Washington (8-8) and Indianapolis (12-4) in 2008; Pittsburgh (10-6) and New Orleans (7-9) in 2007; and Oakland (2-14) and Philadelphia (10-6) in 2006.

  • The Rams might benefit from an extra exhibition game this season because they have a new offensive coordinator, a second-year quarterback and tougher roster decisions now that their talent base has improved. The situation at receiver will need time to shake out. An extra exhibition game could help make up for what has so far been a lost offseason in terms of preparation.

The first exhibition games usually fall about two weeks after the start of training camp. The Rams would have to report for camp around July 24 to stay on the usual timeline. Last year, the Rams' rookies and quarterbacks reported July 28, with the full squad reporting July 30. The first exhibition game was Aug. 14.