Rookie Joyner impressing in training camp

Lamarcus Joyner (Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS — You can add Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel and wide receiver Kenny Britt to the growing list of fans of rookie cornerback Lamarcus Joyner early in training camp.

Britt has spent most of his short time with the Rams, during OTAs and early in camp, trash talking and attempting to one-up the team’s stable of young defensive backs. But he was asked on Monday which of the guys in the secondary has impressed him and he said it was Joyner.

“His head’s in the game and his game is all about mental more than physical,” Britt said. “His head’s in the game and he’s in the right spot at the right time.”

Fassel was asked following Monday’s special teams practice what he has seen so far in training camp from the second-round pick out of Florida State.

“What we saw on film,” the coach said. “You know a little scrappy, tough, feisty guy. To me, that’s who we want on special teams, a guy that’s tough. He’s not a real big guy, but he’s going to fight.”

Those words are music to the ears of the diminutive cornerback, who has spent years proving that his size — he’s listed at 5-foot-8 and 184 pounds — can’t measure his heart and his ability to make a big impact on a football field.

Joyner was a playmaker at FSU (Getty Images)

“It speaks highly of myself that my coach is saying that,” Joyner said. “It’s easy to come from the horse’s mouth, but if someone else is a witness to that, then that’s a testimony of me. That’s one of the reasons they drafted me, because they saw those attributes in me. So I appreciate that.”

Where does it come from?

“That just comes from the heart,” Joyner said. “That’s that willpower. Everybody talks about size, speed, strength, but if you don’t have willpower none of that exists.”

The Miami native has had a strong first few days of camp.

Drafted by coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead to play the nickel cornerback spot, Joyner took some reps with the first team defense on Sunday, the team’s third full-squad session of camp.

“It felt real good,” he said. “I have to earn those guys’ trust. It’s all about continuity and guys building a bond and I have to earn the older guys’ trust and the only way I do that is go out there and go out there and play football and make plays.”

On Monday morning, when the players donned pads for the first time in camp and went through a special teams practice, Joyner showed his toughness in a drill where he was matched up against a double-team of wide receiver Stedman Bailey and cornerback Brandon McGee.

“They put me against the Miami Heat, is what they call those guys, Bailey and Brandon McGee,” he said. “Two of the toughest guys in the league and they put me up against those guys. I had to be a man. They threw me in the fire early but I enjoyed it. I love football. It’s a physical game and I love getting dirty.”

That attitude helped Joyner’s Seminoles win a national championship last season and helped convince the Rams’ decision-makers that Joyner would be the right choice in the second round a few months ago.

Fisher and Snead obviously felt strongly enough about Joyner that they even traded up, dealing a fifth-round pick, to make sure they could select him.

“I just love football,” Joyner said. “I’m a football player. I told this organization that on my visit, if you draft me you’re drafting a football player.”

Joyner has proved that during the early stages of his first NFL training camp. There’s still plenty left to prove, of course, and the players will have their first full-squad regular practice in pads on Tuesday afternoon. Soon enough there will be a scrimmage and then exhibition games before the beginning of the regular season when everything gets ramped up even more.

Joyner will have plenty of chances to win the starting nickel corner job over the next few weeks, but it’s clear that he has impressed his coaches and teammates early on in training camp. He’s also enjoyed his time.

“I feel good. I feel real good,” Joyner said. “I’m enjoying the older guys, the guys that have been in the league a couple years. We have one of the youngest teams in the National Football League and those guys have been pretty helpful and I’ve been learning from those guys, the guys before me, and they show great leadership. I appreciate that.”

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com

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