EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As the only team without mandatory minicamps and the last team to start organized team activities and sign its draft class, the St. Louis Rams make no bones about their unique approach to the offseason program.
And while doing things differently from the rest of the league hasn't yielded much in the way of results on the field, Rams coach Jeff Fisher has no plans to change how his team goes about its business.
For example, don't expect to see the word "minicamp" come off the team's blacklist anytime soon. While most teams around the league welcomed their newly drafted rookies with a weekend minicamp soon after the draft, the Rams had what Fisher referred to only as an orientation. There, the rookies are asked only to get acclimated to what the team is doing before throwing them in the mix with the veterans.
Fisher's belief is that rookies aren't in physical condition to step on the field and get right back to football without some time in the team's strength and conditioning program. As devastating injuries to valuable draft picks struck in places like Jacksonville and Denver, Fisher made it a point to bring along his new additions slowly.
"Our philosophy since the rookie orientation is to assess the rookies while the vets are conditioning and then get the rookies back into a position and get them caught up with the veteran group so that they (can) compete," Fisher said. "So we did that. We had a couple really good weeks."
After taking that time, plus an extra week in which the veterans got some time off while the rookies kept working, the team reconvened in St. Louis last week for the start of OTAs. Even then, though, Fisher wanted to take some time before pushing everybody into extensive work. The Rams had their first OTA last Tuesday and followed with a 90-minute "phase two" exercise on the field and OTAs on Thursday and Friday.
The Rams resume their second week of OTAs on Tuesday as many of the other teams around the league finish up with mandatory minicamps. With their final OTA set for June 18, the Rams will be one of the last teams to finish and the only team in the league to finish with no minicamp.
Even with a new offensive coordinator and quarterback, Fisher said he never gave much consideration to changing up the plan.
“No, I didn’t think it was necessary," Fisher said. "I think when you look actually at the veteran minicamp, it’s really no different than an OTA. You’re allowed to go on the field once. You get to have a walkthrough. You get to keep them in the building for 12 hours rather than six. I personally think that’s too much and too long during the offseason.
"There’s a distinct difference between what we can do with the rookies and what we can do with the veterans. There’s a six-hour time limit window on OTA day and two hours on the field. There’s no restrictions with the rookies. We’re getting a lot of extra time with the rookies in the afternoon. We’re getting caught up.
"I’ve just always been one of those that has been opposed to the mandatory minicamp, especially back in the days when you’ve got to go on the field twice a day. It just made no sense to me that you’re taking professional athletes and making them practice twice a day in the middle of the offseason. It didn’t make sense, probably because I hated it.”