Smith hits practice field with Rams

Saturday, August 1, 2009
St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Jason Smith, the team's first-round draft pick, puts on his helmet during NFL football training camp Friday at the Rams' training facility in St. Louis. (JEFF ROBERSON ~ Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS -- A day after the St. Louis Rams took Jason Smith with the second pick of the draft, the offensive tackle vowed to be in training camp on time.

On Friday, he wore No. 77 as he took the field for the first full-squad workout under new coach Steve Spagnuolo. Smith made it just under the wire, signing a five-year contract Thursday.

"All I know is that to play football you've got to be here," Smith said. "You can't be at the house."

Smith's deal is worth as much as $62 million with incentives and includes $33 million in guaranteed money. But Spagnuolo said he didn't notice Smith much the first day because there were "so many skill guys running around, it's hard to see the big men."

"I'll have to look at the film, but a couple of the peeks I took at him I was pleased," the coach said.

St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Jason Smith warms up during NFL football training camp Friday at the Rams' training facility in St. Louis. (JEFF ROBERSON ~ Associated Press)

Smith is likely an instant starter at right tackle for a franchise that has won just five games the last two seasons. He played mostly on the left side his last two years at Baylor but has settled in on the right side during minicamps and OTAs.

"The more reps you get, the better you're going to be at anything," Smith said. "Whether it's right tackle, left tackle, serving water, making sure the Gatorade is cold, handing out towels, whatever it is I feel I'm a little better at it now."

Spagnuolo eased the team into summer drills with the first workout just under 11/2 hours and not in full pads. That'll change today with the first of 13 two-a-days.

Players tired of talk about last year's 2-14 record were ready for the grind. Spagnuolo spotted running back Steven Jackson working on a treadmill at Rams Park about 10 p.m. a few nights ago.

There was plenty of anticipation, too, for Spagnuolo, heading into his first training camp practice as a head coach.

"I can't say it's just another day," Spagnuolo said. "I didn't sleep real good. Just anxious. You remember when we were little and it was Christmas, waking up every hour. Honestly, that's just about what it was like."

Smith said he was on call at 2:30 a.m. Thursday that a deal might be imminent. Another positive sign came when the Rams signed second-round pick James Laurinaitis, a linebacker who has the same agent.

"I was 'All right, cool. I guess I'm next,"' Smith said. "That's kind of how I felt at the draft. Am I next? Am I next?"

The signing meant no no-shows for the first workout, unlike last year when Jackson staged a lengthy holdout. Reserve offensive lineman John Greco did not participate in the opening practice after cramping during morning conditioning sprints.

"It was great to have them all here," Spagnuolo said. "I'll probably never be completely pleased, but they gave good effort."

After the first workout, the former Baylor star agreed he was living a dream. Even if he had to perform rookie tasks like toting the helmets of the rest of the offensive line starters plus tight end Randy McMichael.

"I wake up every day thankful for what I was pretty much given based on the ability I have," Smith said. "I'm just happy I wake up every day and then hey, get to play football, and I'm going to get paid."

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