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St. Louis Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher Speaks About His Rookies, La’el Collins, and Joe Barksdale

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Rams’ head coach Jeff Fisher fielded questions from the media after the rookie minicamp [or "Orientation"] on Saturday. Here’s what he had to say about the rookie class, the pursuit of La’el Collins, and talks with Joe Barksdale...

(On his approach to the first weekend with the rookies)

"We’ve done this for years. Now, our first year here, our numbers were larger so we were able to do a little more work. Just because of the current roster, the active roster size, our numbers aren’t where you’re able to do more. We kind of fell into this. Nowhere in the building are you going to see anything that says, ‘rookie minicamp.’ We call it orientation. We’ve talked to them about this - it’s not their fault. They are not in the same condition that the vets are because the vets, many of them were in before the start of the offseason program. They got a three-week head start, so our job is to get them (the rookies) caught up. That’s what we’re doing. We had a long lecture with them yesterday not to go faster than three-quarter speed. That’s kind of the way we approach it. We’ve had two good days on the field and I don’t have a single soft-tissue issue with anybody. As a matter of fact, we’re not even going to let them lift with the veterans this week. We’ve got to get them caught up. We’re going to use the next week or two to get them caught up. They’ll go on the field with the vets on Thursday in skill development. That will be the first time."

(On why the Rams don’t bring a lot of tryout guys to the first weekend)

"It’s numbers. We’ve got two interesting ones I’ll speak about, but we just feel like we’re good. We’ve got depth. We were pleased with the results of our ‘eighth round,’ the college free agency efforts that the guys did. So, we’ve got some guys that will be able to compete."

(On if the meeting time is the most important thing to him this weekend)

"We’re combining walk-thrus and meetings. We’ve got to get the fitness part going, so it’s the weight room, it’s player development, it’s football - it’s just everything. It’s diet, it’s flexibility. We find out where they are so we can start off appropriately next week."

(On if any of the young players caught his eye)

"It’s hard not to look at the four offensive linemen we drafted and say, ‘Wow.’ Somebody said yesterday they look like refrigerators with legs. It’s a good looking group and they’re moving around pretty good."

(On having so many rookie offensive linemen)

"We’ve not had that in the past. It’s great work for them. The Iowa offensive system, the Wisconsin offensive system are probably more closer to what we do. Fresno State, Cody (Wichmann) is well coached. We’re really excited about Jamon (Brown) because he’s got tremendous athletic ability. I don’t think it’s going to be a long time for the four of them to catch on to the techniques and things and what not."

(On if the rookies will stay in St. Louis beyond this week)

"They’re here, yes. The draft choices are here through the symposium, which is June 22. They’re here. We’ve got them."

(On when the rookies will start mixing with the veterans)

"The first time they’re going to do anything with the vets will be Thursday. That’s separate offense and defense. It’s just drill work on the field. We’re not allowed to come together offensively and defensively until the last week in May, but I’ve given the vets that week off. So, we will come together offensively and defensively the first of June for OTAs."

(On WR Bud Sasser not practicing)

"We’re still doing some things, some physical tests, stuff like that. We should have it all cleared up in the next day or so."

(On the notion that the running back position has been devalued in today’s NFL)

"I would disagree with that. Every year the class is different. Every year, needs are different. You can’t ever say that running backs have no value. We showed that last weekend. We’ve shown that in the past. This organization has shown that. We place a premium on that position."

(On the NFL being a cyclical league and that at some point people won’t be calling it a passing league)

"Well, if you look back over time the teams that win football games are teams that run the football and play good defense and then they have good quarterback play – that’s the key. Then of course, playing physical football is what we’ve been about since we got here. You kind of get a sense of where we’re going with that with the way we drafted."

(On his early impressions of QB Sean Mannion and if they’ve noticed anything different about him since the pre-draft process)

"Really nothing different than the private workout. We spent a lot of time with him in the private workout, saw him make every throw. Picks everything up real quick, has a good sense for learning, huddle presence. He’s going to be fine. He’ll know what to do. He’s got a good arm."

(On bringing FB Zach Laskey as an undrafted free agent and how he views the fullback position)

"You know, our tight ends have handled that. We wanted to create an opportunity for somebody other than a tight end to do some work in camp and in the preseason. And if you’re in his position, when he got the call and we said we didn’t have a fullback on the roster, then it’s probably a good place to go as opposed to going someplace where you’re competing with a couple."

(On how they found WR Daniel Rodriguez)

"Just his story. His story’s well-documented. Wanted to give him an opportunity. We’ll see what happens. We’re going to visit with him a little later. Very impressed obviously with his story and what he did at Clemson and what he was able to accomplish."

(On if the Rams actively pursued LSU OL La’el Collins)

"Yeah, we were involved in it. There were some things that we...we still had some unanswered questions at the time at which he made his decision, but we were involved. We were told by them that we were in the final four, which isn’t necessarily a consolation, but we were involved, yes. Had we not had the success that we had in the draft, we probably would have been more involved. But I’m happy things worked out for him. I hope things are settled appropriately. Then, I’m happy with what we have here."

(On what he wanted RB Todd Gurley to get out of this weekend)

"He’s in the meetings. He’s learning the offense. He’s killing the rehab. He’s paying attention in the walk-thrus. He’s meeting his teammates. There were a lot of vets in here on Thursday when the guys got here. He’s excited to be here. He’ll definitely know what to do when he’s able to get out there."

(On Ted Wells’ report on the incident involving the New England Patriots)

"That is obviously a situation between the league office and the Patriots. We’ll just have to see what happens."

(On Jaguars DE Dante Fowler’s season-ending injury)

"It’s difficult. When you go back, those things happen. It’s very, very unfortunate. I didn’t look at it. I just heard. It’s tough on him. He’s a young, talented athlete and he’ll be back."

(On the risk coaches take when they put players on the field in practice)

"It’s just unfortunate. I heard he was in an 11-on-11 full-speed pass rush and he had a problem. Our philosophy is not to put them in that position for a couple of weeks until we know where they’re at."

(On if there are any talks between the Rams and free agent T Joe Barksdale)

"Yeah, we’ve been talking to Joe. We’ve had some conversations with him."