The trade to the top of the NFL draft did not unnerve him, the No. 1 pick was not a surprise and the aftermath, Case Keenum said, would not change the way he approaches his job.
Keenum was the Rams’ presumptive starting quarterback going into off-season workouts.
Nearly five months later, as the Rams prepare for the start of organized team activities next week, that status is tenuous.
After the Rams traded up from No. 15 for the top pick in the draft, the team selected Jared Goff. The next day, Coach Jeff Fisher called the former California standout the Rams’ “franchise quarterback.”
Keenum, relaxing on a bench at the team’s temporary Oxnard training base last week, recognizes the situation but sounds unfazed.
“I know nothing’s going to be handed to me,” he said. “Ever.”
Keenum was an undrafted free agent when he began his pro career with the Houston Texans in 2012.
Nick Foles, acquired in a trade for Sam Bradford, was the Rams’ starter last season until Fisher benched him in favor of Keenum.
Keenum completed 61% of his passes in six games, with four touchdowns and one interception in six games. The Rams were 3-2 in his starts.
Fisher and General Manager Les Snead publicly expressed confidence in Keenum after the NFL approved the Rams’ move from St. Louis in January but said they would seek to upgrade the position.
In March, after the Rams’ first team meeting in Southern California, the 28-year-old Keenum told reporters that he was encouraged by the coaching staff’s confidence in him.
“I’m looking forward to moving to L.A.,” he said, adding, “I’m ready for the city and just for the experience to blow me away.”
Weeks later, the Rams and the Tennessee Titans completed the trade that had been in the works since the NFL scouting combine in February.
The deal stunned many, but not Keenum. Not after the Rams ranked last in the NFL in passing offense last season.
“I knew they were going to draft somebody,” he said, adding, “You have to produce to keep your job in this business.”
For two weeks, the Rams kept NFL observers speculating. Would they draft Goff or North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz?
The day after the draft, Fisher said that he would not rule out the possibility of Goff starting the Sept. 12 opener against the San Francisco 49ers on “Monday Night Football.”
Asked if those comments added motivation, Keenum said he would be prepared for any scenario.
“There’s so much that can happen -- you can’t look too far into too many of those little details,” he said. “If you start going down those rabbit holes and start thinking [and listening to] speculation, that’s when you stop playing like you can play.
“That’s when you stop doing your job.”
Under Fisher, rookies go through an orientation and are mostly kept separate from the veterans during the majority of off-season workouts. Goff attended the Rams’ rookie camp in early May but was required to return to Cal until final exams were complete. He returned last week.
“He’s been out there a little bit and jumped right in,” Keenum said. “He’s a smart kid, fast learner and he can throw the football.”
Goff played in a no-huddle, spread offense at Cal, so he must transition from taking snaps exclusively from the shotgun formation to taking them under center and then dropping back for passes. Keenum played in a no-huddle, spread offense in college at Houston before signing with the Texans in 2012.
“It’s a tough adjustment, getting to that pro-style, huddle-up, under-center stuff,” Keenum said. “Jared’s done a great job already. It’s not an easy thing.”
Offensive coordinator Rob Boras and quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke are Goff’s primary conduits for learning the Rams’ offense.
Keenum said he benefited early in his career from veterans who shared tips and experiences, so he will be available to Goff.
“My first job is to try to be the best quarterback I can be -- and that’s hard enough in this league,” he said. “But I want to help in whatever way I can. I definitely want to pass on any knowledge that I have. That’s an important part of the position.
“He’s being a sponge right now. He’s listening to everything in the meeting room. Sometimes there’s a lot of voices coming at him so I don’t want to try to add to it because coach Weinke and coach Boras do a great job.”
When OTAs begin – the first chance for the Rams’ offense to work against the defense since last season -- four quarterbacks are expected to participate: Goff, Keenum, Foles and second-year pro Sean Mannion.
Receiver Tavon Austin is eager to catch passes from each of them.
“I’m looking forward to working with anybody,” he said. “Right now, Case is our guy. We’ll just see how it goes.”
Foles’ status remains the most fluid. The market for a possible trade is expected to resume after training camp begins in late July if teams lose quarterbacks because of injuries or other reasons.
Depending on how quickly Goff progresses, Keenum could still open the season as the starter.
But he’s not looking too far ahead.
His focus, he said, would remain on improvement.
“I’m not too big of an ego to think that I’ve got it figured out,” he said, “because I don’t.
“I’ve got to continue to get better.”