The sun baked the field — and Rams players — two hours into another full-pads practice at UC Irvine on Wednesday.
That’s when sweat-soaked running back Todd Gurley took a handoff at the five-yard line and broke through the line of scrimmage during a simple full-squad drill.
The reigning NFL offensive player of the year did not stop at the 25- or the 30-yard lines. He dashed across the 50. He kept going full speed until he crossed the goal line 95 yards away.
Then he quickly turned and sprinted to the sideline to rejoin teammates.
Gurley took more reps in the final minutes of practice, and then ran wind sprints by himself across the width of the field for more than 20 minutes.
There are 45 million reasons why Gurley could take it easy, but the guaranteed dollars in the $60-million extension he signed last week only seem to have inspired him to keep working.
Gurley, who turns 24 on Friday, acknowledged that the historic contract is a definite mood-lifter.
“Whoever said money don’t make you happy lied,” he said, smiling.
Gurley, though, does not seem affected by his status as the player with the richest contract for a running back in NFL history.
Tight end Tyler Higbee said last week that “Uncle Todd” was the “same dude” he was before he signed the deal that could keep him with the Rams through the 2023 season.
Quarterback Jared Goff noted Wednesday that Gurley has been “quite happy,” and that he was sporting a backpack imprinted with money on the material.
“What is that?” Goff has playfully teased, “Your signing bonus?”
Gurley takes it in stride.
After scoring a league-leading 19 touchdowns and amassing more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage last season, he knows he will be a marked man as the Rams try to repeat as NFC West champions and make a run at the Super Bowl.
From the day coach Sean McVay first worked with Gurley before the 2017 season, he has praised the fourth-year pro for setting an example in practice. McVay senses no complacency.
“If anything,” he said Wednesday, “he’s been working harder.”
Gurley made one change in the second training camp under McVay.
Gurley has forsaken the golf carts players are assigned to travel from their dorms to the locker room and field. Instead, he traverses the sprawling campus on a gift from a friend: A high-end electric bike.
“While everybody else is going 10 miles per hour,” he said, “I’m going 15 to 20 [mph].”
Gurley and the Rams will travel next week to Baltimore for two joint practices and the preseason opener.
It will be a homecoming for Gurley, who grew up in Baltimore before moving to North Carolina as he was beginning middle school.
He is looking forward to seeing family and friends and eating real Maryland crab cakes.
With his new contract, he can buy a few.