THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Practice ended at around 3:30 p.m. PT on Monday, and Cory Harkey walked straight towards the JUGS machine.
Harkey spent five years being used mainly as an additional blocker by Jeff Fisher. But now he is operating under new Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, who requires versatility out of his tight ends and fullbacks. To solidify a role in this offense -- and, perhaps, to secure a spot on the final 53-man roster -- Harkey must prove he can be as effective at catching passes as he is at setting up blocks.
"I'm here to do whatever I need to do to help the team win, and that's my attitude my whole career," Harkey said. "Whatever's asked of me, I'm going to do it, and I'm going to do it to the best of my ability. I'm going to find a way to be great at it."
Harkey has been a key locker-room presence and a steady special-teams contributor over the last few years. But he caught only 27 passes for 215 yards from 2012-16, and none of those receptions came last season, a year that saw Harkey miss the last four weeks because of a triceps injury.
The Rams have drafted three tight ends over the last two years, a list that includes Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett and Temarrick Hemingway. They even selected a fullback, the versatile Sam Rogers, in the sixth round this past April.
They're all threats in the passing game, which is not necessarily Harkey's strength.
Harkey has nonetheless been impressed by McVay's offensive knowledge and believes he can help him get better. The 27-year-old Harkey has worked out with both the fullbacks and the tight ends during training camp and has been used inline more frequently than ever, which he likes. He is signed through 2018, with the Rams able to save $800,000 towards Harkey's $1.8 million cap hit if they ultimately choose to part ways.
Harkey is hopeful that a concrete role will ultimately materialize.
"That's something that’s just going to happen naturally," said Harkey, who has made two catches for 18 yards in the preseason, while playing mostly during the second half. "I’m just trying to get better every single day, trying to do the best I can."