BOCA RATON, Fla. -- It has been almost 20 years since Rams coach Jeff Fisher oversaw the Houston Oilers' move to Tennessee. In the time since, a lot has changed to help make the arduous process of moving an NFL franchise easier.
Sitting at breakfast Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings at the Boca Raton resort, Fisher went through what the process has been like this time around, noting a few differences and some similarities between the two moves.
But before Fisher got into any of that, he acknowledged that none of his team's 2016 opponents will care one bit about the move once the games begin.
"Our approach is that the rest of the league doesn’t care what we’re doing," Fisher said. "There’s 31 other teams getting ready for the offseason program and training camp and the regular season. We’ve got to do the same thing. The sooner we get set up and ready to go, the better off we’ll be.
"I’m not looking at this as a distraction or an excuse. We have to develop younger players, there’s still some players we have some interest in for the second tier of free agency. Obviously we have got a lot of work to do right now with the staff and scouting department to get on the same page with the draft. We’ll go from there."
From here, though, is a direct path to Los Angeles. The Rams closed down their St. Louis-based business operations last week. On Wednesday and Thursday, they shut down their football operations as the moving trucks came for the weight room equipment, the last of the contents of the Rams Park training facility.
Those moving trucks will take the pertinent gear to Oxnard, California, where the Rams will hold their offseason training program, and the nonessential things to a warehouse in Anaheim. Some of those items will be used for training camp at the University of California Irvine, while others won't be needed until the in-season modular trailers in Thousand Oaks are used. The business operations will be located in Agoura Hills for now.
Various members of the Rams organization will be moving west in the next couple of weeks and some already have set up shop. General manager Les Snead, for example, relocated to Manhattan Beach earlier this offseason. Football operations should be up and running sometime around April 4, with Fisher saying the Rams are hoping to begin draft meetings on April 5.
Unlike when Fisher and the Oilers moved, he doesn't expect there to be any hiccups on basic necessities such as electricity upon arrival in the Los Angeles area.
"We’re in position with the first move, which is going to take place next week for staff, so we’re set up and ready to go," Fisher said. "We’re not going to wait for electricity to be installed or fields to be laid or trailers to show up or those kind of things. We’ll be up and ready to go. Then we’ll have to, when our work in Oxnard is finished, we’ll go to UC Irvine and then come back to Thousand Oaks."
One thing that has made this move easier for Fisher and his staff has been the advancements in technology since the Tennessee move. Files, game tape and other important information are stored digitally, which allows for those things to be moved in computers and set up requiring only some electricity and an Internet connection.
Fisher said he packed his own stuff for the move and has begun looking for places to live.
"For coaches, back then you grabbed your beta machine and your monitor and that was all you had, so as long as you took that with you and you got the tapes, you were fine," Fisher said. "Now you’ve got all kinds of systems. We’ve got XOS, we’ve got football systems, we have everything so it’s all electronic, so you have to get it to make sure it’s all set up and running, the servers and things like that. So it’s a little more sophisticated than that. You have to have WiFi in all the rooms and things like that. Our guys will make sure it’s set up in plenty of time."
The offseason program isn't set to begin until April 18, giving Fisher and his staff a little extra time to prepare the players for the move. Fisher has said throughout the process the biggest lesson he carried over from the first move was the need to be in contact with the players as much as possible, starting with the meeting they held in Los Angeles on March 4.
"I think just from the players' standpoint, relatively speaking, the most important thing from my perspective is what you do with the players and how you handle the players and your ability to communicate with them," Fisher said. "And you learn that in a lot of ways the hard way with the first move. But there was some major lessons that were learned. You have to stay in constant communication with the players and let them know where, when and how whenever you can. We started that process with that meeting."
That means regular updates on things like traffic patterns and where to live because of Los Angeles' notoriously brutal commutes.
"We’re constantly talking to them about not necessarily the lifestyle change but about where you’re going to relocate," Fisher said. "As we’ve told them, there’s traffic patterns and we’ve explained to them the distance, the travel distance from a lot of different areas.
"So you’re going to want to live somewhere in the vicinity of that temporary facility for three years. And our hope is that the permanent site is built in the same area so we don’t have to move twice. So with respect to the players, yeah, we spend a lot of time with them. You can’t live in Orange County and train in Thousand Oaks. OK, you just can’t. Not with the hours we put in. We have to be on time."