The St. Louis Rams needed an impact wide receiver.
Based on first glance during Thursday’s OTA session at Rams Park, it appears that the marriage between Britt and the Rams will be good for both parties, though maybe not so much for the St. Louis cornerbacks trying to defend him in practice.
"Oh man, it’s everything to me, to tell you the truth," Britt said of his fresh start after five seasons with the Tennessee Titans. "My mind’s free. I’m relaxed right now. I’m taking this year as a rookie year, (like when) I first came into the league. That’s my mind state right now."
Going into his sixth NFL season but still only 25, Britt showed Thursday that he can still make an impact on the football field. Well, as much as that’s possible when the team goes helmets-only during an early June organized team activity.
The 2009 first-round pick out of Rutgers ran past starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins to haul in a touchdown pass down the left sideline. Then, a few minutes later, Britt ran past the Rams’ other starting corner, Trumaine Johnson, for a touchdown pass down the right side of the field.
Britt punctuated that particular play with a celebratory spike and a scream of a not-fit-for-this-family-friendly website expletive.
A few minutes later, Britt and Johnson got into a shoving match that ended with both players on the ground and coach Jeff Fisher stopping the session to voice his disapproval of the extracurricular shenanigans.
Britt, who was probably the most vocal player on the field with trash talk but also with congratulating his teammates after big plays, said afterward that it was all part of competition between the players.
"We take that on the field, off the field, in the weight room, in the locker room," he said. "Guys love it. We’re males out there and this is a man’s game. That’s one thing, when you come between those lines, you compete. When we go in the locker room, we’re all brothers."
Though it’s early, it looks like the Rams’ new No. 81 is fitting in nicely.
With his offensive teammates, anyway.
The Rams did not take a wide receiver with any of their 11 selections in the draft last month, instead investing picks to upgrade the offensive and defensive lines, the secondary and at running back (Tre Mason) and quarterback (Garrett Gilbert, a developmental pick).
General manager Les Snead has said this offseason that he likes the five-receiver group of Tavon Austin (40 catches, 418 yards, six total TDs), Chris Givens (16.7 yards-per-catch average in his first two seasons), Austin Pettis (38 catches, 399 yards, four TDs), Stedman Bailey (17 catches, 226 yards, one rushing TD) and Brian Quick (18 catches, 302 yards, two TDs).
Signed to a one-year deal in late March, Britt offers a potential low-risk, high-reward option to add to the receiving corps, but it’s difficult to know what kind of player the Rams are getting.
In his first two seasons, Britt looked like a breakout star.
He caught 42 passes for 701 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie in 2009 and followed it up with 42 catches for 775 yards and nine scores in just 12 games in 2010. He ranked sixth in the NFL with a 17.6 yards-per-catch receiving average over those two seasons.
But then came a run of injuries, including a knee injury, and off-the-field issues that seemed to derail his promising career.
In 12 games (three starts) in 2013, Britt totaled just 11 catches for 96 yards.
"It’s hard," Britt said of the injuries. "My second year going through the hamstring problems, I missed (four) games. Then tearing my ACL. … I’m not thinking about that. I’m just trying to get back to where I was before. I’m feeling healthy, I’m feeling strong and I feel like I’m young again."
Britt looked healthy Thursday.
If he can get back to the form he showed in his first two seasons, he’ll be a big boost to a Rams offense that needs more playmakers to emerge on the perimeter.
"He’s a very emotional kid," Fisher said Thursday. "He’s an emotional receiver. He looks the part and he can make the plays. I was really happy to see him come on. He kept himself in really good shape during the free agency period. He came in, has done a great job inside. He’s had no setbacks, feels great physically. He could potentially return to where he was, a very productive receiver."
Quarterback Sam Bradford already sounds like a fan of his new wideout.
"He’s a big, explosive wide receiver who can make plays down the field," Bradford said. "He’s looked good in his time here. I think just watching him and the energy that he comes onto the field with every day has been great. Not only for the offense, but for that wide receiving corps in general. I just feel like he brings kind of a presence and an energy that hasn’t been there in the past."
RAMS NO. 1 PICK SETTLES IN AT NEW POSITION
Greg Robinson, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, played left tackle the past two seasons at Auburn but will start out at left guard with the Rams, as expected.
That’s where Robinson lined up with the starting unit Thursday, along with Joe Barksdale at right tackle and re-signed free agent Rodger Saffold at right guard.
Tim Barnes was at center, in place of veteran Scott Wells, and youngster Sean Hooey was at left tackle in place of veteran Jake Long, who is recovering from the ACL injury he suffered late last season.
"We want to go through OTAs and most of camp with players playing the position they’ll play in the opener," Fisher said. "You assume Jake comes back, so we’ll just plug someone else in out there."
MICHAEL SAM GETS IN A SCRAP
There will be a lot of eyes focused on rookie defensive end Michael Sam as he attempts to become the first openly gay football player in the NFL.
On Thursday, Sam got a little extra attention from teammate Isaiah Pead as the seventh-round pick and the reserve running back had a shoving match after one play. It wasn’t nearly as intense as the tussle between Britt and Johnson, however.