ST. LOUIS (AP) – St. Louis Rams rookies got a three-day head start at training camp. New coach Jeff Fisher hopes that’ll help them adjust now that the veterans have arrived.
The first full-squad practice is Sunday afternoon, giving Fisher two weeks to prepare for the first preseason game Aug. 12 at Indianapolis. The Rams and Colts tied for the worst record in the NFL last year at 2-14.
Players were due to report Saturday morning for a team meeting, followed by conditioning tests, but no work on the field.
“I’m very excited. Everybody’s excited,” Fisher said. “Vets are inside watching practice through the window and coming in early and lifting.”
After a year away from the NFL, Fisher is rebuilding a franchise that has averaged just three victories the last five seasons. Expectations are measured outside of Rams Park, where Fisher has constantly downplayed the past, with Las Vegas oddsmakers setting the over-under at six victories.
The Rams have upgraded at wide receiver, drafting Brian Quick and Chris Givens and with Danny Amendola, who caught 85 passes in 2010, healthy again after missing virtually all of 2011 with an elbow injury.
They’re stronger in the secondary, too, after signing cornerback Cortland Finnegan in free agency. They’ve tried to fill holes at center, signing
Scott Wells, and on the defensive line by signing tackle Kendall Langford and drafting tackle Michael Brockers in the first round. Third round pick Isaiah Pead is a potential quality backup for running back Steven Jackson.
Fullback Ovie Mughelli, the starter in Atlanta the last four seasons but coming off a knee injury in Week 7 last year, signed a one-year contract
Saturday. The Falcons released Mughelli, a Pro Bowler in 2010, in May to clear salary cap space.
Fisher was pleased with the rookies’ retention level from organized team activities last month. The main drawback to the smaller group was the lack of complete offensive and defensive lines.
Even though the rookies got work in smaller groups and didn’t overworked to avoid muscle pulls, Fisher is hoping that’ll pay off when the roster swells.
Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, coming off knee surgery last November, was permitted to participate in the early practices. Fisher said Hoomanawanui, dogged by injuries in his career, asked the team if he could also get an early start.
Hoomanawanui, limited to eight games in 2010 and last year, has extra motivation given the team has eight tight ends in camp.
“In his case it’s a really good idea to ease him back in to get the confidence in the knee, and he’s really done a good job,” Fisher said. “He’s been running, he did great in the conditioning test.
“He’s worked hard and he appears to be back for good.”
Offensive lineman Rokevious Watkins, a fifth-round pick, was limited to the conditioning portion of practice after adding weight since the end of organized team activities.
“Yeah, he had a little setback from the time he left to the time he came back,” Fisher said. “We’re just trying to get him back in the swing of things.”
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