Despite fights, Rams pleased with time in Oxnard

Regardless of the ugly finish to the two days the St. Louis Rams spent with the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California, coach Jeff Fisher and his team had mostly positive reviews of what they were able to accomplish in two joint practices.

"Competitive, productive, it was unique," defensive end Chris Long said. "I haven't done that in seven years. You know, it was good for me as a player. Well for one, I haven't practiced in a while, but you practice against different guys than you see all camp and that's what you're going to see every week is different guys. Having to come here, hit the ground running and play different guys that have different sets and play things differently, it's good for you."

From the outside, the Rams' west coast trip to play the Oakland Raiders in the preseason and practice with the Cowboys likely won't be remembered for football reasons. It will be remembered as the time the team practiced in front of a raucous group of Los Angeles Rams fans attempting to woo their favorite team back to the City of Angels. It will be remembered as the time Rams owner Stan Kroenke actually attended a training camp practice while trying to move the team to a new stadium he's planning just a bit south. And, of course, it will be remembered as the time a practice between the Rams and Cowboys erupted into a full-scale brawl.

"Fortunately, nobody got hurt," Fisher said. "I think both teams came out of two good practice sessions healthy. We got a lot of good work and it's unfortunate about the end. I'm not going to minimize it because we're not going to focus on it. We'll get it corrected. There's no place for that in our game. There's no place for that from the standpoint of being role models in this game and representing this game for kids. There's no place. That's not how this game goes, so we're sorry about that and I know Jason [Garrett] will echo the same thing. I'll talk about what we got done: we got some really good work. It was very, very competitive. We got to play a lot of people. Now we've got to move on."

From the football perspective, the joint practices were intended to be a way to help the Rams get off to a faster start. It's been a point of emphasis for the team since the spring, and Fisher even acknowledged then that part of the reasoning for scheduling the practices was to give his team the equivalent of a fifth preseason game.

In the past two years, the Rams have opened the season 1-3 and failed to dig out of the hole to playoff contention. And if you believe in historical trends, the Rams have even more motivation to start fast. The Rams have not made the playoffs with a 2-3 record or worse start in their first five games since 1952.

This year, aside from a Week 2 trip to play at Washington, the Rams play four teams who had 11 or more wins in 2014. That five-game opening stretch is tied for the second-toughest in the league entering the season.

"I really just relish this trip as a way for us to get better," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "Coach spoke to about it to us and said, 'Hey, with the limited amount of hits we get in practice now and you don't really get a whole lot of time in a lot of the preseason games, so when you practice against another team like this, it's like trying to sneak in a fifth preseason game.' This camp already, we've already had the pads on more than usual. I think that's really good for our football team. I think we need that, because we've started slow the last three years. So, what better way to try to teach us to start fast against the NFC Champs coming to our place than to put the pads on and go on."

As for the outside distractions centering on relocation, the Rams continue to try to shift focus off of that and on to the game.

"I mean we are appreciative of our fans wherever they are," Long said. "Obviously they did a great job of coming to support us. We have great fans in St. Louis, too. We're not here to choose sides. We're here to play football. We're appreciative of all of our fans."

Despite the circus atmosphere that accompanied the practices and the brawls that ended them early, Fisher didn't hesitate to say he'd do it all over again.

"It was extremely valuable," Fisher said. "I'd be the first one to say I'd love to come back and practice against the Cowboys again because they're a talented team. It's a class organization."