The first look at wide receiver Tavon Austin, linebacker Alec Ogletree and the rest of the Class of 2013 comes today at Rams Park with the first practice of rookie minicamp.
“It’s been a long process, so you’re ready to get them on the home field here,” general manager Les Snead said. “But it’s not necessarily this minicamp in particular. They’re going to get their feet wet here. But I’m actually looking forward as we progress from just rookies on the field to mixing them with the rest of the team.”

First things first. The full-squad practices known as OTAs don’t begin for nearly two weeks. In the meantime, it’s all about the rookies. The Rams practice from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. today, and from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday. Those practices are closed to the public.

The days of five practices in three days are over under the new collective bargaining agreement, to the point where coach Jeff Fisher says rookie “orientation” is a better description of what’s happening this weekend. When not on the practice field, the “newbies” will take part in weight training, meetings, and get their first exposure to the playbook – among other things.

The seven draft picks will be greatly outnumbered during these proceedings. For one, there are 22 undrafted rookies on hand who have been signed to the offsesason roster and in theory will be with the team at least through training camp and the preseason.

But there are about 30 additional players invited to this minicamp on a tryout basis, raising the overall number of participants to nearly 60. The tryout players are provided with room, board and travel expenses for the weekend. But they get no other compensation. They’re hoping to show enough in just those two practices to get signed to the offseason roster.

“Hey, Brent Grimes in Atlanta was a tryout guy,” Snead said. “Couldn’t get him on the field because of a heart murmur until the last practice of rookie minicamp.”

Grimes showed enough in that last minicamp practice to get signed, and has gone on to play in 59 regular-season NFL games, with 43 starts, as a cornerback for the Falcons. He signed with Miami as a free agent this offseason.

“So there’s always one tryout guy, or two or three, that are gonna surprise you and that we’ll sign,” Snead said.

As for the 22 signed undrafted rookies, they’re considerably closer to fulfilling their NFL dreams. Last season, no less than eight undrafted rookies were on the Rams’ 53-man roster at the end of the year. As the seventh round of the draft unwinds, and in the first several hours after the draft, it’s very competitive among teams trying to sign undrafted rookies.

“Organized chaos,” Snead called it. “That’s one of the goals when the draft’s over – organizing the guys that are gonna fit, almost fit the need you have. And you go after those guys heavily.”

The process is competitive enough to where several undrafted rookies end up receiving signing bonuses. There was a time in the not-so-recent past when the Rams wouldn’t spend a dime on signing bonuses for rookie free agents. That’s changed under Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ executive vice president of football operations.