THOUSAND OAKS — Wade Phillips joined the NFL in 1976, so it’s tough to put something new past the Rams’ defensive coordinator, but this year’s season opener even seems to have Phillips scratching his head a bit.
“I don’t know about concerned,” Phillips said after Thursday’s practice at Cal Lutheran. “You’re just waiting to see how we do. I think there’s going to be good things. We’ve been practicing really well this week.”
Phillips can’t be certain, though. His best player, Aaron Donald, remains in a contract holdout, and while the Rams haven’t officially ruled out Donald for Sunday’s game against Indianapolis, the idea that Donald could play Sunday, even if he reported to team headquarters Friday, seems improbable.
At least the Rams can plan for that absence. Phillips indicated that he isn’t certain how much the Rams will get out of linebackers Robert Quinn and Mark Barron, both of whom (along with starting cornerback Kayvon Webster) missed the four-game preseason schedule because of injury concerns.
The Rams don’t have any players listed on their injury report, a fact Coach Sean McVay happily reiterated for a second consecutive day, but Phillips indicated that Quinn and Barron might be limited against the Colts. That could mean more work for players such as Matt Longacre and Cory Littleton.
“We’ll have to be aware, and monitor how many snaps they have,” Phillips said of Quinn and Barron. “They’ll be on a snap count or pitch count or whatever.”
Phillips also said the Rams wouldn’t change their defensive game plan depending on Donald’s availability, but said he might ask different things from a player with a different body type or skill set.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that the player primarily expected to fill Donald’s spot, rookie Tanzel Smart, has similarities. Donald is listed at 6-foot-1, 280 pounds, compared to Smart’s 6-1, 290 pounds. Phillips didn’t seem riled about the prospect of coaching a game without his star player.
“We know what the situation is and I know what the situation is,” Phillips said. “It’s disappointing that he’s not here, for whatever the reasons are, but I’ve been through it before. You have to play with the guys you have. We believe we can play well, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
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