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Rams second-year quarterback Jared Goff embraces his role as a leader

Rams second-year quarterback Jared Goff embraces his role as a leader
Rams quarterback Jared Goff calls out signals during a training camp scrimmage at UC Irvine. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

He was one of the first players on the field, a solitary figure in a red No. 16 jersey stretching and loosening up as Rams teammates made their way out of the locker room at UC Irvine.

He took his place at the front of a line for team warmups, and then assumed control of the huddle under the watchful eye of a new head coach, who playfully lined up as a defensive back during a few drills.

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Quarterback Jared Goff completed some throws and missed on others Saturday as the Rams opened training camp. But for the second-year pro, the first practice was really about asserting himself as a team leader from the outset.

"That's a big deal," he said, "just knowing I'm the guy that they're going to look to. It is my team to lead and my team to direct and control and command.

"I don't take that lightly."

Goff’s mental state was a stark contrast from last year, when he arrived at camp as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft but was relegated to second- or third-team reps and was brought along slowly by then-coach Jeff Fisher.

There is no debate this year. Goff, with seven games of experience and a stronger physical frame, is the starter.

"Night and day," he said of the difference from last year's camp. "I feel good. Feel comfortable."

Much of the credit, Goff said, goes to his new head coach, Sean McVay.

"Anyone going from Year 1 to Year 2 has that natural jump," Goff said, "but I think he's done a great job so far of implementing the offense with myself and the rest of the team."

McVay, 31, is the NFL's youngest coach. He directed Rams practices during organized team activities and minicamps. But overseeing Saturday's workout apparently felt a bit different.

"It feels like it's a little bit closer to reality," he said.

McVay's success will be tied, in large part, to Goff.

On Saturday, Goff completed impressive passes to Robert Woods, Tavon Austin and rookie Cooper Kupp. He also connected several times with tight end Tyler Higbee. But “a little bit of adrenaline” caused him to overthrow some open receivers, he said.

"Up and down," he said of his performance.

"The timing was probably a little bit off on a couple things," he added, "but I thought it was good first day."

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Said McVay: "There was some good and some bad. I thought the defense created some pressure. The ultimate goal for the quarterback is we've got to find completions…. We'll get it cleaned up."

Last hurrah

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson shook off barbs from a couple of fans in the beer garden area of the facility, smiling as he approached them.

The Rams decided not to give Johnson a long-term contract this offseason, so he will earn nearly $17 million on the franchise tag and then become a free agent.

"I wanted it — I wanted it big-time," Johnson said of an extension. "I believe the Rams are going in a different direction at the end of the season, and that's out of my control.

"So I'm here, and I'm putting my jersey on, and I'm still lacing up my cleats. I'm happy. I'm here to win games and help this team win games."

Johnson intercepted seven passes in 2015, but only one last season. The sixth-year pro is expected to start opposite either Kayvon Webster or E.J. Gaines.

"Any player would want a long term deal — I just didn't get one," Johnson said, but assured that it would not adversely affect his play.

"I'm not about to feel sorry for myself and be mad at it, and be selfish about it," he said. "It's not about me. It's about this team and winning, and that's what I'm here for."

Notes

McVay said he had no update on defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who is absent from camp because of a contract dispute…. Austin, sidelined during organized team activities and minicamp while recovering from wrist surgery, was a full participant and said he did not worry about his wrist during the workout. "My adrenaline was running," he said. "You're not really thinking about it at the time. I'm just glad I got out of the day safe. Hopefully, I get through the season safe too."

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

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