The pall that hung over the Southland in the aftermath of a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks weighed heavily at the Rams’ practice facility at nearby Cal Lutheran University on Thursday.
The Wednesday night incident that left 13 people dead and others injured occurred at the Borderline Bar and Grill, about four miles from the Rams’ coaching offices and practice fields.
So when the Rams reported for work Thursday morning, coach Sean McVay immediately addressed the tragedy in a team meeting.
During his daily news conference, McVay said: “Sometimes, me personally, you get upset about losing a game or whatever and this kind of brings you back down and you really realize what’s important in life and sometimes you take some of these things for granted.”
Shortly after McVay began the team meeting, he ceded the floor to offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth. The 13th-year NFL veteran took the lead with other players “to proactively pursue doing something to use the platform that we do have to support the people that were affected by this,” McVay said.
Whitworth, a Thousand Oaks resident, said after practice that he was awakened early Thursday morning to the “gut-wrenching and emotional” news of the tragedy.
He said his message to teammates was to take action.
“We just wanted to be able to find a way to come together and really just wrap our arms around a community that we live in and that we operate and live in,” Whitworth said. “It was just about challenging the guys, ‘Hey, here’s an opportunity for us.’ ”
Whitworth and several teammates said they were in the process of finalizing plans that could possibly aid victims’ families financially or in other ways.
Whitworth, 36, has a history of involvement with various charitable causes. Rather than wondering how to make a difference in time of tragedy or otherwise, he said he preferred to be proactive.
“Find a way to put your feet on the ground and take action and getting involved in some way,” he said.
Whitworth said players have formed a social justice group to discuss and create opportunities that will allow them to positively affect the community.
“Hopefully, we can find multiple ways that we can make a difference,” he said, “whether it’s financially, through personal relationships, through investing our time to really just make sure this community knows we’re in this with them, we love them and we want to in some way, somehow be there for them.”
Safety John Johnson said Whitworth’s message resonated.
“We work here, this is our community — a lot of guys live here,” Johnson said. “Anything I can do, I will.”
Said offensive lineman Rodger Saffold: “It’s way too many mass shootings, and this one was so close to home. I mean you can’t help but care about those people.”
The Rams issued a statement Thursday morning.
“The Los Angeles Rams organization is heartbroken by the horrific shooting that took place last night in our community of Thousand Oaks,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and our entire community.”
The Rams are planning to have a moment of silence before Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum, McVay said.
“It's a sad, sad deal and we feel for the people involved, that it happened to,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “It doesn’t just affect those people. It affects everybody.
“And our players are genuinely and greatly concerned about it, as we all are.”