IRVINE – Everything appeared normal at practice Thursday. Jamon Brown lined up at right guard, just as he did all of last season and through the Rams’ recent summer program. A hindrance is on the horizon, though.
The NFL announced this month that Brown would be suspended for the first two games of this season for a violation of its substance-abuse policy. The league didn’t specify the violation, but on Thursday, after the first day of training camp at UC Irvine, Brown provided some clarity.
Brown told reporters that he had been pulled over for speeding and that authorities found marijuana in his car. A public-records search revealed that Brown was arrested in Feb. 2017 in the suburban Louisville area on suspicion of speeding, careless driving, driving under the influence, marijuana possession and drug-paraphernalia possession.
Further details of the case, including possible legal punishment, were not immediately available, but Brown said he was surprised by the league suspension, “just because of some of the advice and some of the intel I was getting from the (players’ association).”
News of the arrest had not been reported by any outlet. Brown and the Rams kept it quiet until Thursday, although when the suspension was announced on July 3, Brown posted an apology on social media.
“It was kind of like a careless mistake,” Brown said Thursday, “but it happened, and all I can do now is be ready for when it’s time for me to come back.”
Brown, a fourth-year lineman who is set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, must miss the Sept. 10 season opener at Oakland and the following week’s game against Arizona, and the Rams are in a weird spot now. Brown can practice during camp and play in preseason games, so the Rams must toe the line between getting Brown his normal work and preparing his replacement.
In Thursday’s initial practice, they leaned toward the former. Brown was the first-team right guard in all of the full-team scrimmage work. Coach Sean McVay said that soon, other players will rotate into Brown’s spot during practice.
There could be a competition for that spot, and McVay indicated this week that Austin Blythe might be the early favorite. The Rams claimed Blythe off waivers from Indianapolis in May 2017, and he played well as a backup guard last season. That might have been enough to earn McVay’s trust.
“I think all that really means is that I’ve done a great job representing myself as a football player and have been ready when my number is called in the past,” Blythe said. “I’ve put myself in a good position, but at the same time, I’m just continuing to work to improve myself. If opening day comes and I’m the one who is going to run out of the tunnel, I’m prepared for it and confident in it.”
Other players, such as 2018 draft picks Joseph Noteboom, Brian Allen and Jamil Demby, could contend for Brown’s spot in the short term.