Two hours-plus wasn't enough practice for Mike Sims-Walker. He stayed after 'school" Monday, catching passes from Sam Bradford at Rams Park.
"It's critical right now, man," Sims-Walker said. "We're a little bit over a week away from the real deal. We've got to buckle down. ... I don't think me and Sam are where we want to be, especially with the timing thing. We've still got some work to do."
As a newly signed veteran, Sims-Walker had to wait until the collective bargaining agreement was approved Aug. 4 before he could practice with his new team. And then he missed a couple of days after tweaking his groin in the preseason opener against Indianapolis.
Time is running out for the veteran wide receiver to get tuned up for the regular season, and as fate would have it, Thursday's final tuneup is in Jacksonville, where Sims-Walker spent his first four NFL seasons.
"It's definitely bittersweet," he said. "I still have that, I don't call it a chip, I call it a crack. I have a crack on my shoulder. A chip is not big enough for what I got right now."
The chip, make that crack, on Sims-Walker's shoulder is because the Jaguars showed no interest in re-signing him. Of course, playing his old team would have been more meaningful in the regular season.
"Yeah, definitely," Sims-Walker said. "I looked at the schedule when I signed, and I saw it wrong. I thought it was the first game of the regular season. I was excited."
Nope, merely the preseason finale, meaning Sims-Walker and the Rams' starting offense will play only about a quarter. The Jaguars may have seen enough after four seasons, but once the free agency period began at the end of July, the receiver-needy Rams jumped on Sims-Walker quickly.
"We've always liked him," general manager Billy Devaney said. "He was nicked a little bit last year with an ankle (injury) that hampered him. He tried to play through it, but you could see that he wasn't 100 percent. The guy scored 14 touchdowns over the last two years, so he's got some ability. That's what we were looking for — a bigger guy that can run a little bit."
Count running back Steven Jackson among those excited to see Sims-Walker in St. Louis.
"I had a chance to see Mike up close and personal when we played Jacksonville a couple years ago," Jackson said. "He's a dynamic player, and he brings not only competition but credibility with being a starter in this league. He had a chance to work personally with Torry Holt for a year down in Jacksonville. He understands the art of running routes and getting open."
Sims-Walker said Holt, the longtime Ram, was a mentor and a father figure during their 2009 season together in Jacksonville.
"I called Torry up as soon as I agreed (to terms)," Sims-Walker said.
What did Holt tell him about St. Louis?
"He said it's home of the wide receivers," Sims-Walker said. "That was the first thing he said."
Sims-Walker didn't arrive as a total stranger to the Rams. He has known Jackson for a while. And he spent part of the offseason training with fellow wideout Donnie Avery in Houston. "We did a lot of speed work on the track in Houston," Sims-Walker said.
The Rams may be excited to have Sims-Walker, but the feeling is mutual — and then some.
"They don't know how excited I am to be here," he said. "This is a blessing. I call it the perfect situation. I wouldn't want to be nowhere else."
"Sam Bradford. Josh McDaniels. The wide receiver corps that we do have," Sims-Walker said. "Very underrated. I promise you. Very underrated. I train with some of the best receivers in the game. I've seen a lot, I've studied a lot of the best receivers in the game. Trust me, these guys are right there. We've just got to get it together, go out here and grind every day, compete with each other, and we'll be fine."
Jacksonville was more of a run-oriented team during Sims-Walker's tenure there. In 2010, the Jaguars were one of only four teams in the NFL that ran the ball more than it passed.
"Here, we spread it around a lot more," Sims-Walker said. "It's a receiver's dream with Josh McDaniels at the helm at OC. He throws the ball. That's all he stresses is putting stress on the defense."
When drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft out of Central Florida, he was known simply as Mike Walker. But he changed his name to Sims-Walker after his father — Michael Sims — died of colon cancer Dec. 6, 2008.
"That was very devastating for me because my dad was like my everything," Sims-Walker said.
He started the Mike-Sims Walker Foundation in 2010, with the dual purpose of educating people on the prevention of colon cancer and providing support for those affected by the illness.
Maybe it's mere coincidence, but Sims-Walker's career took off after the name change. He missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury. Knee problems plagued him again in '08, when he played in nine games and caught 16 passes as Mike Walker.
But as Sims-Walker in 2009, he broke out with 63 catches for 869 yards and seven TDs. Slowed by a nagging ankle injury last season, he finished with 43 catches for 562 yards and seven TDs.
"I think when I'm healthy I'm one of the best guys to play this game," he said.
With a fresh start in St. Louis, he'll try to show that this season.