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Rams players working on plan to address racial inequality

Rams players, including rookie running back number Cam Akers, take part in a team practice session
Rams quarterback Jared Goff, left, talks with wide receiver Robert Woods during a team practice session in Thousand Oaks on Thursday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

About 30 minutes into Thursday’s practice, Rams coach Sean McVay stopped the workout and called players from all points on two fields to gather around him.

McVay had met with team leaders earlier. But this was the first time the entire roster was together since NBA, WNBA and some Major League Baseball teams decided to cancel games Wednesday to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis., and to bring attention to other issues related to racial and social injustice.

“It’s always about being able to connect with our guys, make sure we understand their perspectives and really be able to figure out a way to put some tangible things in place to try and move the needle in the right direction,” McVay told reporters during a videoconference after practice.

Many NFL teams, including the Chargers, canceled practices Thursday but the Rams did not.

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He is in line for a historic contract extension, but Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey is not waiting to make significant charitable contributions.

Receiver Robert Woods and quarterback Jared Goff said they were among players in a team leadership group that discussed several issues before practice. They respected the decision of other teams not to practice but chose to do so.

“If we cancel practice, we need to take action — take a bus and go somewhere and get some changes done,” Woods said. “Not just to cancel practice and have a moment of silence or just sit at home.

“I think it’s time to actually get involved, that’s what we were discussing this morning.”

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Goff said players had spoken about potential actions during the summer, leading into training camp and during camp. He said Thursday’s meeting included people who can assist with a plan.

“The details of that plan are not finished,” Goff said, “and they will be soon. But it’s really positive.”

The mood for Thursday’s practice began to be set Wednesday night after games in other sports were canceled.

“I think that’s big for what’s going in the world today, you know, with everything that’s happening, the way they just keep killing us,” cornerback Troy Hill told reporters Wednesday night, adding, “I think that was a good thing, a good stance. But I mean I know we need a lot more if that’s going to happen in order to make some changes.”

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Rams running back Malcolm Brown practices with the team at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
Rams running back Malcolm Brown practices with the team at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Said running back Malcolm Brown: “It comes down to right and wrong. I feel like you’re grown, you know what’s right and wrong. It’s as simple as that and I don’t think it really needs any crazy explanations anymore. “

Woods, 28, grew up in Carson and graduated from Gardena Serra High before becoming an All-American at USC. He is entering his fourth season with the Rams, his eighth in the NFL.

Woods first made a call to action in June in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. A police officer had kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes. Woods said he was “traumatized” by video of the incident.

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Woods said in June that he was focused on rallying people to vote. During his videoconference Thursday, Woods wore a T-shirt emblazoned with “VOTE,” that included the Rams logo in the letter O.

“This is a big, big political year,” Woods said. “You see this is bigger than sports, it’s bigger than football. This is all about being a human being and being respectful to everybody.”

COVID-19 is a viral blip on the radar when it comes to systemic racism in America, which ignores warning signs, like Jacob Blake’s death, and denies it exists.

The Rams are scheduled to open the season Sept. 13 against the Dallas Cowboys. On Friday and Saturday they will go through mock-game preparations for a workout at SoFi Stadium on Saturday.

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Balancing emotions regarding social injustice while preparing for the season is “tough,” Woods said.

“You want to compete — you want to get ready for the season,” he said. “You definitely want to be playing football. ... Coming to practice, our mind is kind of elsewhere. You want to be involved, but yet at the same time, you’ve still got to work.

“In between the lines, you’re definitely able to focus on football. Right now, outside of the lines, it’s definitely on our minds.”

Etc.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth did not practice because they were given a “vets day” to rest, McVay said. … Safety Taylor Rapp (knee) did individual drills. Running back Darrell Henderson (hamstring) continued to work on the side with trainers.


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