COURTESY OF LOS ANGELES RAMS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
(On whether they had their first team meeting yet and what will be discussed in the first meeting) "Good question on the timing of today. I'm not sure if they've had the full team meeting. The answer will be yes, that they did it have it (today). I know he (Head Coach Sean McVay) was going to break down offense and defense too, so I don't want to get into the specifics of the schedule. I think from a team standpoint - it's, 'Welcome Back.' Obviously, there will be talk about COVID. But, there will be a lot of talk about the 2020 season and our goals going into it, and our football goals as well. You need to combine what the nation is dealing with, along with the specific microscopic 2020 goals as the Rams football team."
(On the approach leading up to training camp)
"Well, it is interesting as a general manager overseeing and leading football operations. Your expertise isn't necessarily in, let's call it, preparing the building to mitigate the spread of a virus like COVID. But, what I can say is – what we do, and the best thing to do, is try and help put people that can dominate that type of role and probably stay out of their way. Along the way, we had a lot of meetings. I give (Vice President, Sports Medicine & Performance) Reggie Scott, (Director of Football Operations) Sophie Harlan, (Manager of Facility Operations) Chris Hawes, and (Analyst of Football Administration) Kassandra Garcia, as well, who we hired last year to do a lot of the administration – what they did was put together some task forces and didn't take a day off this summer. Reggie, who is president of the (Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society) PFATS and works closely with the NFL and NFLPA doctors as they navigated a complex and dynamic situation that was changing daily. To be able to spend a lot of hours to do their best and make sure our facility would be as safe as possible. (inaudible)”
(On the current contract status of CB Jalen Ramsey and more on the approach to the 2020 season)
"You know us, we will keep the intimacy of those details with the players, let’s call it, contracts that are expiring this year, we'll keep those in-house. I think that's the best practice, that’s the way we do it. What we have to do and what we do always and what I did as the general manager more than actually 'help' prepare the facility for the on-boarding of our team, was to continue to do what you do as a general manager and that’s to look at your microscopic planning for 2020, in terms of the football team. And also your telescopic planning. I think what was different this year is you knew there would be some changes, or maybe some adjustments based on what we're dealing with, in particularly with the cap moving forward. I think all the general managers, all clubs, had to navigate that situation knowing there would be different than what we had planned for. Once that piece of data became more certain, it does allow us to continue doing what we do and planning, like I always say, microscopically and telescopically.”
(On where the Rams stand with contract negotiations for Ramsey and if an extension will get done before the season opener like has been done with other players)
"You're correct on kind of seeing our trends. Again, not going to get into the intimacy of the details, I think we've done that. We do have very healthy relationships with our players. With Jalen's agent, David Mulugheta, great guy, really good agent, up and coming and has a lot of premier clients in this league. So, we have that healthy relationship. We've had dialogue with him, obviously since the middle of the 2019 season when we made the trade. That goes with, the other players on our roster that have contracts that are coming to fruition or going to expire in the 2020 season or after it."
(On if the Rams are confident in getting a deal done before the season opener for Ramsey)
"I would put confidence into the intimacy category. In terms of, I don't think that's, you know, best to share publicly."
(On if not knowing the salary cap situations for 2021 or 2022 pushed back negotiations this offseason)
"I don't know if it pushed it back or forward. What it really does is in your scenario planning, especially from the telescopic view is, just begin running scenarios. Really, they’re if/then statements, right? If you do this, you know, what happens you know, what's the other part of that equation. So, we'll do a lot of that this August and you're going to run scenarios in the goal of trying to continue putting a team on the field that, we expect to contend and be in contention for division championships, and then go from there."
(On how to evaluate players on other teams without preseason games)
"Obviously, we're missing a chunk of the evaluation process, which is usually 15 to 120 plays of players who are on the bubble, could get cut, and eventually do get cut. And at the part you're missing really is, the developmental part that takes place at the end of the season and then comes to fruition on the field during preseasons. I think what us and most teams will do, is they'll be some type of blend between how we evaluated that player coming out for the draft, and then also you can also take in the evaluation of past snaps, let’s call it in meaningful moments in the real games over the past seasons. So, every team is going to come up with their different formula that's going to probably blend college evaluation and past pro evaluations whether it’s regular season or past preseasons. It's obvious we'll miss the variable that happened to us 15 to 100, to 120 plays that most of us get a chance to see during the preseason.
(On is having no preseason games an advantage or disadvantage)
"There are often times, right, that if you've done a good job developing a young player, them not be exposed to the waiver wire – I know we ran through that a little bit last year where, I think it was five of our players that we cut, did get claimed. Now obviously they didn't make our 53, but it did disrupt maybe some plans we had for practice squad. So, that'll be interesting if you polled every team, do they think this is a positive or a negative – not having the other 31 clubs be able to evaluate their players."
(On if he thinks there will be as much activity when roster cut-down days come)
“If I was betting, I’d bet you’d have less activity. One thing would be, right, I think not having a preseason plays a part in it, but I also think, in the environment of COVID, having players that know your system will probably play a role in it too. As an example, you get into game weeks and later in the week, you do lose, lets call it a chunk of a position group based on a positive test and contact tracing. Having more players that know your system may be more valuable than taking the telescopic view of bringing someone in who doesn’t know your system, (inaudible).”
(On the importance of live reps to evaluate players on the backend of the roster without preseason games)
“I think they will be important. We were discussing this a lot this summer and laughing that we may go back to, I call it, 'Good ol' high school scrimmages'. As Sean discussed yesterday, there'd be a certain group of players that you wouldn't put in that environment based on trying to get them to game one as healthy as possible. But, there will definitely be that segment of players that, let's call it this, we used to say 'go make a tackle', right. You get to set a block and actually make a tackle or catch a football and make someone miss. You don't get that in the none-tackling settings. So, I do think for that back-end of the roaster, it'll be very important to see them play football. Where you do have to hit a block, shed a block, go make a play, stay in your gap. All those guys need to go make a tackle or make someone miss. Because as you all may know, when you watch practice, when you're not tackling there's a chance that every play looks good or every play looks bad. All of sudden the running back goes for 60 yards, but maybe he did get tackled a yard behind the line of scrimmage, but in those settings, you can't really tell per se.”
(On how to evaluate the three kickers on the roster in practice)
“I think these preseason games would have added this element of, it's another team, it's a game. An element of pressure that maybe practice settings can't give. So, we have to create those environments, for sure. But, I do think in this situation, when there is three players and no incumbent, that's a lot of pressure there that each of those three players are well aware every kick is being monitored and not only by the coaching staff, the front office, but you know their teammates as well.”
(On summing up the offseason)
"Every offseason, we're very intentional. If I summed it up it would be - everything we did was to improve the Rams. I guess when you – let’s call it – back cast and you look at some of the successes, and really since (Head Coach) Sean’s (McVay) been our head coach since '17. Obviously, we've won a lot of games, probably top form wins, into the playoffs, had success, right? So, you're always looking back to cumulatively what made us successful, what didn't and what lessons can we apply. Everything we did, is truly to improve, to continue contending. If you take the microscopic look of 2019, after '17 and '18, finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs, even though he was a winning record and even though you had some close games against playoff teams, things like that, that was not what we wanted and definitely wanted to make sure we made some repairs to boost us and give us vigor going forward, and that's the goal. Now anytime you're in this phase of contention, per se. And a lot of times I usually mean that by there's the element of – as we've talked about – we've gone through the build, and that's when you're adding young players with the vision of those players growing together, having success together, and then finding these core pillars of players. And then, did you break through or not? We did break through but I think when you do get to the contention phase that is that element, right, as (ESPN Reporter) Lindsey (Thiry) and (Los Angeles Times Reporter) Gary (Klein) ask a lot, 'Hey, what's the status of these players?' And usually you're asking about players who have had pretty successful careers with the Rams, whether we drafted them and groomed them or traded for them and you're always going to have to make tough decisions. Obviously, once we hit salary cap in this league, that's what happens. But I can tell you this, if I summed up this offseason, everything we did was to improve, especially from '19 to '20, to probably get us back to some of those foundational core principles that we believed in and Sean believes in that really came to fruition in '17 and '18. The interesting thing to was we made a few coaching staff changes and we actually think at the end of the day, from a long-term standpoint, those changes are going to help Sean on offense and definitely give us new direction and a longer term direction on defense."
(On what the foundational core principles were that guided the Rams’ offseason)
"The core principles, and then you can ask me specifically about players, but the core principles, really, and let’s talk from a (inaudible) standpoint. I know (Head Coach) Sean (McVay), if there's one thing, he'd really love to marry the pass game with the run game, and the run game with the pass game, so we know we needed to get back to that. We needed to improve running the football in '19. Let's take Sean's three years, '19 was our worst year with moving the football. I definitely think that was definitely top of mind to get back to some of that. Then I think Sean will then start looking a little bit at – let's call it being a little more multiple personnel packages. But a big core philosophy in which we still have is, is having very productive skilled players, whether it's runners and whether those runners can actually be effective out of backfield, catching the football. Whether it's tight ends being able to block and catch and run with football after they catch it, and going to receivers, whether they can get open and catch the ball. So I think some of those pillars, we feel like those skill positions (can) definitely be strengths for us, have been strengths for us and we want them to get back. On the defensive side of the ball, we're going through – let’s call it – a schematic change. Obviously, we're going to do a three-four principle, but it is different than (Former Rams Defensive Coordinator) Wade’s (Phillip) and there's nuances in context there that we're still evolving with (Defensive Coordinator) Brandon (Staley). But with his success with (Broncos Head Coach) Vic Fangio over the past years, what we have to do now is continue getting on the same page, bringing in the type of players that he feels give us the best chance to execute what he's trying to do."
(On earlier statements about the running game without RB Todd Gurley II)
"Well, what I said was – 2019 was our worst year running the football when you compare it to 2017 and 2018. But, when we drafted (RB) Darrell Henderson (Jr.), drafted (RB) Cam Akers and we have (RB) Malcolm Brown, the goal when we made those two picks over the last few years was to add explosiveness, add vision, add weapons that can run, block and catch out of the backfield. But, (RB) Todd (Gurley II) has had a heck of career."
(On any categorical suggestions on the contract status of CB Jalen Ramsey)
"I think with Jalen, he's a young player, a difference maker out on the edge. Even working with (Defensive Coordinator) Brandon (Staley) based on being around Jalen, I think Brandon's mentioned it, with his football acumen. There's a vision and goal to use to him in a way that's never been used before, to be a weapon on defense. We gave up two first-round (selections) to bring in that caliber of a player. You do that right when are a team who can contend. I've always looked at it – you're swapping one (first round selection) for Jalen Ramey, but you're adding another one (first round selection) because you are acquiring a player that there's a lot more certainty with him and who he is and what can do, versus a draft pick where there is less certainty and more time (needed) to develop before that player gets to a Jalen Ramsey phase. Sometimes, players just can't get there based on not (being) quite as gifted.”
(On any concerns about the potential status of 2021 salary cap and pending free agents) "The 'no concern' would be this – it's always really good to be in a position where you're not concerned that you have players you want to pay. So, that's the good thing. But you definitely have to work through the scenarios. Sometimes in those scenarios, it doesn't have to mean, 'Well, don't pay the player you really want to pay.' You can actually pay that player and there may be some pains on other places on the roster. So, it doesn't just have to be one or the other with the players you want to pay. That's the good thing. I always say it's a really good thing to have discussions about players you want to give a second contract to, because that usually means they're proven performers. You're certain about what they can do and how they impact and affect the locker room from a leadership standpoint."
(On talking to DT Aaron Donald about a potential restructured contract)
"Again, on all these intimacy of the details between players and their contracts, that’s to keep between us and the player.”
(On the hurdles of evaluating the running back position this offseason)
"I think I've heard it said – once we get to Week 1 and we keep score and count for the standings, I don't think it's a positive thing to curtail any expectations. The best thing we can do is when there's an obstacle, how do we make the obstacle go away and re-imagine ways to make sure when we do get to the Sunday Night game against the (Dallas) Cowboys, we're ready to roll. In particular, for our young players who haven't been in Los Angeles for the offseason. That's up to us to figure that out. The teams that do that best, re-imagine ways to get players up to speed, their younger players will have more success earlier than those teams that don't.”
(On Hard Knocks affected the usual day-to-day)
"You know, Hard Knocks has been here before. It's the NFL Films group that I call the 'Navy Seals' of what they do. They're very professional. There’s many times you don’t feel them, that's why I call them 'Navy Seals.' Not only are they skilled at what they do, they have this experienced way of staying out of the way. Even though they're documenting a lot, you don't feel them. It doesn't feel crowded and doesn't feel claustrophobic. I think from a Hard Knocks standpoint, not having normal offseason and however many days we are now into camp, today's the first day that players can really, let's call it, condition and work with strength coaches and do a walk-thru. It would be a good question for (Hard Knocks) because they probably are used to having a pretty good chunk of content by now. It's probably been pretty boring up until now for them."
(On if any players came to camp with less fitness than normal)
“To date, no. I think over these next two weeks of acclimation, we will get a better feel for that. I do think now a days, even though there were some legit disruptions early in terms of not being able to push weights around. I know even when gyms shut down, players were trying to build these garage gyms. Because everybody was doing that, there was a little bit of a back log on getting weights to their garage. But I think that today’s players, they are driven and sophisticated. They are used to, starting when they began training for the draft, really, they were going to these very, very sophisticated cutting-edge gyms, they get indoctrinated in what it takes to keep your body in tune. And I do know this, for all players that was the one thing they really missed the most, whether it was our strength and conditioning room in the offseason or the ones they were used to going to. That was one of the pain points for them. But our athletes are driven and usually come in, in better shape than they left.”
(On how he would evaluate Goff’s performance last year, and what the Rams are looking for from Jared in year 5)
“Moving up to (No.) 1 (overall), I think it is… jacked that we have solidified the QB position for the future. Probably since his sophomore year, and through year three, year four, being a QB who is QBing a team that is top four in the regular season, led us two division championships, conference championship, probably couldn’t draw it up any better than that. I think every year, what you want to see is that every player, not only (QB) Jared (Goff), as they are accumulating experience, that they apply lessons that they have learned, not only in 2019, but in years past. And keep evolving, and that wisdom, right? Then all of a sudden you are an old savvy vet. You don’t want them to get too old too quick. But that is the goal, every year is to take wisdom that you have learned and then apply it. I think that is what our expectations are for Jared and every player that gets that opportunity to continue his career.
(On how he will change his scouting techniques if the college season doesn’t happen) “We are looking at it now, we don’t know if we can… Normally our college scouts would be getting ready to go to college training camps, that is still in flux. Our pro scouts will not have preseason scouting, so there are some obstacles. I think collectively we are challenging our group to make that obstacle go away. Is there going to end up being maybe a new best practice that we figured out during this time that we may not have thought about if we had not had this moment in time? And try and see if we implement that going forward. But I do know, that because we have this pause right now we are going to spend some time as a group…you know how fast the NFL calendar rolls, it’s like next thing, next thing, next thing, little bit of a break, next thing, next thing. So, one of the toughest things to do in this calendar is actually have a month where there’s pause and you can take a little deeper dive than you are used to and see if there are some lessons and innovations that we can use. So, we are going to take this month to continue thinking about the whole (picture). And if there are some ways, we can advance our systems and processes. Then they will ring the bell and we will go back to executing and you’ll lose out on that pause.”
(On if he has been told if he will be able to have advanced scouts at games during the regular season)
“I don’t think that specific question has been answered, but I do think you have to prepare not to do it. What’s our advanced scouting going to look like without someone at that game? It is very easy to react to go back to what we have been doing. I think that is going to be our mode of operation.”
(On if any of their newly-adopted processes implemented during the Spring can carry over into inseason evaluation of prospects)
"There’s a lot of things with the way the Spring went that I think we will try to implement, but I do think that will be more into that particular segment of the calendar, into those combine – let’s call it the February, March, April months, in particular Pro Days and the Top 30 thing. I've kind of been an anti-Top 30 person or GM. Not that the Top 30 is not useful, but what ends up happening is those players train for the combine, they train for their Pro Days and then there's this element where they may visit 15 cities somewhere between March and April and man, it gets them out of rhythm. They're not necessarily training for football. Then two weeks after the draft, you bring them in and put them on the field with veterans that have been 9, 10, however many weeks into their routine. It can be, I’d say from a health standpoint, dangerous for the rookies and probably unfair to them because maybe their first two weeks they don't feel as good, look as good, and things like that. I think there are some ways we can use some of these Zoom settings to get what we normally have to accomplish on Top 30. That's just one specific example."
(On the Rams organization encouraging and supporting players with social justice issues)
“Definitely, always support the players. Our players are the core of this league. They are the foundation of this league. I think as an organization, big picture, we want to use football and whatever platform that has to enhance humanity and I do think social justice and better equality for certain people in this country is only going to make the whole of this country better. I think that's our goal as the Rams – to do our part to use our platform to enhance humanity.”