At Rams Park, the team's year-round training facility in Earth City. Mother Nature gave the players a break for the first full-squad practice of the Jeff Fisher Era. Four days after temperatures topped out at 108 degrees -- it was the 11th day of 105 or higher in St. Louis this summer -- a cooling rain moved through the area and made the afternoon relatively pleasant. Just over 1,600 fans attended the opening practice, which might not sound like much after the Cardinals drew 14,500 and the Broncos nearly 6,000. But it was an impressive showing considering space is limited and the team has not had a winning season since 2003.
Additionally, first-year GM Les Snead and Fisher signed cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who played six seasons for Fisher in Tennessee, and crafty wideout Steve Smith during free agency, and brought in expected starters Michael Brockers and Janoris Jenkins through the draft. Jenkins has been particularly impressive. He moves smoothly and is so poised you'd never know he's a rookie.
You can look at Fisher's offensive assistants to know what he wants to do on offense. Brian Schottenheimer coordinated the Jets' ground-and-pound attack with the Jets; line coach Paul Boudreau was with Atlanta the past four seasons when the Falcons ranked 11th or higher in rushing attempts per season, including two stints in the top five; and tight ends coach Rob Boras, whose unit helped Maurice Jones-Drew lead the league in rushing last season. "In our first meeting it was made very clear that as an offense we're going to be a physical running team, and we're going to wear teams out," Bradford says. "It's an attitude that has to show up on the field, and these next five weeks in training camp that's something we've got to develop. It's something we're going to work at, so by the time the regular season gets here it's our identity. It's second nature."
The schedule is a monster early. The Rams not only travel to Detroit and Chicago and host Green Bay and New England in the first eight weeks, but also have divisional games against Seattle and Arizona. The final eight weeks are no less daunting; four of their final six games are on the road, including rematches against the Seahawks and Cardinals.