Don’t expect Rams Fisher to change stance on mandatory minicamps

While so much will change this year for the Rams upon moving to Los Angeles, don’t expect head coach Jeff Fisher to alter his approach to mandatory minicamps.

He still isn’t a fan of them, so it’s pretty much certain the Rams will remain the only team in the league that doesn’t utilize them.

But more on that in a bit.

First, a refresher on how NFL offseasons work relative to team workouts and interaction with coaches.

Based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each club has a “voluntary” nine-week offseason program that unfolds over three phases:

Phase One consists of the first two weeks of the program with activities limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.

Phase Two consists of the next three weeks of the program. On-field workouts may include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practice conducted on a “separates” basis. No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted.

Phase Three consists of the next four weeks of the program. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or “OTAs.” No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.

In addition, each team is allowed a three-day mandatory minicamp.

And that’s where Fisher draws the line. Simply put, he believes the OTA’s are more than sufficient provided there is consistent player participation.

“I can’t remember having a minicamp, ever…not a mandatory,” Fisher said. “Particularly because our player attendance in participation in the off-season program, has been so good and that’s the trade-off. ‘Hey, if you guys come, we don’t need to have a mini-camp.’”

Fisher, a former NFL player, thinks it’s overkill to force a professional athlete to practice so much during the offseason.

Or, as he explained:

“The mini-camps have changed, but back before this last collective bargaining agreement, the mini-camp, you were permitted to practice twice a day for at least two-consecutive days in a row and I never agreed with it,” he said. “I always questioned why you would take a professional athlete in the middle of the off-season and make him practice twice a day. It just didn’t make sense to me, so therefore we didn’t do it.

“Now, under the current guidelines of the minicamp, we’re not permitted to have two practices. We can have one and a walk-thru similar to training camp, but we can mandate that they’re there. If they’re not, they can be fined for not participating. So, I left that up in the air. But, you can’t have your minicamp until you’ve completed a minimum of six OTAs. Once you get six OTAs in, well, before that I’ll know and we’ll inform the league. I don’t necessarily want it. I think the minicamp, the length of day is a little long for the off-season.”

Fisher is also understanding that things come up, meaning 100 percent participation is sometimes compromised. But as long as there is communication, he’s OK with a guy missing a day or two.

“I’m expecting outstanding participation, but things come up, too,” he said. “That’s the thing about the off-season program, but our guys have been good about this. It’s clearly voluntary. It’s well reported that our off-season program is voluntary, but coaches expect players to be there. It’s their job. You can’t fine them for not being there. Our participation over the years has been outstanding.

“One of the things that makes it work, and I’ll let them know early, is I know things are going to come up. You may have committed to a wedding or you might have decided to take your wife on a cruise. Just let me know. What we frown upon is so and so walking into the building after 10 days and we don’t know where he’s at. Just tell us what you’re doing. Things come up. It’s fine. If you need to go, you have something to do, we’ll make sure you’re working out some place else. We’ll set it up for you. I think you get better results out of your off-season program when you take that approach.”

Drawing up a blueprint on how Rams can secure franchise QB and WR through NFL draft

As soon as the Rams land back in Southern California next week, they will immediately turn their attention to preparing for the NFL Draft April 28-30 in Chicago.

Much of that focus will be on securing their quarterback of the future and landing a top-flight wide receiver – both of which are necessary to lifting their offense from the bottom of the NFL heap to something much more respectable.

The Rams have the 15th pick overall in the first round, which appears much too low to get a shot at one of the two top quarterbacks – North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz and Cal’s Jared Goff.

But with a little bit of creativity – and reeling in a willing trade partner – they are well positioned to move up in the draft and be in position to land either Wentz or Goff, then address wide receiver in the second round.

Or, they can sit tight at 15 to select one of the top-ranked wide receivers then move back into the tail end of the first round for their quarterback – Michigan State’s Connor Cook would be an obvious target.

Here is a blueprint explaining how the Rams can achieve their goals, although it will take some guts and creativity.

Rams to be featured team on Hard Knocks in 2016

As if moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles didn’t present enough of a challenge for the Rams, they’ve decided to chronicle the first-year transition back to L.A. while being the featured team on the HBO show Hard Knocks.

Here is the announcement the Rams just released:

With anticipation building as the NFL returns to Los Angeles for the first time in 22 years, HBO Sports, NFL Films and the Los Angeles Rams team up for an all-access look at what it takes to make it in the National Football League on the new season of the league’s signature documentary TV program. Debuting this summer, HARD KNOCKS: TRAINING CAMP WITH THE LOS ANGELES RAMS will be there every step of the way as NFL Films cameras follow the organization’s return to Southern California.

The first sports-based reality series – and one of the fastest-turnaround programs on TV – kicks off its five-episode 11th season TUESDAY, AUG. 9 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO. Other hour-long episodes of the 12-time Sports Emmy®-winning series debut subsequent Tuesdays at the same time, culminating in the Sept. 6 season finale.

“We are thrilled that the 11th edition of HARD KNOCKS will spotlight a team from the NFC West Division for the first time,” says Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports. “It’s exciting to chronicle a franchise with so many compelling storylines, highlighted by the team’s return to the Los Angeles market and the enormously warm reception the Rams are experiencing. The series has become a summertime destination for TV viewers, and we can’t wait for the premiere on August 9.”

“From the moment it was announced the Rams would be returning to the Los Angeles market, this franchise felt like a natural for the next season of HARD KNOCKS,” says Ken Rodgers, coordinating producer, NFL Films. “We look forward to capturing the move to Southern California, training camp and everything in-between.”

Cameras are already rolling as HARD KNOCKS is set to document the Rams’ exciting homecoming. In August, the cinema verité series will focus on the daily lives and routines of players and coaches as the Los Angeles Rams, who compete in the powerhouse NFC West division, conduct the franchise’s first training camp in Southern California since the team’s 1946-1994 tenure there. HARD KNOCKS: TRAINING CAMP WITH THE LOS ANGELES RAMS will chronicle fifth-year head coach Jeff Fisher and an intriguing mix of Pro Bowl veterans, emerging stars, free agents and rookie hopefuls throughout training camp and the preseason schedule.

Each week, players will experience drills, instruction, meetings and fun, while striving to prove they have what it takes to make the team and leave their mark on the NFL.

“The Rams are proud to partner with NFL Films and HBO Sports to document the Rams’ return to Los Angeles and the preparations for our upcoming season,” says Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ COO. “HARD KNOCKS will give fans an in-depth look into our young team and provide us a unique opportunity to tell the story of this historic season.”

A 30-person NFL Films crew will be at the Rams’ training camp at team headquarters in Southern California, shooting more than 1,500 hours of footage over the course of the series. Camera and sound crews will have unencumbered access to the players’ and coaches’ meeting rooms, training rooms, living quarters and practice fields.

“This is an exciting time for our franchise,” says Rams head coach Jeff Fisher. “HARD KNOCKS will be an outstanding way to bring our fans into our training camp and preseason, and give a glimpse of the hard work and dedication of our players, coaches and staff as we prepare for the 2016 season.”

No other sports reality series can match the production excellence, critical acclaim, awards and audience numbers posted by HARD KNOCKS, which has produced 52 memorable episodes and one anniversary special in its first ten seasons. The five-part 2015 series on the Houston Texans registered the second-highest viewership level for the show since 2002. Houston, which went on to win the AFC South championship, averaged 4.4 million viewers per episode, a 20% increase from 2014.

Winner of 12 Sports Emmy® Awards to date, HARD KNOCKS launched with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, followed by the Dallas Cowboys in 2002, and resumed in 2007 with the Kansas City Chiefs, subsequently spotlighting the Cowboys (2008), Cincinnati Bengals (2009), New York Jets (2010), Miami Dolphins (2012), Bengals (2013), Atlanta Falcons (2014) and Houston Texans (2015).

The last six teams featured on HARD KNOCKS have equaled or improved their win-loss record in the regular season. Teams who have recently earned playoff berths immediately following their appearance on HARD KNOCKS include the Bengals (2009, 2013), Jets (2010) and Houston Texans (2015).

The Washington Post wrote, “Turning football players into people is what HBO’s HARD KNOCKS series does so well. The massive scope, meticulous editing and time-hopping special effects that highlight a production under massive time constraints are all impressive, but it’s the film crew’s access to NFL players that makes the program special.” New York’s Daily News termed it “the gold standard of sports reality programming,” while espnW wrote, “The return of the NFL season also means the return of one of the best shows on television, ‘Hard Knocks.’ This [is a] rare look at how any given moment can be the end of a season or even a career.”

Winner of 121 Sports Emmy® Awards, NFL Films remains a gold standard in sports television, providing unprecedented access to and legendary storytelling about the sport of professional football. NFL Films is a part of NFL Media, the owned and operated media division of the National Football League, which comprises NFL Network, NFL Films,, NFL Now, NFL Mobile from Verizon and NFL RedZone.

NFL content has never been more popular across the media landscape. According to the Nielsen Company, 199 million people tuned into the 2015 NFL regular season, representing 78% of all television homes and 67% of potential viewers in the U.S. NFL games accounted for the top 25 – and 46 of the top 50 – most-watched TV shows among all programming in 2015.


Incidentally, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was asked about the possibility of being on Hard Knocks today at the NFL League meetings in Boca Raton Florida and said he’d welcome it. Fisher also indicated the feedback he’s gotten from teams that have done it in the past is, after the first few days of filming any distractions dissipate.


Rams coach Jeff Fisher a fan of Carson Wentz and Jared Goff

It probably doesn’t come as any surprise – especially given the Rams need at quarterback and the focus and effort they’ll put it breaking down the top quarterback prospects in next month’s draft – but Rams head coach Jeff Fisher has begun the process of digging into North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz and Cal’s Jared Goff, the two highest-rated quarterbacks in the draft.

Like so many others, Fisher is impressed.

“Wentz is obviously very smart. I don’t think he’s ever gotten a B in his life. He’s got the leadership qualities. And from a football standpoint he’s got all the traits,” Fisher said. “The am strength and decision making ability and he can make all the throws. The same thing with Goff, too. Not every quarterback coming out is going to have that same personality. All their personality types are different. But both of them are perfect for the NFL and can get in the huddle and lead and win games.”

Fisher shed some light into what he zones in on when breaking down a quarterback, and both Goff and Wentz seem to check off the boxes Fisher most values.

“You have to take the mobility into consideration. And then the arm strength and decision making,” Fisher said. “You have to look and see what they did, what the body of work was. What system they played in, what they were required to do. And then, if it’s not pro style, how far long are they and how far away are they, as well?”

That last part seems especially applicable to Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, who is regarded as the third best quarterback in the draft but faces a considerable learning curve adjusting from the Tigers spread offense to a pro-style system. Lynch has potential, but the question is how long will it take to make the transition.

If he ever does.

It’s still early in the process, but the sense is while the Rams value Wentz and Goff as elite prospects, Lynch is more of a work-in-progress development prospect.

The problem for the Rams is, while Lynch might be available when they pick at 15, it’s a long shot Goff or Wentz will be there. Which means they’ll have to trade up to get a shot at one of the other.

For the Rams, long-term approach prevails over trying to make an L.A. splash

When the Rams were approved for relocation to Los Angeles, there was a prevailing assumption they’d want to coronate their re-entry into L.A. with big splashy moves to grab headlines, capture attention and spark enthusiasm.

Think the Dodgers when Guggenheim Baseball Management took over and immediately added significant payroll and buzz with the acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, among others.

It was a fair assumption given how the stage the Rams are climbing in L.A. has been dark for more than 20 years.

But it was ultimately flawed.

While the Rams absolutely want to capture L.A.’s imagination, they prefer it be on the field, not through headlines. And whatever they do, it needs to be with the big picture in mind.

“You can’t think short term because short term, by definition, is short,” said Rams general manager Les Snead. “You’re always thinking long term and what’s best, what’s sustainable.”

That was the approach Snead and the Rams took through through first wave of free agency, choosing to focus on retaining their own players rather than spend big money on outside additions. And keeping in mind the need to preserve cap room flexibility to retain some of their future free agents.

“What we had to think about this year, going into free agency, is we had four pretty good players that were targeted by a lot of teams – our two corners, Rodney (McLeod) and (Mark) Barron, so you’ve got to plan for, you want to keep them but you also have a group of guys that are going to come up next year, and then a group of guys that are coming up the following year. So you’re always thinking about that.

“So yes, we’d like to keep all four of those guys but to be able to do that, there’s only a certain amount you can spend because you don’t want to get into a situation where you get into next year and you’re saying, well, we can’t keep him. So it’s tough.”

That doesn’t mean the Rams are opposed to going outside the organization to add an impact player – especially with such an obvious need to improve the offense – but they won’t do it gratuitously simply to capture a headline or create a buzz.

“You want to spend (money) wisely, and if we didn’t spend it (on someone in particular) we felt is was the wise thing to do. But we’re still well aware of, whatever our stats are on offense and you start from there and move down the list, we know we have to improve in that area. And if it wasn’t in free agency, hopefully it’s the draft. And if it’s not the draft, then it’s got to come from within. It’s got to be, look, they aren’t calling the games off, we need to figure this out. But we’re well aware that to get where we want to be we need to go from the 30’s in scoring points to a lot better.”