IRVINE, Calif. — How do you know it’ll mostly be an installation/mental workday at Rams camp? The walkie-talkies come out — and not just for the coaches.
Usually, when a player has a helmet microphone (reserved for quarterbacks and whichever player calls the signals on the defense), the communication to the sideline is a lot less obvious to onlookers. But because the workload was physically lighter Tuesday, the Rams’ third day of training camp, inside linebacker Bobby Wagner had a walkie-talkie instead with a channel attuned to defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.
“It’s funny, because Rah talks a lot of trash in the walkie-talkie, too,” Wagner said after practice, smiling.
“I tried (to talk back) — they cut that portion off. They must have known I was gonna say something back. I tried to hold the button and I didn’t get static back … we’ll work on that.”
Wagner will wear the “green dot” for the Rams, meaning he’ll be the player with the green sticker on his helmet and the earpiece inside of it, who is in charge of relaying calls from the defensive coordinator to the rest of the defense .
“It’s the mike (middle) linebacker, that’s all I know,” he said. Wagner held the responsibility over the past 10 years in Seattle.
The Rams have assigned those duties to a safety in some previous years (most recently it belonged to Jordan Fuller), but traditionally the role has been filled by a middle linebacker. Typically that player does not come off the field. So far, it’s clear that the team’s plan for Wagner will be expansive, and not just on the field.
Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones stretch and debrief ahead of the day while special teams install happens on other field pic.twitter.com/DJEaAsKr4w
— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) July 26, 2022
“There are some subtleties and some different things that we’ll be asking of him, (whether) it’s blitzing (or) some of the coverage responsibilities,” head coach Sean McVay said after Tuesday’s practice. “Really, I like to pick (his) brain — really learn how did he see our stuff, what’s he seeing from the landscape of the league, what are some things that they’ve done that maybe we can incorporate.
“He’s such a mature, impressive human being that I’ve really just enjoyed getting to know him and how he carries himself day in and day out. His presence, his ability to communicate with poise, I think (it) rubs off on the rest of the guys when you try to create some frenetic paces.”
That communication was especially helpful Tuesday because the Rams did little to no live football work and instead worked mostly on conceptual drilling at 50 percent speed, including in 11-on-11 situations.
“It’s kind of just using this as a way to get their legs back underneath them,” McVay said. “Stress them on some stuff that maybe we’re not giving each other offensively and defensively, still pushing our installs a little bit. Our guys handled it really well. You can do this when you have the right kind of guys and leadership like Bobby and our other veterans. It’s an important day, but it’s still very early on in the process for us.”
(As a reminder, the Rams often structure their live periods to run the second team against the first team on each side of the ball. First-team versus first-team periods will be specified in reports. Media members cannot report on schemes or the depth chart unless addressing it directly with a coach/player in an interview, but otherwise the full practice is open to credentialed viewers.)
• Right tackle Rob Havenstein, defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, tight end Tyler Higbee and defensive tackle Aaron Donald were among the players who didn’t practice Tuesday. McVay said the team wanted the veterans to rest their legs ahead of a more intense practice Wednesday. The Rams will also have their first padded practice later this week/weekend.
• Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who said Monday that he’s still eyeing a return from shoulder surgery by the Rams’ season opener Sept. 8, did a pretty grueling on-field workout with team athletic trainers before the day’s practice began.
• Rookie running back Kyren Williams, who broke his foot during spring OTAs and had surgery, is still on track to return later in the preseason. Williams notably sticks close to his position group during drills and installation periods, even though he can’t participate directly, clearly in an effort to soak in as much information as he can. Third-year running back Cam Akers, who returned ahead of the 2021 playoffs from an Achilles tear he suffered before training camp last season, said he’s taking on a mentorship role with Williams not only as a more veteran player at the position, but also as Williams works through his own injury and recovery process.
“Just being there whenever he needs me, or just being there if he needs to talk or if he’s got a question for me,” Akers said of Williams. “Just being there when he needs me — he’s been handling it very well … He’ll be back on the field in a couple of weeks, I think … just a credit to our staff, how hard they work and how hard he’s worked to get back. I tip my hat to Kyren.”
• With the Rams spelling Brian Allen at times (for similar reasons as the aforementioned players, although Allen did veteran participate in some of the practice) and Coleman Shelton moved to center, guard Logan Bruss got installation reps with the first-team offensive line ( he and Shelton are competing for the job when Shelton isn’t backing up Allen at center). Between snaps, guard David Edwards took extra time to go over technical work with Bruss.
• Cameron Dicker took live punt reps while Riley Dixon ghost-repped through the special teams installation periods (it’s not clear whether that was by design or for health reasons, but Dixon is participating fully in practice so likely the former). Dixon, the more veteran of the two players, was signed to a one-year deal this spring but the Rams opened a “punter competition” when they added Dicker in an undrafted free agency. Dicker appeared to place the ball well as it correlated to the demands of the installation, and Dixon stood with kicker Matt Gay and talked through the play sheet. Similar to the former longtime punter Johnny Hekker, Dixon is built more like a linebacker than a stereotypical punter. The real question is: Can he throw?
(Photo of Sean McVay: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)