The NFL is on the downswing this time of the year, but even though fans are starving for football, the players do not have that problem—they're getting their share of football on the practice field.
This past week, the St. Louis Rams continued their organized team activities (OTAs), which pairs the newly acquired rookies with the veterans for the very first time.
The practices are non-contact and much lighter than the late-summer training camps, so the news is not flowing at a high rate, but it's still our very first glimpse of the 2013 Rams.
So based on the headlines coming out of Rams Park, here are several players who have been the center of attention.
Isaiah Pead generated plenty of hype a year ago after being selected in the second round, but the rookie running back only carried the ball 10 times all season long for a modest 54 yards (and 19 of those yards came on one carry).
Many felt he would complement Steven Jackson nicely as the No. 2 back, but Pead was beat out for that job by fellow rookie Daryl Richardson—a seventh-round draft pick.
After last season's fiasco, you'd think Pead is entering the 2013 season with less pressure, but it's actually the opposite. With Jackson gone, the Rams are banking on Pead losing the rookie jitters and developing into a reliable role player on offense.
So far for Pead, the offseason has been about getting over his rookie struggles and entering practice with a new attitude and improved mindset.
According to Nick Wagoner at StLouisRams.com, Pead is also hoping to cut back on his overall number of mistakes:
“I just wanted to eliminate all mistakes, mental mistakes, physical mistakes,” Pead said. “Things like body position, knowing where to line up, knowing what routes to run, things like that. I just want to be to the tip top shape."
It sounds like Pead's head is in the right place. Now, it's just a matter of putting it all together and making it happen.
When the Rams initially entered into the Jake Long sweepstakes in free agency, Rodger Saffold's agent went to the media and insisted that Saffold would not appreciate being bumped over to right tackle, according to STLtoday.com.
But the agent was likely less interested in announcing Saffold's true feelings, and more interested in eventually making a commission off a more lucrative left tackle contract, since Saffold himself has said nothing to indicate that he has a problem with the right side.
According to Joe Lyons of STLtoday.com, Saffold is ready to get to work on the right side:
“This game is a business; that’s just the way it is,’’ said Saffold. “I talked to my coach and basically they told me that they had a lot of faith in me to play right tackle and try to use my versatility as an advantage for the team."
It will be interested to watch Saffold in training camp to see how he adjusts to the position change. But from the sounds of it, he is far from bitter and ready to take on the new challenge.
With the departure of Jackson, the entire offense will now turn to Sam Bradford for guidance and veteran leadership.
Some question whether he's up for the task, but his comments at OTAs have indicated that he's extremely confident moving forward.
When asked about the team's goals for 2013, he responded "to win the Super Bowl."
"That's what we set out to do every year," Bradford said, via the video attached. "You never go into a year thinking, if we could go 8-8, that would be awesome. Because if you do, you might as well not even play the game."
Bradford bounced back in 2012 with a solid performance, but he'll be expected to take things to the next level in 2013 and finally live up to his status as a former No. 1 overall draft pick.
One player who stood out at OTAs, not for his presence on the field but rather his absence from the field, was tight end Lance Kendricks.
The third-year tight end did not participate in OTAs due to an offseason knee injury that ultimately led to a knee scope, according to NBC Sports.
Center Scott Wells had his knee scoped around the same time a year ago and was able to eventually return for training camp, so the younger and healthier Kendricks should manage to see the practice field well before Week 1.
This is an injury to keep an eye on, as Kendricks will play an underrated but valuable role on offense.
Unlike Jared Cook, who the Rams acquired in free agency, Kendricks is a capable blocker who significantly helped the run game last season.
Not only that, but with the departure of Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson, Kendricks is now Bradford's most familiar receiver on the roster.
Kendricks had a respectable 42 catches for 519 yards last season, so he'll once again be utilized heavily in the passing game, even with the presence of Cook.