The Los Angeles Rams are settling into their new city, and any trepidation about their franchise’s move is quickly losing out to excitement about their fresh start.
Their first few days in Southern California’s irresistibly pleasant weather have been pretty great, too.
“I woke up today and I looked outside, and California just smells good,” Johnson said. “It tastes good, you know?”
Exactly five months before their official return to the Coliseum, the Rams got together Monday for the first day of their official offseason workouts. They’re training west of Los Angeles in coastal Oxnard through June, using the residential hotel and attached complex that hosts the Dallas Cowboys’ annual training camp.
They’re also doing plenty of work off the field. Johnson and safety T.J. McDonald are among the California natives on the Rams’ roster serving as field guides while their teammates look for apartments, restaurants and clubs in their unfamiliar new home.
“Everybody has different questions,” said McDonald, the former USC Trojans star. “Some guys are from small towns or in the South, wondering if there’s movie stars going left and right or whatever. But I just told them, `This is really regular life. Just be yourself, be humble, show up to work like we do in St. Louis, and we’ll be all right.'”
Many Rams arrived over the last two weeks with not much knowledge of the area beyond a vague fear of LA’s legendary traffic, but they’re starting to see the possibilities.
Before the move, receiver Tavon Austin said his knowledge of Los Angeles was confined to one prominent local landmark: “Kobe Bryant.”
Austin moved to California a few weeks before most of his teammates to settle in. So far, the speedy wideout thinks he’ll like it here.
“I came from Baltimore to West Virginia to St. Louis, so I never had great weather like this all year round,” Austin said. “That’s a plus. You can always be working out. I’m really thankful for it.”
Quinn’s wife is a Californian who went to college in Los Angeles, so he has more Golden State knowledge than most of his teammates.
“My only concern is really traffic,” Quinn said. “We have a responsibility to be somewhere at a certain time … so that can be stressful when you’re finding a place where you want to get settled. We’re trying to take that into account. You want to know how late you can get up and still be on time.”
The Cowboys’ summer home in Oxnard has two practice fields, tented workout facilities, an equipment room and ample space for meetings. Many Rams employees are working in Oxnard, but the team also has a temporary business office in Agoura Hills – still the far-west suburbs, but closer to the city.
The Rams will hold their own training camp at UC Irvine, well south of Los Angeles, in July after the Cowboys arrive in Oxnard. The Rams will move back to far-west Ventura County for the regular season, training out of a temporary complex at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks while the team figures out the site of its permanent training home.
While their palatial new stadium rises in Inglewood, they’ll spend Sundays for the next three years at the Coliseum, the venerable home of McDonald’s Trojans, two Olympics, the first Super Bowl and the Rams themselves from 1946-79.
“It’s going to be crazy,” McDonald said. “The last time I played there, I thought for sure was going to be my last time ever playing there. Guys who have played there, if you ask them, I guarantee it means something special to them just to be in the Coliseum. For me to be able to run out that tunnel again is kind of surreal, but I’ll be juiced when I get the opportunity.”
The Rams’ most prominent new teammate hasn’t arrived in Oxnard yet, because he won’t be chosen until the NFL draft next week. The Rams swung a trade last week to land the No. 1 pick, with general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher leaving little doubt they’ll select a quarterback.
“That’s Fish,” Johnson said of the Rams’ bold trade. “I trust his process. That first pick is hopefully going to come in and win us some games.”