Welcome to Los Angeles, where the weather is sunny, the people are gorgeous, and the new NFL team is mediocre. Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Los Angeles Rams is here, and to celebrate the 11th season of the new greatest show on turf, we’ll be breaking down each episode with what you need to know.
Throughout the series, we’ve been shown the saga of Austin Hill, the 25-year-old receiver who was loudly spared from being cut last week. But the player with the most screen time in the finale was Hill’s friend and competitor Paul McRoberts. During the Rams’ final preseason contest against the Vikings, McRoberts, desperate to make a play on special teams, did not call for a fair catch on a punt, despite seeing his opponents closing in. McRoberts fumbled the ball deep in Rams territory. “I’m off the team. I know I am,” he said after being chewed out by head coach Jeff Fisher. Later, McRoberts redeemed himself by catching a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, to the pleasure of the coaching staff. Though McRoberts didn’t make the team, he did earn a spot on the Rams practice squad, a gig we’re told pays $7,000 a week. Not a bad value at all.
Most Interesting Thing We Learned
At a practice, Rams defensive line coach Mike Waufle asked quarterback Jared Goff if he liked Joe Montana as a kid. Given Goff’s position on the depth chart, I assumed that this was leading to some sort of roast of Goff’s abilities. This was, in fact, not where Waufle was going with this line of conversation. “You do a lot of things like him … I was wondering when I saw the ‘16,’” Waufle said. This led me to realize two things: (1) the coaching staff is still delusional about a top pick who can’t even beat out Sean Mannion to be a backup quarterback, and (2) Goff, who is a few months younger than me, couldn’t have enjoyed Joe Montana as a kid because Montana played his last game when Goff was less than 3 months old. Arriving at the age when it starts to make sense to call professional athletes “kids” is weird.
Your “We’re in … Minnesota” Reminder of the Week
This week, with the drama of roster cuts saved for the end of the episode, the preseason action begins early, showing us the Vikings’ new stadium in all of its glory. But, for all of its flash and modernity, was the famous bird “death trap” worth it? You tell me, Vikings fans/taxpayers.
Tank Moment of the Week
This week, center Eric Kush was given bad news by Jeff Fisher. There would be no practice squad for him. He was being cut. It was a sentimental moment to see one of training camp’s most eccentric players leaving. When Kush said, “I thought I played pretty well. … I had a lot of fun here. That’s what hurt the most,” I shed a tear. When he said, “It sucks, packing up all of my tank tops,” I wept.
Luckily, Kush was promptly picked up by the Bears, where we can only hope to get a glimpse of future Tank Moments.
Maybe this was only the beginning.
“Athletes, They’re Just Like Us” Moment of the Week
This week, defensive end Will Hayes’s role was brief. Hayes, along with family members and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, watched on TV as Jimmy Kimmel made all of the same mermaid and dinosaur jokes that I have been making every week. I imagine that this is sort of the famous person’s version of Googling oneself. I also enjoyed that Kimmel and I found common ground in our endless search for #content.
Quote of the Week
“This is almost unprecedented, what you guys went through,” said Fisher of training camp and the preseason, two things that happen every year.
The Rams have looked perfectly average this preseason, and at times Fisher has looked perfectly content, even pleased, while staring directly into the face of his team’s mediocrity. After this past week’s loss to the Vikings, the Rams finished the preseason at .500. That projects to a finish better than 7–9. “In Hollywood, happy endings happen all the time,” narrated Liev Schreiber. 8–8 sounds very happy to me.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.