The Los Angeles Rams held their first team meeting Friday, at a hotel in Manhattan Beach. Most of the team was on hand to hear about everything from buying homes, the real estate market, and what to expect living in the land of Showtime with the Lakers, Stanley Cups with the Kings and now the winning ways of the Clippers.
This is L.A., baby, and there will be paparazzi everywhere, the TMZ offices are practically right down the street. Plus you have offices and studios for CNN, ESPN and all the major networks right here in Los Angeles — Hollywood — home to every crazy idea and costume you could hope to find in one location. And everyone looking to hook up with a sports star, either for some crazy scheme, ludicrous investment and of course the more … potentially compromising opportunities.
In other words: be careful with yourself when out around the town. This isn’t St. Louis, not by a long shot.
During the meeting the players where shown the video of the stadium going up in Inglewood and that got the players, about 80 percent of the team, according to head coach Jeff Fisher, excited. That, in turn was exciting for team management.
Coach Jeff Fisher and some of the team spoke to the media after the meeting and shared a bit of what the meeting was about. Fisher said it wasn’t just about what to expect off the field in Los Angeles, but how to get prepared for practice and then their first game September 11.
“We discussed the logistics of the off-season,” He said adding, “Our focus, when the deal was done, was to take care of the players.”
Under normal rules a meeting like this isn’t permissible before the off-season program begins, but the Rams received permission from the NFL management council and the players association to hold the meeting. It wasn’t mandatory either, but 80 percent of the team did manage to be there.
Who they play in that first game — and where — has yet to be announced, but it doesn’t matter because they need to be ready, no matter who they play. Fisher said, “What we’re doing right now is to get them out into the offseason program, because that’s where things start to even out competitively. If we can get into the offseason program in a timely fashion, we’ll be in good shape. And those things are starting to fall into place.”
He even said they NFL combine went well and felt they were ahead on the NFL draft, because, Fisher said, he expected the team would have to do things like have this team meeting.
The Rams will be playing their first three seasons (at least) in the Los Angeles Coliseum, as historic a venue as we can find in the world. It’s the symbolic home of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, as well as the USC Trojans football team, among others. They will begin off-season training in April at the Dallas Cowboys facility in Oxnard. The team will be housed in a nearby hotel.
But after that where the team will call home for practices is still up in the air. They will probably use facilities at UC-Irvine, according to Fisher, but that hasn’t been finalized yet. During the season the team plans to practice in the Thousand Oaks area so players and staff are being urged to find housing in that area.
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald said it was good to hear about the logistics because many of the players have to move families from St. Louis to Los Angeles. But the team just wants to play football. “We just want to come out here and play ball and give the fans something to cheer about, and that’s winning games, that’s what it’s about.”
Donald was cautionary about living and playing in La-La-Land, and had this bit of sage advice, “There will be a lot of things coming at us from all different directions,” adding, “don’t put yourself in silly situations when you’ve got a camera in your face.”
He added, “There’s going to be a lot going on, but at the end of the day, my job is to play football and do what I’ve got to do to get myself prepared and ready for this season. I’ll make sure that’s my first priority, so I can play at a high level and continue to be the player they drafted me to be.”
With YouTube, Twitter and Instagram; with the ability to get video on the Internet in seconds, that could be a lot easier said than done.
Punter Johnny Hekker said his teammates were, “… a little bit sad to be leaving what’s familiar, but the sunshine and sandy beaches aren’t too bad to have waiting ahead of you.” He added, “People are pretty excited. I’ve had people hitting me up asking when I’m getting Disneyland season passes, so well see how that all shakes out.”
He might be the extended family’s most popular relative to visit. As for the team meeting itself, Hekker said, “We’ve all been in the dark, kind of, to this point, but this meeting helped clear up a lot of stuff.”
If they are going to cement a big enough fan base in Southern California, they will need to have a winning season, right away. And that starts at the quarterback position. The 2015 season saw Nick Foles start at that position, but then Case Keenum took over. The Rams will be looking for other QB’s, either through the draft or free agency.
Keenum said he welcomed the competition and compared being an NFL quarterback to being a journalist, “There’s probably 10 or 15 peopled lined up ready to take your job if you’re not producing. That’s the way I approach my work and my job.”
Keenum added, “I want to be really good, and I think I can be really good. And I work hard for that. Nothing’s ever been handed to me, and so I don’t expect anything to be handed to me. I’m going to work for it.”
L.A. Rams fans are excited to have their team back and the hotel where the meeting took place had a few looking for pictures and autographs. One thing is for sure, no matter how ready the Rams are to be a Los Angeles team, the fans are ready.
Claudia Gestro contributed to this article.
Photos by Tim Forkes. Top photo: defensive tackle Aaron Donald, head coach Jeff Fisher and punter Johnny Hekker.
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.