Pads on, intensity up at Rams practice
BY JIM THOMAS
02 Aug 2012http://www.stltoday.com/sports/football ... 0f31a.html
When the pads go on, the intensity usually gets dialed up. Such was the case Thursday evening at Rams Park, the first full-squad practice in shoulder pads for the team.
There were no punches thrown, and nothing resembling a brawl. But it got chippy at times during the Rams’ 2-hour, 15-minute practice. Namely, some pushing and shoving, the occasional heated word, and plenty of contact.
One player who seemed to be in the thick of it every time was new outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, a feisty free-agent pickup from New Orleans.
One example: Late in practice during 11-on-11 work, tight end Lance Kendricks caught a short pass over the middle and was absolutely drilled _ stopped in his tracks _ by cornerback Cortland Finnegan.
On the very next play, Steven Jackson was running with the ball and Finnegan had a chance for a clean shot. But he gave Jackson a mere love tap.
This sometimes is the way of the world in an NFL practice. The second-year tight end still finding his way in the league _ Kendricks _ gets leveled. The three-year Pro Bowl running back and architect of seven straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons _ Jackson _ gets tapped.
Apparently, Dunbar didn’t get that memo. Because an instant after Finnegan tapped Jackson, Dunbar drilled him. Jackson didn’t have much of a reaction either way. But right guard Harvey Dahl did, angrily getting some face time with Dunbar to express his displeasure over Dunbar’s hit.
As might be expected, coach Jeff Fisher didn’t have a problem with any of the spirited exchanges.
"They’re competing, and they understand," Fisher said. "The issue is allowing those things to carry over to the game. You cannot let those kinds of things carry over to the game. But out here, you can understand and appreciate them protecting their teammates."
* * *Injury update
For the first time in training camp, rookie offensive guard Rokevious Watkins took part in 11-on-11 work. Watkins, who reported to camp out of shape and overweight, is expected to eventually compete for the starting spot at left guard. But he made his 11-on-11 "debut" at right guard Thursday.
"He’s worked very, very hard inside," Fisher said, referring to Watkins’ conditioning work inside. "He’s still not quite there yet, but he’s getting closer. Based on where he’s come in the short period of time, I imagine it’ll take him another week before he’s caught up."
The Rams were minus another cornerback, with Jerome Murphy sidelined with what Fisher referred to only as "soreness."
But corners Josh Gordy (hamstring) and Kendric Burney (hamstring) did individual drills Thursday, so they’re close to full health. Wide receiver Danario Alexander (hamstring) also did some individual drills.
"We have a chance to get them all back in a day or so," Fisher said.
At safety Darian Stewart (hamstring) missed his second straight day of practice, meaning a temporary end to the day-by-day rotation of Stewart and Craig Dahl taking turns with the starting defense.
* * *3 Observations
Fourth-round draft pick Chris Givens has displayed speed, quickness, and the ability to make the big catch. But he continues to have some trouble hanging onto the ball in traffic over middle.
One of the best parts of linebacker James Laurinaitis’s game is his coverage skill. He had another practice interception Thursday, cutting in front of Jackson during 1-on-1 drills.
Kirkwood High (and Nebraska) product Mike McNeill has done a good job catching the ball so far in camp. He’s among that large scrum of players competing at tight end.
* * *Ram-blings
Rap star Nelly took in Thursday’s practice. . . .Bryan Mattison got some reps with the starters Thursday at left guard. . . .Friday’s practice begins at 3:30 p.m. and is open to the public. . . .NFL replacement officials have arrived for three days of work officiating Rams practices.