Practices will be heated at coach Jeff Fisher’s first Rams training camp. And that has nothing to do with the competition for roster spots and starting positions.
Rookies reported Tuesday and take the practice field this afternoon in the midst of one of the worst heat waves in St. Louis weather history. The thermometer reached 107 degrees Tuesday and triple-digit temperatures are forecast for several more days over the next week.
With most of the team’s training camp practices scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Rams Park, Fisher isn’t hiding from the heat. But he’s being smart about it.
"We’ll talk long and hard about the importance of hydration," Fisher said. "We’re only practicing once a day. With the roster size (90 players), there’s barely enough reps to go around anyway. We’ll have our walk-throughs inside. The pads don’t go on until four or five days (into camp), so we’ll be fine."
The first three practices — today, Thursday, and Friday — basically feature rookies only. Every Rams 2012 draft pick is expected to participate today. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, one of three second-round draft picks, agreed to terms Tuesday evening. So did third-round cornerback Trumaine Johnson, meaning all 10 Rams draft picks are under contract.
Jenkins’ four-year deal is worth just over $5 million, with $3.1 million guaranteed. Contract terms weren’t immediately available on Johnson.
All three days of rookie practices are closed to the public; today is closed even to the media.
All NFL teams are allowed to bring in rookies, injured players and quarterbacks early — meaning before the start of full-squad practices. But the Rams have rarely done that in their 17 previous training camps since moving to St. Louis.
"We’ve decided to bring the rookies in a couple days early, just to get ’em acclimated, get on the field, in the (meeting) room, check their conditioning," Fisher said. "So when the veterans come in Saturday morning to condition and meet, they’ll already be well into the flow."
After the veterans report Saturday, the first full-squad practice starts at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
As for the rookie practices, even with about two dozen undrafted rookies joining 10 draft picks, the Rams won’t have enough bodies to do 11-on-11 work.
"So it’ll be a lot of individual (drills), a lot of walk-through time," Fisher said. "We’ll only be on the field about an hour or so."
After Friday’s practice, the rookies get the rest of that day off as well as Saturday to get their legs back before they’re thrown in with the veterans Sunday. The list of participating rookies already has been trimmed by two: the team released offensive lineman Michael Hay and cornerback Jeremy Caldwell decided he didn’t want to play football.
Both were signed as rookie free agents after the 2012 draft, with Hay finishing his college career at Syracuse and Caldwell playing at Eastern Kentucky. Hay is the player who was seriously injured prior to his freshman season of college after being stabbed on the streets of New York City.
In terms of players coming off injuries or surgeries, Fisher is expecting everyone to be ready to go with the possible expect of center Scott Wells. Wells had arthroscopic knee surgery in the spring after the former Green Bay Packer signed a free-agent contract with St. Louis.
"We’re going to take our time with Scott Wells," Fisher said.
Meanwhile, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui has been cleared to practice after missing the final seven games of last season with a knee injury. He will practice with the rookies, using the extra practice days to get re-acclimated to football.
Despite his reputation for having tough, physical teams in Tennessee, Fisher never beat up his squad in training camp. For the most part, his Titans teams practiced once a day, and Fisher said he never had back-to-back days of practices in full pads.
"The philosophy’s this: These guys, when they report this week, they’ll be in the best shape of the year," Fisher said. "If you’re not careful you’ll do this," and moved his hand in a downward slope.
So Fisher’s team will go hard in practice, but get time to recover.
"We’ve designed it where they’ve got plenty of meals between practices, three meals between each practice," he said. "It’s not like the old days where you practice at 9 (a.m.), practice at 3 (p.m.) and just have lunch in between.
"It’s about getting the work done; practicing real hard. It’ll be high-speed, a lot of work. When it’s a physical practice, you’ve got to practice smart. ... But the emphasis is going to be on recovery. It’s all about getting ready for the opener."
But not counting the morning walk-throughs, the Rams will have only about 22 practices before game week for the regular-season opener. Under the old collective bargaining agreement, teams used to have about three-dozen practices in that span.