Training camp is an annual event in the life of those who make their livings in the National Football League in many ways. For coaches it's time to implement new schemes. For undrafted free agent players, it's an opportunity to survive until the next roster cut. Supports staff are busy with taking media requests and doing hundreds of loads of laundry. For veteran free agent additions, like Kenny Britt and Shaun Hill, it's mostly a mental adjustment to the new franchise. Both Britt and Hill could be major contributors to the Rams' offense for the 2014-15 season.
Britt faces the unusual dynamic in his first training camp in Earth City as the member of the wide receiver group with the most professional experience. Britt, now about to start his seventh NFL season, signed a one-year deal with the Rams this past offseason. The Rutgers graduate was drafted in the first round of 2009 by the Tennessee Titans and had played his entire career there prior to this offseason, when he reunited with St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher.
"These young guys are showing me a lot more than I expected. I'm learning from them as they are learning from me. I came on this team with my mindset as being a rookie. I wanted to come in and learn from these guys who have been in this system longer than I have, how they run routes and how these coaches want the routes ran. They feed off me like I feed off them," Britt said.
Britt is excited about the group of receivers that he is now part of.
"Every one of us brings something different. Brian Quick is a big receiver like me but he also runs routes great and is physical and some of the things he does I take for myself. I've never seen a person as explosive as Tayvon Austin in the NFL. He is quick and fast on the field. You've got AP (Austin Pettis). He is a finesse guy. All of his routes are crisp. Some people think he isn't a fast guy but then he surprises you with his speed on the field," Britt commented.
Britt's best season came in his sophomore campaign, when he caught 42 passes for 775 yards and nine touchdowns. Last season, the now 26-year-old Britt appeared in 12 games, making three starts, in which he caught 11 balls for 96 yards.
Injuries have plagued Britt since that 2010-11 season, causing him to miss 29 games over the past three seasons. But for now, while he's healthy, he is focused on finding his role in the Rams' offense, which could be catching passes from Hill.
Hill was signed during the offseason to fill a role that is vital for any NFL team, the backup quarterback. Given the injury history of incumbent starter Sam Bradford, the importance of that position for St. Louis can't be understated.
Hill has a history of taking his career by the horns. He went undrafted out of Maryland but in 2005 broke into the league with the Minnesota Vikings. All the teams in the league passed him over for the 2006-07 season then in 2007 he was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers, where he backed up current Kansas City Chiefs' starter Alex Smith. After the 2009 season, he was traded to the Detroit Lions, which put him in position to play in 11 games and make 10 starts in 2010-11 when Matthew Stafford went down.
In that season, Hill completed nearly 62 percent of his passes and threw for almost 2,700 yards and 16 touchdowns. Since then he hasn't made any starts and appeared in five games as Stafford has remained upright. Like Britt, the 34-year-old also signed a one-year deal with the Rams this past offseason.
Nothing has been officially announced by the team yet, but it's likely that Hill will win the job to be Bradford's backup. That means that he will be literally one play away from taking the reigns of the St. Louis offense at any given moment.
"It's the way I've made my career the past few years. You have to be willing to put in the preparation time and mental reps. You have to stay ready on the sideline, especially at my age," Hill stated.
Even if Bradford plays every snap on offense for the Rams this year, Hill will still play a vital role for the team.
"I bring some experience and during the week it's my job to give the defense a good look. On Sunday it's my job to bounce information off the coordinator and Sam and help them out as much as possible," Hill explained.
Adjusting to a new system is something that both Britt and Hill are quite accustomed to.
"I had three different offensive coordinators in Tennessee. Some of the words that they used in Tennessee are the same here but they mean different things. Right now I'm getting the playbook down and I'm excited to go," Britt commented.
"It's been different because I've been in the same system for the last four years so I haven't had to learn one in quite a while but in my four years in San Francisco I had four different coordinators in that time. I became very good at learning offenses then. At this level it's more mental than physical. A lot of it is forgetting what you used to know and applying what you are learning now," Hill added.
Britt and Hill might have short stays with the Rams, as nothing is guaranteed past this season. However, that's true of most things in the NFL. What is guaranteed is that if the Rams have a successful 2014-15 season, the experience and talents of Britt and Hill will be part of their rambling to the postseason.