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NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - INSIDE SLANT
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was at practice Tuesday as the team held its first OTA of the offseason. But his mind was in Oklahoma City, his hometown, where the devastating tornado hit Monday afternoon.
In an interview with Clark Judge of cbssports.com, Bradford said, "It was definitely difficult (at practice) today in the sense that I was constantly checking my phone, and I found out two of our strength coaches at the University of Oklahoma lost their homes yesterday to the tornado. So you're constantly checking your phone and making sure they're not finding any more bodies and making sure everyone's been accounted for. So, yeah, my mind's definitely been there most of the day today."
In fact, Bradford was home Monday when the twister wreaked havoc on the southern part of the city. He lives north of Oklahoma City.
"We didn't get hit," he said, "but just watching it live on TV was really hard. Then, seeing the photos that have come out. Prayers go out to everyone's who affected by the tornado. It's just really sad. It's just hard to see that happen. You never think it can happen at home, and then to see something like that -- in a city and a state that I love dearly -- it's really hard to look at."
Bradford knows Moore, Okla., well. He said, "We played Westmoore every year when in I was in high school. They were in our district. It's a place that, going from Oklahoma City to Norman (the home the University of Oklahoma), I've probably driven through a thousand times in my life. It's literally right south of downtown Oklahoma City. It's really close to home.
"Watching it yesterday; just hearing the TV people trying to call out locations where they thought the tornado was going to hit so they could try to get people out ... I mean, the list goes on. You hear about the Warren Theater, which is one of the nicer theaters in Oklahoma City, and places like that, places where I have been before. Yeah, I knew about everywhere that tornado was."
Bradford has memories of the 1999 tornado that also hit Moore.
"People still talk about the May 3 tornado in '99," he said. "It's something that's constantly brought up. Whenever another storm comes through, it's always compared to that storm. So it's something that is definitely ingrained in that city and in that community. That's why it's just so hard to watch happen all over again.
"I remember driving through Moore after that tornado came through, and it was maybe a year or two before things were back to normal back there. You could drive through it months after it happened and literally see the track that the tornado left -- and that's something that our city and that community thought they were never going to have to go through again.
"I'm sure there are people living in Moore who survived the '99 tornado that thought they would never have to go through another tornado like that, and, then, what is it -- 14 years later? -- almost the same track and another tornado of monster proportions rips through that community. It's hard to see that.
"You hope no one ever has to go through a natural disaster like that, and to have people go through it two times in a fairly short amount of time ... I mean, your thoughts and prayers just go out to those people."
Bradford said he plans to go back after the Rams' OTAs are over and do whatever he can to help.
He said, "When I get back there, if there's anything I can do to help I'll be more than willing."
--They played together at West Virginia and lit up the scoreboard in the high-flying Mountaineers offense. Here they are again, wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey as teammates on the Rams.
Austin was selected on the first round with the eighth overall choice, while Bailey was picked in the third round. Last season, they combined for 37 receiving touchdowns with Bailey scoring 25.
Both were impressive in the rookie minicamp, while keeping in perspective the fact they were going against rookies who were mostly undrafted free agents and those in camp on a tryout.
The two roomed together and helped each other with the playbook.
"You've just got to stay in your playbook and when you get out here, don't worry about messing up," Austin said.
Bailey said, "This is something I've been waiting for my whole life. So I definitely had butterflies stepping out on the field. But once I got in a little groove, I was able to relax and just play my game."
Rams coach Jeff Fisher was impressed with how both players did during the first practices of their NFL career.
Fisher said, "Smart, competitive, they're very well-coached. They did a nice job at West Virginia coaching them with the little detail things - the release on the line of scrimmage, route running. So they're probably ahead of most from a first-impression standpoint, which is really encouraging for us.
"They're both learning, and we're just going to keep dumping offense on them so they can keep being productive over the next couple of weeks."
Prior to the draft, the Rams had private workouts with both players, and Fisher noticed that each supported the other during the workout.
"We drafted both of them, not because they went to the same school or the same program, but because they were on our board at the right time when we picked," Fisher said. "It so happens that they went to the same school and they're good friends and they're very competitive and they get along and they help each other. We saw that at the workout. They were encouraging each other at the workout, and they worked out individually. They love the game."
Bailey said it's nice to be with Austin as they step up to this level. He said, "That's a luxury, actually, to be here with a familiar face. Somebody I played with for four years, and we get to experience it all together. That's a great feeling. We get to push each other and just continue with what we were able to do at West Virginia. So it's very helpful."
But the familiarity and friendship won't extend to their living arrangement. Asked if the two plan to live together in St. Louis, Austin said, "No, we're definitely not living together. He's going to have his house and I'm going to have mine. We'll probably, definitely, live close to each other, but no we're not living with each other. I didn't live with him in college, so I'm not living with him in the league right now."
NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - NOTES, QUOTES
--Rams coach Jeff Fisher explained during the rookie minicamp why he has decided not to have a mandatory veterans minicamp this year.
Said Fisher, "After going through the experience last year, I just felt like we could get by with the OTAs. We'll have 10 OTAs and we are also permitted to have a three-day mandatory minicamp. I thought it was important because of the commitment that they made to have a week off. They come in and work for four or five weeks then come in and take a break for the vets that way we can focus on the rooks. And then it just didn't leave us time for the minicamp.
"I guess I'm just kind of old-fashioned. It's a long day. In the offseason, I don't think those things are necessary and particularly it relates directly to the commitment they made to the offseason program. They are here every day, they come in early, stay late, they have fun and they're determined."
Imbedded in that is the fact the team has had 100-percent attendance since the offseason program began April 15.
Fisher concluded, "I feel like we can get done what we need to get done in the offseason program using phase one, the phase two skill development days which we are doing now and the 10 OTAs. I feel like we can get everything installed. This is the second year in the system now so we can get it installed. They deserve the break in mid-June and they will come back in July and we'll continue to reinstall."
--Tackle Rodger Saffold made his first public comments since the Rams signed left tackle Jake Long in the first week of free agency in March. There was speculation Saffold had asked to be traded, and coach Jeff Fisher said Saffold didn't return calls after Long was signed.
Saffold has played left tackle in his first three seasons in the league, and is entering the final year of his contract. It is expected he will now move to right tackle.
Speaking to KSDK-TV, Saffold said, "I'm a tackle. Wherever I'm needed is what I do. Now, I can't say it has been an easy transition, but with the help of coaching (line coach Paul Boudreau), it's helped me ease into it. Just the little details are helping me out so far."
Asked if he was "insulted" by the signing of Long, Saffold said, "I do what's best for the team. I have confidence in myself. They wanted to make the line better, so I will just play my role."
--Undrafted free-agent running back Benny Cunningham wasn't able to participate in the rookie minicamp because of a knee injury suffered last season at Middle Tennessee. However, Cunningham has a history with the Fisher family.
In high school, Cunningham's team defeated a team that Fisher's son Trent played on in Nashville.
Coach Jeff Fisher joked, "So we're going to cut his signing bonus in half. Honestly, I don't remember him in the game, but I'm going to go back and look at my hand-held video camera and see."
Cunningham says he'll be glad to show the head coach a tape. He said, "I had 315 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. I've got a copy of that (game). I'm gonna make sure he watches that. Hopefully, that increases my chances."
However, Cunningham's high-school exploits had nothing to do with why he was signed by the Rams. It turns out he was noticed when the Rams were watching tape of defensive players from Middle Tennessee's opponents.
Said Fisher, "As we were evaluating some of the defensive players, he kept showing up. For some reason I watched several MTSU offensive games and then as the process moved further and further along, it became apparent that he's got some good run skills. We contacted him just to see if there was any interest and then once the draft was over we closed the deal."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Well, we're going to try to get the ball to him as often as we can, however we do that. He's very talented. We drafted him because he's got receiver skills, run skills, return skills, so we hope that we can use him in all those areas." - Coach Jeff Fisher on the plans for incorporating WR Tavon Austion into the offense.
NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With numerous roster spots to fill after the draft to reach the offseason limit of 90 players, the Rams got very busy signing undrafted free agents.
The most recent addition of Lindenwood wide receiver Andrew Helmick brought to 29 the number of undrafted players the Rams have signed. The Rams currently have 89 players on the roster, including their seven draft choices.
Of the 29 undrafted players, the Rams spent $75,600 in signing bonuses, with $60,000 of that going to five players. Tackle Braden Brown and safety Cody Davis each received $15,000 bonuses, while running back Benny Cunningham, and linebackers Phillip Steward and Jonathan Stewart each were paid $10,000.
Seventeen players signed did not receive a signing bonus. Following is the bonus allocation for each player.
T Braden Brown, $15,000; S Cody Davis, $15,000, RB Benny Cunningham, $10,000; LB Phillip Steward, $10,000;, LB Jonathan Stewart, $10,000; FB Eric Stevens, $5,000; WR C.J. Akins, $2,000; DE Gerald Rivers, $2,000; CB Darren Woodard, $2,000; TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, $3,100; S Cannon Smith, $1,000; CB Robert Steeples, $500.
Players that did not receive a bonus were LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, K Brett Baer, LB Daren Bates, WR Emory Blake, WR Andrew Helmick, T Sean Hooey, LS Jorgen Hus, QB Tim Jenkins, LB Joseph LeBeau, G Kenny Saia, DT Garrett Goebel, DT Al Lapuaho, CB Andre Martin, WR Scott Pillar, CB Drew Thomas, S Don Unamba, DE R.J. Washington.
A closer look at the Rams' picks:
Round 1/8 - Tavon Austin, WR/KR, 5-9, 174, West Virginia
The Rams gave up a second-round pick to move up eight spots and take arguably the best playmaker in the draft. Austin will play in the spot, lineup at running, return kicks, and who knows what else.
Round 1/30 - Alec Ogletree, LB, 6-2, 242, Georgia
Slipped to the end of the round because of character concerns, Rams coaches see him as another Keith Bulluck, who played for several of them, including Jeff Fisher, with the Titans. He gets to the ball-carrier fast and aggressively.
Round 3/71 - T.J. McDonald, S, 6-2, 219, Southern Cal
He has played deep and in the box, and the Rams believe his versatility will fit the defense. Exhibits explosive athleticism.
Round 3/92 - Stedman Bailey, WR, 5-10, 193, West Virginia
Has excellent body control and simply makes plays. Bailey led the nation with 25 touchdowns last season, and in 226 career touches never fumbled.
Round 4/113 - Barrett Jones, C/G, 6-4, 306, Alabama
Everything you want in an offensive lineman. Physical and tough, plays through injuries and is so smart, he often helped with the game plan analyzing defenses with the coaches. Started 50 games at three different positions.
Round 5/149 - Brandon McGee, CB, 5-11, 193, Miami
Considered a late bloomer, developmental player, but he will get the coaching with the Rams. Has excellent speed. Was a team captain.
Round 5/160 - Zac Stacy, RB, 5-8, 216, Vanderbilt
Short, but strong, with great tangibles and runs tough. Will be just right for apparent Rams committee at running back. Was a team captain.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYERS: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (4)
--LB Mario Haggan was a solid backup and also contributed on special teams. Unless he gets a better offer somewhere else, he might return on a one-year deal.
--DT Trevor Laws never got on the field because of an injury suffered in training camp. He probably won't be re-signed.
--LB Rocky McIntosh added veteran presence on the strong side, but would only be back on a one-year contract.
--T Barry Richardson played better than outsiders expected on the right side, and was one of only two Rams offensive linemen to start all 16 games. The Rams will probably try to re-sign him, but it is also likely there be competition for the job.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--LB Justin Cole (not tendered as RFA) contributed on special teams, and might return for the minimum salary.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--C Tim Barnes: ERFA; $480,000/1 yr.
--QB Kellen Clemens: UFA; $870,000/1 yr, $30,000 SB.
--DT Jermelle Cudjo: Potential RFA; $1.805M/2 yrs, $350,000 SB.
--DE William Hayes: UFA; $10.25M/3 yrs, $3.75M SB/$5.75M guaranteed.
--TE Mike McNeill: ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
--S Darian Stewart: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation; $1.323M/1 yr.
--G/T Chris Williams: UFA; terms unknown.
--TE Jared Cook: UFA Titans; $35.1M/5 yrs, $5M SB/$19M guaranteed.
--T Jake Long: UFA Dolphins; $34M/4 yrs, $5M SB/$20M potentially guaranteed/$12M fully guaranteed).
--TE Zach Potter: Not tendered as RFA by Jaguars; terms unknown).
--WR Danny Amendola: UFA Patriots; $31M/5 yrs, $6M SB/$10M SB.
--S Craig Dahl: UFA 49ers; $5.25M/3 yrs, $700,000 SB.
--CB Bradley Fletcher: UFA Eagles; $5.25M/2 yrs, $1.6M SB/$2.35M guaranteed.
--WR Brandon Gibson: UFA Dolphins; $9.78M/3 yrs, $3M SB/$3.75M guaranteed.
--T Wayne Hunter (released).
--RB Steven Jackson: UFA Falcons; $12M/3 yrs, $3.5M SB/$4M guaranteed.
--S Quintin Mikell (released).
--TE Matthew Mulligan (released).
--WR Steve Smith: UFA Buccaneers; $715,000/1 yr.
--G/C Robert Turner: UFA Titans; $1.5M/1 yr, $250,000 SB/$250,000 RB.