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LA Rams’ Tutu Atwell back on track after tough rookie year

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Tutu Atwell couldn’t play for the Los Angeles Rams during the preseason, and that’s how he knows his second season in the NFL is off to a great start.

Coach Sean McVay shows his disdain for injury risks in the NFL’s exhibition schedule by refusing to outfit virtually every player he expects to make a significant contribution during the season regular. By not touching the court in August, Atwell knows he’ll be on the grass in September and beyond – and that’s more good news for a second-year fast receiver who’s back in the mix after his rookie season started quietly and ended early.

“I just had to find myself,” Atwell said on Friday. “In my first year, I had to feel everything, and I feel like I did. In second year, it’s time to put on a show for everyone and see what I can do .

Atwell admits he would have liked to play last month, but he’s already started strong with a blistering streak of training camp workouts with the Super Bowl champions.

“I was kind of excited to get out there to show the fans and show the world,” Atwell said of his pre-season. “But I guess Coach respected my game, and I respect that. I appreciate him believing in what I can do to help the team.

The Miami native who played in Louisville was a somewhat surprising second-round pick by the Rams, and he never got a chance to do much as a rookie to justify his lofty selection. Cam Akers and former tight end Gerald Everett are the only players selected higher than Atwell in the last six drafts by Rams general manager Les Snead, who hasn’t made a first-round pick since 2016.

Atwell returned kickoffs and punts as a rookie but had just 10 offensive snaps in the first half of last season before a shoulder injury put him out. away for the year. Just before the injury, McVay told reporters he wanted to see more urgency from Atwell – a simple statement that amounts to a major criticism of McVay, who rarely says anything even mildly negative. about his players.

A season-ending setback came as a shock to Atwell, who had never suffered a significant injury before. He filled his suddenly empty hours on the West Coast with rehab, TV, and hundreds of hours of Call of Duty: Warzone.

“It was tough and depressing,” Atwell said. ” Stressful. Boring. There’s a whole bunch of stuff. I could go on and on. But watching the games and seeing your team winning, doing the right thing, just helped and motivated me.

Indeed, the Rams have won nine of their last 10 games, culminating in the Super Bowl win over Cincinnati. Atwell watched his teammates’ success from the sidelines and celebrated their championship, but he got no personal satisfaction from it.

“It was like being a spectator,” Atwell said. “We play for each other, so I know these guys are playing for me, and I would do the same for them.”

Atwell’s offseason growth began with a message to All-Pro Cooper Kupp, who won the NFL’s receiving triple crown and Super Bowl MVP award last season. Atwell told Kupp he wanted to be awesome, and Kupp immediately took the young pro under his wing in the weight room, boardroom and on the field.

“There’s this growth that you have to go through, matching the physics of what this game is about,” Kupp said. “I think he did a very good job of taking the lead.”

At 5-foot-9, Atwell is shorter than most wide players in the NFL, but he’s also faster. He’s also a four-year-old quarterback in high school who prides himself on seeing the whole field, and he’s been studying film since he was 8 with his father, a former college catcher.

Tutu Sr. always sends film clips to his son, encouraging him to study various techniques and trail rides.

“He wants me to watch this and throw your own sauce on it,” Atwell said with a laugh.

The new season is off to a good start and Atwell is eager to play the role he gets from McVay. He’s currently a second-string option on the depth chart, but Van Jefferson’s injury-free start to the season should give Atwell more opportunities to shine.

“To be honest, it doesn’t matter what role I get,” Atwell said. “When they call Tutu, whatever they call, I’ll do it.”

NOTES: The Rams elected their team captains, choosing All-Pros Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Kupp, along with Matthew Stafford, right tackle Rob Havenstein and newcomer Bobby Wagner. Havenstein, one of two remaining St. Louis Rams on the roster with Donald, is captain for the first time.

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