Poor air quality caused by wildfires forces Rams to tweak practice

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Local fires that produced substandard air quality forced the Los Angeles Rams to cancel their typical Wednesday practice and instead stage a walk-through four days prior to their highly anticipated matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, but Rams coach Sean McVay doesn't anticipate that hurting his team on Sunday.

"This time of year, it actually served us well," McVay said. "We got a lot of good work in, got more reps than we would've otherwise than when you just do your walk-through and your normal practice. Where we're at, it actually worked out as a benefit to us."

The Rams held a one-hour walk-through at a gymnasium on the campus of Cal Lutheran University, close to where their facility resides. Local fires and strong winds have caused about 50,000 Ventura County residents to evacuate and have burned at least 65,000 acres, according to the Ventura County Star.

The air quality at the Rams' facility significantly improved from Tuesday to Wednesday. The Rams had a contingency plan in place to potentially practice at USC if air quality remained an issue. But they announced late Wednesday afternoon that they would indeed practice at their facility on Thursday, a day when the team is normally in full pads.

Wind-driven wildfires had begun affecting Los Angeles, south of Ventura County, by Wednesday morning, with the Los Angeles Times reporting on one fire that shut down a major freeway and scorched about 150 acres in the neighborhood of Bel Air. But Sunday's game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -- roughly 15 miles southeast of Bel Air -- does not appear to be in jeopardy.

"I haven't heard anything otherwise," McVay said.

"We are aware of the situation and monitoring the events on the ground," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. "Obviously, we would never put players or fans in danger."

The Eagles are currently practicing out of Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, which is about 80 miles south of the Rams' facility and has not been affected by the fires.

Rams punter Johnny Hekker stopped by a local shelter with his pregnant wife on Tuesday night to drop off a truckload of supplies for those affected by the fires. The Rams will be donating the proceeds of a raffle from Sunday's game to aid in the relief and will look to partner with the American Red Cross.

"We're definitely looking forward to trying to do what we can throughout the week to help all those who have been affected," Rams veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth said.

"Living in this community, we have to have each other's backs," Hekker added. "These people support us throughout the season and are big fans of us. If we can do anything with our platform to give back to them in this time of need, in this crisis, then that's what we're here for. It's not about entertaining, but serving as well."

Rams players don't necessarily feel inconvenienced with regard to their weekly schedule. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff brought up the lighter workload his team went through leading up to a Week 3 matchup on a Thursday night, which resulted in 41 points scored against the San Francisco 49ers.

A midweek walk-through didn't affect the timing of the Rams' offense then, and players believe it can only benefit them this late in the season.

"I think today actually ended up working out really well," Goff said. "Just getting a chance to kind of get off my feet a little bit, get a lot of mental work in and get a lot more reps than we would have."