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Rams

Rams preparing for the ‘looking good, feeling good’ version of Cam Newton

Cam Newton warms up before a Carolina Panthers preseason game.
Cam Newton suffered a foot injury in the preseason, but coach Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera is confident his quarterback will be ready to play in Sunday’s season opener against the Rams.
(Associated Press)

After lining up against him five times during his 11-year NFL career, Rams cornerback Aqib Talib knows a few things about Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Talib was part of a Denver Broncos defense directed by coordinator Wade Phillips that shut down Newton in Super Bowl 50 to end the 2015 season.

As the Rams get ready for Sunday’s opener against the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Talib said there were similarities to the run-up to his Super Bowl matchup against Newton.

“You had a while to kind of prepare for him,” Talib said Monday. “And I think we put together a great game plan.”

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The Broncos had two weeks to prepare for Newton before their 24-10 Super Bowl victory. The Rams have had nearly five months.

Previewing the 2019 NFL season as the league celebrates its 100th year and the Rams and Chargers look to contend for the Super Bowl LIV title.

Newton, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and 2015 league MVP, had offseason surgery on his right shoulder. He recovered well, but his status for Sunday’s game was in question after he suffered a foot injury during the third preseason game against the New England Patriots.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters last week that there was “no doubt in my mind” that Newton would be ready for the Rams.

Talib also has no doubts.

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“We know he’s going to come out looking good, feeling good,” Talib said.

The Rams expect to see the same from Talib, 33, who said he has worked through the hamstring issue that sidelined him from practice for several weeks.

Talib participated in joint practices with the Chargers and Oakland Raiders before preseason games began, but he subsequently did not participate in team workouts. On Monday, he said that he was “solid, ready to go.”

Rams cornerback Aqib Talib takes the field.
Rams cornerback Aqib Talib takes the field before a preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Aug. 24.
(Getty Images)

The Rams had just completed what coach Sean McVay described as a “walk-through, jog-through” on what amounted to an extra day of preparation. The Rams will be off Tuesday before beginning game-week preparation for the Panthers on Wednesday.

“There’s an urgency that you can feel,” McVay said.

Talib is part of a remade secondary that now includes 12-year veteran safety Eric Weddle.

Weddle, 34, is calling defensive signals and also actively directing teammates before snaps. After some initial questions, Talib is embracing his style, Weddle said.

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“He’d be like, ‘You want me to do what?’” Weddle said, chuckling. “I’m like, ‘Trust me.’

Running back John Kelly, linebacker Dakota Allen and quarterback John Wolford are among the 10 players signed to the Rams’ practice squad on Sunday.

“And then it works and he’s like, ‘I like you.’”

Talib and Weddle also converse in the meeting room, and they have worked together to help younger players get up to speed with communication, Talib said.

“From April till now — drastic change,” he said, adding, “The communication is game ready.”

In 2018, Talib was sidelined for eight games because of an ankle injury. He intercepted only one pass, but his late season return was instrumental in helping the Rams advance to the Super Bowl, where they gave a solid defensive performance in the 13-3 defeat by the Patriots.

Rams cornerback Aqib Talib watches from the sideline before the start of Super Bowl LIII against the New England Patriots at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 3.
Rams cornerback Aqib Talib watches from the sideline before the start of Super Bowl LIII against the New England Patriots at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 3.
(Getty Images)

Now he begins the 12th season of a career that also has included stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Patriots. He has returned 10 of his 35 interceptions for touchdowns.

Talib will earn $8 million this season in the final year of a six-year, $57-million contract he signed with the Broncos in 2014.

“When I came into the league I used to say, ‘Man, I want to play 10 years,’” Talib said, adding, “Once I got to 10, now it was just, ‘Man, one year at a time. You play good this year somebody’s going to want to pay you next year.’”

Etc.

The Rams placed linebacker Justin Lawler, who had foot surgery last month, on injured reserve. ... Center Coleman Shelton was added to the roster. Shelton finished his college eligibility at Washington in 2017 and has had practice squad stints with the Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals. “You always keep your phone ready,” Shelton said of the days following NFL roster cuts. “Whenever you get a call, your heart starts beating a little faster.” Aaron Neary had worked as the backup to starting center Brian Allen before Neary suffered an ankle fracture in the third preseason game. ... Quarterback John Wolford is happy to be back with the Rams on the practice squad. Wolford passed for three touchdowns during the preseason but was placed on waivers Saturday. “The Rams were the organization I wanted to be with,” he said. “When I got through waivers, they were excited and I was excited. I just want to continue to develop here. The culture is great.”


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