The first thought for Trumaine Johnson when he woke up Wednesday morning in Stockton, Calif., was "Oh my god!"
It was more a sentiment of panic than excitement. That's because somewhat to the chagrin of Rams coach Jeff Fisher, Johnson overslept for his first official day of work.
"I set my alarm clock," Johnson said. "I didn't hear it. I missed my flight. I messed up."
There's no easy way to travel from Stockton to St. Louis, so Johnson — after agreeing to terms on his first NFL contract — couldn't make it to the Gateway City in time for Wednesday's initial rookie practice at Rams Park. (There will be no fine involved.)
But Johnson, the team's third-round draft pick from Montana, was under contract and on the field a day late for Thursday's workout.
"I'm happy I finally got a contract done," Johnson said. "It feels good to be out here with my teammates practicing."
Johnson didn't receive as much pre-draft attention as another cornerback drafted by the Rams — Janoris Jenkins — but he has excellent size for the position and could contend for playing time at nickel back this season. The spring workout period gave him an idea of what the NFL is like and Johnson feels like he belongs.
"The biggest adjustment for me out here was just the speed," Johnson said following Thursday's practice. "But other than that it was just football — and I feel like I can come in and play football. That's what I've been doing all my life."
So has Jenkins, who hopes to put aside his off-field issues and a bump or two in the contract negotiation process.
"I block that out," Jenkins said, who also signed his contract Wednesday but didn't miss any practice time. "I use it as a motivation and just play football because people are going to say what they're going to say. I know what kind of kid I am, who I am, and I'm just ready to play football."
Jenkins added: "I was going to come to camp anyway, whether I got my contract done or not."
Johnson echoed similar thoughts, but chalk those comments up to the innocence of youth. Players who are not under contract are not allowed to participate in training camp.
So there were no holdouts, and save for the missed flight by Johnson, no missed practice time by the Rams rookie draft class. The days of Orlando Pace going oh-for-Macomb are over because of the structure of the new collective bargaining agreement.
"In the new system that's basically the way it is," Fisher said. "In the past we've had the philosophy of we'll coach the guys we've got. And when the (draft picks) get in they get in. But in the new system, it's pretty easy to get them back into camp on time."
For the record, Jenkins said Fisher's recommendation of a financial advisor for him was not an issue as far as he was concerned.
"No sir," he replied. "That was the business side. I wasn't worried about all that. Whatever they were doing on that end, I was working out training for football."
During the break between the end of the spring practice period and now, Jenkins said he trained, spent time with his four children, and "took my mom a couple places."
So with the arrival of Johnson, all of the Rams rookies — numbering 31 draft picks and undrafted rookies — were on the field. With an asterisk though. As was the case on Wednesday, offensive guard Rokevious Watkins was limited only to stretching and conditioning work on Thursday.
"He had a little setback from the time he left to the time he got back," Fisher said. "We're just trying to get him back in the swing of things."
In other words, Watkins gained some weight during the late-June, early-July break and reported out of shape.
"He had a little trouble pushing himself away from the dinner table," Fisher said.
Listed at 6-3, 338 pounds, Watkins has had weight issues over the course of his college career. The fifth-round pick from South Carolina has a chance to start at left guard this season. It's a wide-open position. Obviously, the sooner he gets in playing shape, the better his chances to seriously compete for the job.
Third-year tight end Michael Hoomanawanui competed in his second straight practice with the rookies. Fisher said it was Hoomanawanui's idea to work with the rookies, and because he's coming off an injury, he's allowed to participate under league rules.
Hoomanawanui wore a brace on his right knee, which was injured trying to hurdle Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden last season. But he moved well on Thursday and looked leaner yet stronger. At 262, he's a few pounds lighter than his normal playing weight and his body fat is down to 10 percent from 14 percent.
The Rams got a break in the weather Thursday, with temperatures "only" in the low 90s at Rams Park as opposed to 107 for Wednesday's workout. "It's a significant difference over yesterday," Fisher said. "But we (haven't) had any issues."