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Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Handful of Rams veterans can commute to camp

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Coach Jeff Fisher gave St. Louis Rams rookies something to shoot for before they hit the field for the first time: Four-year veterans can commute to training camp.

"It's cool, it's something coach Fish does for those guys," safety T.J. McDonald said after Tuesday's workout. "I've got my rookie duties and I understand that.

"I've got to stay in the hotel and I'm trying to keep my head, be about my work. When I get to that point, though, I'll be expecting to be at home."

Given that the Rams boast the league's youngest team with 19 rookies on the active roster at the close of last season, it's a select group of players getting that privilege.

"That's a good deal unless you were a wife hoping to get rid of your husband," Fisher joked. "It just works out, it's business-like."

Several cornerstones on defense make the cut, including defensive linemen Chris Long, Kendall Langford and William Hayes, middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, cornerback Cortland Finnegan and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. On offense, nine-year veteran center Scott Wells, guard Harvey Dahl and backup quarterback Kellen Clemens are eligible to commute.

So is newly re-acquired linebacker Will Witherspoon, at 32 the oldest player on the team. The Rams signed Witherspoon, a starter in St. Louis most of his four seasons from 2006-09, to a one-year deal.

"I guess it's the perks of being in the league so long," long snapper candidate Jorgen Hus said. "It's an accomplishment to be playing that many years. That's saying a lot."

McDonald noted, "You don't have to pay rent this month, either."

Quarterback Sam Bradford leads the group of those falling just short of coach Jeff Fisher's cutoff. Bradford, offensive tackle Rodger Saffold and tight end Lance Kendricks are entering their fourth season, and wide receiver Austin Pettis is entering his third.

The Rams aren't much older after adding a pair of first-round draft picks in wide receiver Tavon Austin and linebacker Alec Ogletree, and with youngsters tabbed to replace running back Steven Jackson.

Training camp is at the team complex by choice this year with the first full-squad workout coming Thursday. Before Fisher's first season, the Rams looked into remote locations and ultimately elected to stay home.

"We were one of the first teams to do it because we had no other option," Fisher said. "And falling into this situation, it worked for us. I think it works."

Austin was the eighth pick of the draft. But he'll be sharing a hotel room with wide receiver Stedman Bailey, his teammate at West Virginia.

"It's not bad at all," Bailey said. "I've been around Tavon so long he's like my brother, and we get a chance to just sit back and talk about how things are going and if we need to study our playbook.

"We can quiz each other before we go to sleep."

Allowing veterans some freedom acknowledges the fact they've been around much of the offseason and are ready for the build-up to the opener at home Sept. 8 against the Cardinals. It also sends a message to the kids.

"Like I was just telling them, right now in the National Football League you can't spend time getting your team in shape," Fisher said. "You have to maintain that through camp."

Having the field to themselves for a few days helped about three dozen players get acclimated after getting a month or so off.

"I stayed in the playbook the whole time but there's nothing like live action," McDonald said. "A couple days, that's all it took."

A handful of players are rehabbing from injuries and will miss the start of camp, including tight end Lance Kendricks (knee) and rookie offensive lineman Barrett Jones (foot). The Rams also juggled the roster, releasing rookie safety Cannon Smith and signed safety Rashard Hall and wide receiver Demetrius Fields.