By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Odell Beckham Jr. arrived in Los Angeles on Friday by private jet and made his way north to the Rams’ training complex. Although he passed his physical and signed his contract, the receiver didn’t participate in his new team’s first practice.
Just eight games remain in the regular season for the Rams (7-2), but they don’t intend to rush their latest prizes into action. Los Angeles acquired Beckham and pass rusher Von Miller to help out for the next two months, but also in hopes of making the following month — the playoffs — even more special.
“We’re trying to win now,” Aaron Donald said. “That’s what it’s about. When you see them making moves like this, bringing in high-talent players like how we bring it in, with the talent we’ve got, it’s like, sky’s the limit.”
And none of it damages the Rams’ plan to compete for a Super Bowl berth again next year, according to the men making this team’s bold moves.
General manager Les Snead simply sees the door open for title contention this year, and he wants the Rams to have the best chance to barge through.
“It’s very important being aware of what window you’re in,” Snead said. “We’re very aware we’re 7-2. … We’re aware that we have a chance to still accomplish some things that we want to accomplish. But all we can control is today’s practice and the mission at hand, which is San Francisco (on Monday night). We’re aware, but every year is important.”
Snead and coach Sean McVay spent Friday gently pushing back at the widespread notion these Rams are in “Super Bowl Or Bust” mode, racking up bills that will cripple them later in a desperate bid to play at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13. The reality, they patiently say, is more nuanced and complicated than a tweet or a talk-radio sound byte.
Both Snead and McVay believe the loss of two high draft picks in the trade for Miller, or the possibility for drama created by adding Beckham to a tight group of receivers, are outweighed by the benefits of going for a title now — and moreover, by being a team that’s always aggressively trying to win.
The Rams’ fans and the entire city feel that vibe, Snead said. According to McVay, so do NFL players — even players on other teams watching the Rams’ swagger.
Just ask the current Rams, who realize the attractiveness of their situation.
“Look, it’s LA, a hot team, good coaches,” 2020 All-Pro defensive tackle Donald said. “Who wouldn’t want to be here? That’s how it works. If somebody else wants to come, they can come. We’re trying to make something happen.”
McVay also points to the obvious evidence of the Rams seemingly emerging from nowhere to land Beckham this week with an aggressive recruiting pitch organized by their veteran leaders, notably Jalen Ramsey.
“I knew that there was a possibility (to land Beckham),” McVay said. “Because anytime you have some of the players that we have, being in this great city, and (being) a good organization, you’re going to attract some guys.”
Ramsey led the LA players’ pursuit of Beckham after the wideout forced his way out of Cleveland. While Ramsey’s reputation took hits during his stormy departure from Jacksonville, the do-it-all defensive back is now respected as a team leader and an ambassador for the Rams — and as an added recruitment bonus, he’s friendly with just about every big-name NFL star.
“If you don’t try, you can’t succeed, so I just try it,” Ramsey said, a sly grin hidden under a balaclava. “I’m still working on other people too. You never know. I’m trying to get (Chargers safety) Derwin (James) in here next. You never know. No, I’m just joking. But I’m not.”
Although the Rams have used the same three receivers on nearly 80% of their offensive snaps this year, they finally acknowledged they needed depth after DeSean Jackson’s trade demand and season-ending injuries for youngsters Tutu Atwell and Jacob Harris. After failing to reacquire veteran Josh Reynolds from Tennessee, the Rams aggressively went after Beckham — and succeeded.
Miller, who worked out with the Rams’ linebackers Friday, skipped Los Angeles’ first game since his arrival last weekend to rest his injured ankle. McVay is revealing nothing, but the Rams clearly are considering not using their two big acquisitions until after their upcoming bye week.
Given the distinct possibility Miller and Beckham will leave as free agents in the spring after playing in only seven regular-season games, the Rams’ strategy seems strange and risky to many other front offices and fan bases.
Yet Snead can point to his results. He has been doing business in this manner since the Rams traded six draft picks for the chance to draft Jared Goff in their first big move after returning home to Los Angeles in 2016.
They’ve landed an impressive list of star players since — Ramsey, Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, among others — without damaging their depth in any way they haven’t been able to overcome with solid drafting and more canny veteran acquisitions.
The Super-Bowl-Or-Bust perception still lingers, yet the Rams are heading to their fifth consecutive winning season under McVay, who has also produced three playoff teams, two NFC West titles and one Super Bowl berth.
“I think it’s really exciting to partner up with great talents, but we want to make sure we’re building the right team the right way,” McVay said. “I’m not naïve to the fact that the (Super-Bowl-Or-Bust) narrative is out there, but all of these moves are a reflection of what we thought upgraded our football team. We felt like both these guys will offer something to help. It’s our job to make sure we put it together all the right way.”
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