Fans Bolster Rams Spirits

Summer Camp Opens at U.C. Irvine

The Los Angeles Rams kicked off their 2019 Training Camp this past weekend at U.C. Irvine. Thousands of fans filled the perimeter of Crawford Field on the north side of campus to get the earliest glimpse of the 2018 NFC Champions start preparing for their second consecutive shot at the Super Bowl.

Head coach Sean McVay and staff put the players through multiple drills, in synch with the field clocks on site. On Saturday, opening day, the players divided into various groups: offensive and defensive starters, second-team, special teams, position players, etc. The obvious good news: all expected Rams are in camp.

Notable was the presence of the current two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Aaron Donald is participating in training camp for the first time since 2016, the year the Rams moved back to Los Angeles. Donald, who signed a six-year, $135 million extension ($87 guaranteed) last season, is also training for the first time at U.C. Irvine. The Rams trained in Oxnard in 2016 as the team resettled into Southern California.

“It wasn’t like this,” said Donald commenting about the 2016 Oxnard camp: “It wasn’t this many fans here… but it’s good for the fans to be here cheering, making noise. We feed off that and it feels like a little gameday, just being here competing and giving the fans something to watch.”

Donald participated in the roughly two-hour team workout, getting plenty of fan attention and shout-outs. “To have Aaron out here is great,” said McVay. “And really, in a lot of ways for what it represents and the influence and effect he has on his teammates. He raises the level of play of everybody here.”

More good news for the Rams was Todd Gurley participating in first-team offensive drills with quarterback Jared Goff and company. Gurley looked agile in limited action without any hint of an injured knee. But the knee questions still persist as his work is being limited to every other day for the first four days of camp.

Gurley after Day One: “Definitely business as usual… it doesn’t matter how hard you workout in the offseason, you still want to knock the dust off a little bit and just get out here and get your feet moving.”

But the knee questions still linger for Gurley: “I’m not eager doing this. I don’t have to prove anything to nobody. I have been doing this for years now… It’s my job this what I do, you know? Just had a couple months off and it’s just like alright, let’s go back to work.”

McVay following Sunday’s practice, Gurley’s off-day: “He’s feeling good. He took part in some of the stuff that we did this morning. He’ll be back out here tomorrow. Really, the first four days represents the only regularity that we have in camp because we’re practicing against the Chargers on staggered days.”

Jared Goff took plenty of snaps against Donald and the A-team. He switched back and forth after series of plays with former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback, Blake Bortles, acquired in the off-season. Backup quarterback Brandon Allen also led his group through several sets in the ongoing rotation.

One of Goff’s throws was intercepted by defensive back Agip Talib. Goff offered some levity: “I told him I did it on purpose (laughs). I don’t put as much weight on each play, I think I’m a little bit more secure in myself and I understand what matters and what doesn’t… I think it’s just understanding each play is separate, especially in practice and training camp, just trying to work.”

Fan-favorite, wide receiver Cooper Kupp received plenty of ‘Coooop Calls’ from the standing galleries and crowds watching from tent-adorned bleachers. Kupp’s catches looked familiar. It was his first action since suffering an ACL injury during the Rams 36-31 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10 last season. Kupp is steadily recovering from a successful surgery last November.

“I think the more reps that he gets at full speed, the more comfortable he’s going to get,” said McVay. “Certainly I thought it provided a great opportunity for some other guys like Josh Reynolds and like Gerald Everett to really step up and become big-time players… and really the more playmakers you can have, the better situation we’re in,” said McVay.

Excellent news for Rams fans arrived last Friday, July 26, the day before training camp started. The Rams’ success over the past two seasons impressed the Rams front office enough to offer General Manager Les Snead and McVay contract extensions through the 2023 season. Both agreed to the offers though the financial details have not been disclosed.

Gurley said it best with an added twist: “Congratulations to Les and Coach McVay. They definitely deserve it. They helped me get my deal. We helped them get theirs. You know, we all work together. I’m super excited to be around those guys for more years to come. What was your question again?”

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