ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Rams had a dress rehearsal at the Edward Jones Dome, giving the new coaching staff and new players a peak at their stadium.
"All week, I think they were kind of looking forward to this, to finish up the first phase of camp," coach Jeff Fisher said.
The 2½-hour practice Saturday also gave an announced crowd of 12,753 an opportunity to watch the Rams under Fisher, in his first year with St. Louis. The team did individual drills, 1-on-1s and 7-on-7s before ending practice with situational scrimmages.
Running back Steven Jackson said the team is adjusting to the new schemes and the practice was just another step forward as the Rams prepare to open their preseason schedule Aug. 12 at Indianapolis. Maybe more importantly, he said, the visit to the Dome helped eliminate distractions for players who should focus more on trying to secure a spot on the roster.
"So, when it's time to win jobs in the next four or five weeks, they can just really hone in on the game and not think at all about the venue," he said.
The practice lasted about 30 minutes longer than scheduled and Fisher said it made sense to increase the workload. In contrast to the 94-degree temperature — 104 with heat index — the Rams dealt with Friday at their practice facility, the climate-controlled atmosphere at the Dome felt ideal.
It also allowed the fans some extra exposure to a team that finished 2-14 last year, tied for worst in the league, and is 15-65 over the past five years.
"Obviously we're trying to change, I guess, our reputation, our image in the city," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "With coach Fisher, we've got a new look, new attitude, something that we want to share with the fans and this city."
The biggest cheers came when kickers Garrett Lindholm and rookie Greg Zuerlein, a sixth-round pick out of Western Missouri, had what came off as an impromptu competition. Each got six kicks starting at 39 yards, moving back 5 yards with each attempt. Each made the first four distances with Zuerlein adding a 59-yarder and just missing to the left from 64 yards.
It was scheduled for Lindholm to get the first three kicks with the first team, followed by Zuerlein's six kicks with a combination of second- and third-team players. But after Zuerlein easily cleared from 49 yards, the next two kicks seemed like he was being tested.
With Zuerlein regularly connecting from more than 55 yards in practice, the Rams might scrap the adage of needing to reach a minimum of the 32-yard line to feel confident about their kicker's chances.
"These guys are saying all we need to do is get to midfield now," Fisher said. "He has a very, very strong leg. They both kicked the ball very well today."
Wide receiver Brandon Gibson also had a couple of nice catches and his sideline grab late in practice was the most impressive show of the afternoon. He was forced to stretch and twist his entire body to pull down a Bradford pass with little room to land. With only a few spots realistically open at the receiver spot to compete for, Gibson's performance had to help his chances.
"This is our third year together," Bradford said. "He's someone I feel extremely comfortable with. Gibby's had a very good camp, too. He's playing at an extremely high level right now."