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The Sean McVay era begins with T-shirts

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Sean McVay's first real task as the Los Angeles Rams' head coach was to print up some T-shirts.

He ordered about 200 of them for players, coaches, the front office and even the public-relations department. They were navy blue, with the Rams' logo emblazoned on the front and the words "We Not Me" written on the back, a basic, common slogan that has developed into his first rallying cry.

"It's always going to be about the team," McVay said Monday, the first day of the Rams' offseason program. "All the decisions that we want to make are going to be from a standpoint of what's in the best interest of the team, before any personal agendas. That's what we want to embody as a coaching staff and with our players."

Four players are living that by changing positions. That includes longtime defensive end Robert Quinn, who is now an outside linebacker, and former No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson, moving from left tackle to right tackle. Robert Havenstein is transitioning from right tackle to right guard, while Lamarcus Joyner, a standout slot corner, will play free safety when the Rams are in their base 3-4 set.

Position changes will be a major focal point of the Rams' 10-week program, but a lot of other work lies ahead. An entire defense will acclimate to a new system being installed by a new defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips. An entire collection of skill-position players will align themselves with McVay and his new offensive staff. And several new players -- most notably left tackle Andrew Whitworth, wide receiver Robert Woods, outside linebacker Connor Barwin and cornerback Kayvon Webster -- will get used to new surroundings.

But first, McVay -- who, at 31, is the youngest head coach in the NFL's modern era -- had to set a tone.

Franchise quarterback Jared Goff, who has an entirely new playbook to learn, noticed "some really good, new energy here." Star running back Todd Gurley, coming off a sluggish second season, said McVay "has that energy about him, that swagger about him, that you like in a coach."

"You can definitely tell it’s a different culture, as far as what they expect from us and how things are going to go," said Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree, whose team is coming off a 4-12 season in which it missed the playoffs for the 12th straight season. "It's exciting for me and some of the guys that have been on the team for a while. We feel like it's something that’s kind of been missing from us, from this organization."

This much has to be understood first: Players loved Jeff Fisher.

They were heartbroken when he was fired in December, and many of them put the onus on themselves for not doing enough to keep him employed. But McVay's combination of energy, youth and sagacity has impressed them early on, even if his overall body of work is limited. Offensive players -- part of a unit that has finished last in the NFL in yards each of the last two seasons -- see hope in the success of McVay's offense in Washington. Defensive players are excited that he brought in Phillips, whom Ogletree called "a legend coach."

Good or bad, Fisher had a reputation for overseeing a relaxed atmosphere.

The expectation seems to be that McVay will push more out of them.

"He's got the mindset to win," Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald believes, "and like he said about holding everybody accountable -- I think that’s what we need to do. Not letting each other get comfortable, not letting each other slack."

Ogletree basically echoed that, saying McVay will implement "a whole different culture, just making sure we're accountable and dependable." Asked if he believes that was missing under Fisher, Ogletree simply said: "I think we didn't do what we needed to do last year, obviously. But this is a new year, and that's what our focus is on now."

It began with meetings that the NFL restricts to 90 minutes. Phase One of the program, which absorbs the first two weeks, is limited to strength, conditioning and physical rehabilitation. McVay is using this time to emphasize "learning our system and establishing our identity," which began with platitudes and customized shirts.

More substance will follow.

"It was a collective idea," McVay said of of the new T-shirts. "It was our idea."