Onobun eager to take next step in Rams education

2010-07-31T00:50:00Z 2010-07-31T07:27:08Z Onobun eager to take next step in Rams educationBY KATHLEEN NELSON • knelson@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8233 stltoday.com

The biggest project in the Rams' draft class says he's grateful for being graded on the curve to this point. But Fendi Onobun knows that the learning curve will steepen sharply this afternoon, when he takes part in his first full NFL practice.

"My plate is not as full as the other tight ends," Onobun said. "The OTA's really helped and gave me time to work on my craft. But it's time to get up to speed."

With three practices on Thursday and Friday to brush up, Onobun said, "I feel more comfortable with the plays."

Coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "He's so eager. He's bright-eyed. We're hopeful for him."

Onobun, 23, got a crash course in football as a walk-on, graduate senior at the University of Houston in 2009. He had stowed his football cleats in middle school to focus on basketball, earning a scholarship to Arizona, but ended up playing only sporadically. He had become a workout fiend, "a big body," he said, which caused friends to urge him to give football a try. In 11 games with the Cougars, Onobun caught just two passes for 33 yards.

"One year of experience? Try one semester," he said. "But the point was to learn football."

His natural ability, though, caught the eyes of scouts at a pro day, where he ran faster and jumped higher and farther than anyone else. The Rams held a private workout with Onobun two days before the draft and selected him with the first pick of the sixth round.

"I was surprised to hear my name so soon," Onobun said. "So many other people waited longer than they hoped."

Smith limited again

Rams tackle Jason Smith performed individual drills with the offensive line for the first half of practice Friday before moving to the sideline at Rams Park.

Smith suffered a broken toe in spring workouts, was limited in the first practice Thursday and sat out that day's afternoon session.

"The plan was for that anyway. He's getting the things he needs," Spagnuolo said. "He's getting the physical stuff, from a conditioning standpoint, so we're good with that."

Asked when Smith would be ready to return to full practices, Spagnuolo said, "These things can be kind of funny. We're talking about a toe, and it's a big guy, so I don't know."

The only other injury Friday was to safety Darian Stewart, a rookie free agent from South Carolina. Stewart "dinged his shoulder," according to Spagnuolo, who added that the injury did not appear serious.

ready for the rest

Spagnuolo seemed eager to get the full squad into practice for the first time today, after three practices with rookies and a few veterans coming back from injury.

"There were moments I thought the tempo could be a little faster," he said. "There's three linebackers, and that's it. You try to keep the tempo high but you have three guys running every play. When we get rockin' and rollin' with the whole crew, I'll probably feel a little bit better."

Avery bulks up

Wide receiver Donnie Avery checked into camp Friday about 10 pounds heavier than he did last year. On purpose. Avery put on the extra weight in an effort to improve his durability.

"I'm trying to get the weight but keep the speed as well," he said.

Putting on the pounds was tough at first, he said, "until I realized I only ate one meal a day. Once I started eating three meals, I got to 10 pounds pretty easy."

At a relatively chunky 193 pounds, Avery expects a spirited battle at wide receiver. He has a good chance of emerging as one of the starters but noted, "A lot of guys want to be No. 1. Everybody gets better when you have big competition. I'm confident in myself."

special guests

About three dozen members of the Parkway North football team attended practice Friday. They were treated to the antics of the Rams' new mascot, Rampage, who performed a back flip to their cheers, and were given a brief pep talk by Spagnuolo.

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