Rams ‘minicamp’: Last days at CLU, mental workloads increase, Kyren Williams returns

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — It was only fitting that a hawk circled the emerald-green grass practice fields during what is expected to be the last practice before the Los Angeles Rams relocate into Woodland Hills, Calif.

Wildlife and high winds in the fall were two trademarks of the space, a simple (and eventually, decaying) cluster of temporary trailers positioned alongside those fields, a small patch of gray rectangles in dry brown hills of the area.

“I have loved the privacy out here,” head coach Sean McVay said, “the only downside is really when it gets windy.”

Over time, two things were true of the lodgings that ended up the Rams’ home for seven years — five longer than expected: It was not fit to house an NFL team long-term, and it was also a place devoted purely to football and nothing else.

Tuesday’s practice was just a walk-through, and it will be the only day of minicamp for the team as they break for the summer. They report to training camp at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on July 23.

Here are a few notes, quotes and observations from the session — and as a reminder, the Rams prohibit credentialed media from reporting on specifics such as scheme, formations, snap counts or anything they could deem as competitive information. If a coach addresses a position hierarchy or a schematic concept directly in a news conference when asked, that information is then able to be reported.

• The Rams will have four joint practices during the preseason this summer, against the Dallas Cowboys (Oxnard, Calif.), the Chargers (Los Angeles area) and Houston Texans (Houston). Joint practices are always valuable for teams to try ideas against an actual opponent, without showing those ideas on preseason tape (and McVay doesn’t play starters, so joint practices are where those players get their competitive reps). These will weigh even more importantly on special teams, where coordinators will be able to try their concepts in the new kickoff rule for the first time.

• Lead rusher Kyren Williams is back at practice, after he missed the first portion of OTAs this spring with a foot injury. He is expected to fully participate in training camp, McVay said. The Rams clearly favor three running backs on their roster — Williams, rookie Blake Corum, and backup Ronnie Rivers. Veteran running back Boston Scott has taken on a significant role in all special teams phases.

“Even in a walk-through setting, you always feel his presence,” McVay said. “He’s always got such a great energy about himself. He’s so engaged. He’s got a great focus and concentration. We’ll be glad to be able to have him back in practice settings.”


Rookie RB Blake Corum details the process of learning Sean McVay’s offense

• McVay repeated the same line Tuesday as he has all spring, when a reporter asked him about quarterback Matthew Stafford’s ongoing contract situation. McVay confirmed in April that Stafford is looking for an adjusted contract, but the veteran has not skipped any practices — whether voluntary or not.

“It’ll be the same-as, we’ll keep things internally,” said McVay, who added that Stafford is expected to report on time to training camp.

• Cornerback Tre’Davious White participated in the walk-through, where he had previously worked to the side with an athletic trainer. White is still recovering from Achilles surgery, and while McVay expressed his hope that White will be ready for the season opener in September, the Rams are not placing a strict timeline on his return to full play. From watching White’s interactions during and after practices, it’s clear the former Buffalo Bills star has already become a go-to voice not just for players, but also for coaches.

• The Rams are blocking out an increased number of periods during practice for special teams installations and drills. Part of this is because they need to figure out their plan for the NFL’s new kickoff rule, and part is because the Rams were the league’s worst special teams unit by a wide margin in 2023.

“You want to be intentional about figuring out, ‘OK, how can we be the most complete football team — offense, defense and the kicking game,’ ” McVay said. “There’s no running away from … we have to be a lot better than what we were. And I believe that we are in the midst of figuring that out — that’s execution-oriented, that’s schematically, that’s being able to adjust to some of the new things that are on the horizon.”

McVay noted he has “been pleased” with the leadership he has seen from second-year coordinator Chase Blackburn, and new assistant special teams coordinator Chili Davis.

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• While veteran tight end Colby Parkinson, who was signed this spring in free agency, has impressed so far into OTAs, second-year tight end Davis Allen is getting a significant mental workload with Stafford and in a variety of roles.

“I feel a lot more comfortable, everything has slowed down tremendously which has helped me a ton,” Allen said. “Thankfully I trained out here this offseason. I weigh more, I feel stronger. …

“We talk about extreme accountability here. And I just, I don’t want to let anyone down. That’s my biggest fear, is letting someone down. You’ve got 10 other guys laying it out on the line and doing their job, they expect you to do yours.”

As I previously reported, tight end Hunter Long has returned to practice as well after MCL repair surgery last season.

• While the Rams’ leadoff rotation of pass rushers features Byron Young, Jared Verse and Michael Hoecht, I also have an eye on smaller-framed (but ultra-fast) second-year player Nick Hampton. When pads go on at training camp it will be interesting to see the role he carves out.

• Inside linebacker Ernest Jones did not practice throughout the spring while dealing with a knee issue (he is expected to be OK for training camp), but Tuesday spent the walk-through positions deep into the field behind the defense shadowing the plays as if he were taking actual reps. At times, safety Russ Yeast — who, as I previously reported, is training at the “star” position — hovered near Jones to talk through concepts and calls. Yeast drew praise from coaches Tuesday for some of his reads of plays during the walk-through.

(Top photo of Sean McVay: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)

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