Rams ride in style during training camp at UC Irvine
It was one of the most memorable moments from Rams training camp last year: Receivers Kenny Britt and Brian Quick, traversing UC Irvine’s campus in a go-kart, rolled the vehicle and both players fell out.
No one was injured and it appeared there was no property damage.
Camera crews filming HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series captured the accident and broadcast it for all to see.
That included Sean McVay, then offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins.
“Thank God that nothing bad happened to Kenny,” McVay said last week on the eve of training camp.
A year later, Britt and Quick are with other teams.
And McVay, the Rams’ new coach, has equipped all of his players with wheels.
It’s a departure from last year, when Rams players mostly relied on a bus, bicycles or their feet to get around the nearly 1,500-acre campus during a six-week stay.
To lessen the load on players’ legs during this year’s three-week stay, the Rams distributed about 50 golf carts.
“When you’re walking to and from different things that takes a toll on these guys,” McVay said.
Coaches and team staff also are motoring about, putting the team total at about 80 carts.
Upon arrival at training camp last week, each driver was required to attend a university-mandated course to learn how to operate the vehicles safely.
Mike Izzi, Irvine’s athletic director, does not foresee chaos or a public safety issue.
“It will look like Autopia out here,” Izzi said, referencing a Disneyland car-driving ride. “Not the 405.”
Each two-player dorm room was issued a cart. Veterans with six years of NFL experience got their own. A yellow-striped mini parking lot is adjacent to the practice facility.
Players embraced the four-wheeled perk from the moment they were informed of it.
“The team was jumping up and yelling and screaming,” third-year offensive lineman Jamon Brown said. “There was a lot of excitement just because we’re on a large, beautiful campus here and not having to walk is a lot better.”
Said linebacker Robert Quinn, a seventh-year pro: “The golf cart is a savior.”
Cornerback Kayvon Webster outfitted his cart with a speaker and jammed to the bass as he drove across a campus quad. Defensive lineman Dominique Easley tested his steering skills by traveling in reverse along a winding path between dorms. Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman remembered to put his phone down, “no texting and driving” he said, as he drove out of a parking lot. And linebacker Alec Ogletree eased on the break as he made a sweeping left turn around a building.
“You’re competitive and you’re out here with your brothers on the team and so sometimes you just want to mess around,” Brown said. “But just being safe is, I think, everybody’s main thing. And making sure everybody is healthy.”
Players cover two to three miles on the field during practices, said Reggie Scott, the Rams’ head athletic trainer. Walking back and forth across campus does not require the same physical energy as practice, but it could add another two to three miles to a players’ daily workload, he said.
“We will see it from a performance standpoint [during training camp] and long term when they get into September,” Scott said, adding. “It even affects November, December when you’ve got to play your best football.”
Any edge might help the Rams, who are coming off a 4-12 record in 2016.
McVay said Bruce Warwick, the Rams’ director of operations, had reservations about the golf-cart idea and joked that Warwick was “a lot more nervous than me.”
Warwick said he anticipated a few minor issues that could be rectified if they arise. Carts parked on grass areas, for example.
McVay said there would be consequences, including fines, for any rules violations.
“The biggest thing is, ‘Hey, understand why we’re trying to use this is to protect you guys, and it’s ultimately going to lead to your ability to perform your best when we get out on the field, which is when we’re evaluating you,’” McVay said. “Let’s be smart with the way we’re handling it and don’t take it for granted.’”
McVay acknowledged it had crossed his mind that this “could be a bad decision.” Then he laughed it off.
He said he took a cart for a spin but joked that his driving skills were terrible.
“I say, you know, ‘This is an accident waiting to happen,’” he said.
So he opted for another mode of transportation.
“I’m going to walk,” he said.
Follow Lindsey Thiry on Facebook and Twitter @LindseyThiry
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