It’s technically not even a live practice, but man, is it great to have football back.
The Los Angeles Rams finished up their last day of mandatory minicamp Wednesday with a brief practice including special teams drills, positional work and light throwing sessions. It did not include any scrimmaging, contact or, most notably, reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.
But don’t fret Rams fans, because the team sure isn’t.
“It’s something you can’t do anything about. I don’t stay up all night every night,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said while slightly laughing. “He didn’t come until later last year and he did OK.”
Without the returning defensive star, a lot of attention focused on the new faces in the crowd that bring much more than talent to the Rams roster.
“These guys have great personalities and they also have a swagger and confidence about themselves and they love football,” said head coach Sean McVay in regards to recently acquired All-Pro cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. “That’s what we want, guys that love football.”
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The two have proven their worth on the field over their combined 13 years, tallying a total of 53 interceptions and seven Pro Bowl appearances; however, it’s their attitude that stands out to Phillips.
“You don’t want players that do everything you say. You want them to show some initiative.”
The 70-year-old veteran coordinator coached Talib in Denver as a member of the 2016 Super Bowl winning Broncos team and is well aware of what he is dealing with when instructing the corner.
“If there’s an argument or something going on, Talib is going to take the other side,” Phillips said with a smile. “So I already know that about him. He’s going to argue about what rap singer is the best, or whatever.”
“With Coach McVay’s energy and ability to lead a room, you think, ‘we got a shot!’” special teams coordinator John Fassel said. “There was zero complacency after what we thought was a good season.”
McVay says he will go on vacation for a little now that minicamp is over before training camp arrives because “once you get close to training camp, you start to get that itch.” Others, including running back Todd Gurley and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, have not made concrete plans, but are welcoming the time to relax with open arms.
As for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, he may very well spend his time just binging cartoons.
“My favorite show is SpongeBob Squarepants,” Cooks said stone faced. When asked if he still watches it, without missing a beat, he responded, “Absolutely! I’m not joking either.”
While vacation plans are up in the air, one thing is not: football is back!