THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The Los Angeles Rams decided not to practice outdoors Wednesday due to poor air quality around their training complex in Ventura County, where a wildfire has burned more than 65,000 acres.
The Rams (9-3) intend to work out on their fields as normal Thursday while they prepare for their showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles (10-2) at the Coliseum this weekend.
The Rams’ complex is about 25 miles from the blaze. The resulting smoke caused enough problems in air quality to persuade coach Sean McVay to skip practice in favor of a walk-through indoors at nearby Cal Lutheran University, even though the air improved markedly between Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We had really a mental approach (to practice), as far as above the neck, and this time in the year it actually served us well,” McVay said. “We got a lot of good work in, got more reps than we would have otherwise than when you just do your walk-through and your normal practice. Where we’re at, it actually worked out as a benefit to us.”
Quarterback Jared Goff compared the off-field session to the strategy used by McVay during the Rams’ short week of preparation for a Thursday night game at San Francisco in September.
“It actually ended up working out really well,” Goff said. “Just getting a chance to kind of get off of our feet a little bit and get all our mental work in, and get probably a lot more reps than we would have live reps.”
The Rams and their staff don’t have homes affected by the Ventura County fire, but they’re still eager to help out their neighbors.
Punter Johnny Hekker jumped into action during the players’ day off Tuesday when he heard about a Red Cross shelter at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in need of supplies. Hekker and his wife, Makayla, who is 6 1/2 months pregnant, ran to a store in nearby Newbury Park and bought a truckload of clothes, food and other products to be distributed among evacuees.
“Living in this community, we have to have each other’s backs,” Hekker said. “These people support us throughout the season and are big fans of us. If we can do anything with our platform to give back to them in this time of need, in this crisis, then that’s what we’re here for.”
If air conditions change overnight, the Rams could practice at the University of Southern California in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday.
Another fire is burning in the Bel Air neighborhood near Hollywood about 15 miles from the Coliseum. The Rams and the NFL don’t anticipate Sunday’s game being affected by the fires.
McVay wasn’t worried about interrupting his players’ weekly routines due to fire safety. The Rams have been one of the NFL’s most pleasant surprises this season, already clinching their first winning season since 2003 with a victory at Arizona last weekend.
“They just kind of adjust and adapt,” McVay said of his players. “I think we’ve become a more mature team as the season has progressed.”
NOTES: McVay still has no timetable for the return of WR Robert Woods, who has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury. … McVay said LB Connor Barwin (forearm) and LB Alec Ogletree (elbow) wouldn’t have practiced Wednesday if the Rams had held a real workout. Ogletree’s availability for Sunday is in question. … The Rams signed LB Ejuan Price and LB Cameron Lynch to the practice squad. Price was a seventh-round pick out of Pitt last spring, but appeared in only one game before Los Angeles waived him and signed LB Carlos Thompson last week.
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