THOUSAND OAKS — At 6-foot-5 and 262 pounds, with disproportionately long arms, Terrell Lewis is big even for a pro linebacker. He’s pretty hard to overlook.
The NFL ignored him anyway for much of last April’s draft. Lewis was widely projected to go in the first or second round. The Alabama alum wound up waiting deep into the third round before the Rams took him with the 84th overall pick, below many other prospects at his position.
Now he’s not only big, he’s also motivated to prove 31 other teams wrong.
“I’ve got a lot to prove,” Lewis said in a Zoom chat with reporters Sunday. “I take it as a chip on my shoulder. But at the same time, I don’t want to prove it to nobody but myself.
“I know where I should have been taken at. I know my value, I know my worth, and eventually it’ll come out and it’ll be exposed.”
If Lewis dropped in the draft, it probably was partly because of concerns about injuries and the experience they cost him. He played only four games for Alabama’s 2017 national champions because of a torn elbow ligament. He missed all of 2018 because of an ACL tear, before earning second-team All-SEC honors in 2019.
“He’s had some injuries, but I think they’ve been some freak instances,” Rams coach Sean McVay said right after the draft. “You look at when this guy is able to play, he’s healthy, he’s ready to go.”
Lewis’ Rams career started with another setback when he tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the first two weeks of training camp, a period he says was harder mentally than physically.
Once he was in camp, Lewis’ sheer size caught the attention of other big men.
“That’s a grown man,” defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day exclaimed when asked about Lewis on Tuesday, which happened to be Lewis’ 22nd birthday.
“He’s a massive dude,” said defensive end Michael Brockers, who thought he was looking at A’Shawn Robinson, the lineman the Rams signed in March when they thought Brockers was leaving.
Lewis, who said he was skinny until his junior year at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., takes the jokes as more motivation.
“They’re like, ‘Man, you don’t look like a rookie,’ and things like that,” said Lewis, whose wingspan is measured at 83 3/8 inches. “Personally, I don’t want to feel like a rookie.”
Alabama played Lewis all over the defensive front seven. It’s natural if people look at his size and think he’s a lineman. Outside linebackers, sometimes known as edge rushers, can’t let size get in the way of speed.
But “if you can play fast at this size, I don’t think it’s an issue,” said Lewis, who can.
Lewis is one of the handful of draft picks the Rams are counting on after an offseason of key departures, others being running back Cam Akers (competing for the role vacated by Todd Gurley), wide receiver Van Jefferson (Brandin Cooks) and defensive backs Terrell Burgess and Jordan Fuller.
By all accounts, Lewis started well in the competition at outside linebacker. The Rams have openings on both sides after Dante Fowler left as a free agent and Clay Matthews wasn’t re-signed. The roster is led by ex-Bear Leonard Floyd and includes Samson Ebukam, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Natrez Patrick.
Quarterback Jared Goff said his first impression of Lewis and Floyd, from Georgia, is that “can tell they’re both SEC guys immediately.”
Speaking in mid-August as the Rams were starting full-speed practice, Goff said Lewis was already showing flashes of his talent.
“You can’t miss him on the field,” Goff said, “and we’ve certainly seen him.”
• The Rams signed linebackers Derrick Moncrief, a CFL All-Star who was with the Raiders briefly, and Daniel Bituli, an undrafted rookie from Tennessee whom they’d waived Aug. 1. The team kept the roster at 80 by waiving quarterback Josh Love, undrafted from San Jose State, and linebacker Bryan London, undrafted from Texas State. The remaining backups to QB Jared Goff are John Wolford and Bryce Perkins.
• Sean McVay on the announcement Tuesday that Rams and Chargers games at SoFi Stadium will be played without fans “until further notice”: “It’s a bummer, but obviously these are kind of the times we’re living in. We’ll hopefully be able to get fans in there sooner than later. But it’s all for the right reasons, and it’s all about being safe and being smart.” Punter Johnny Hekker said it will be “eerie” but “we’ve got to embrace it as a team and come out there ready to go. Bring our own juice.”
• Defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day began a Zoom chat with reporters Tuesday by sending his thoughts to Jacob Blake and the family of the Black man shot by police Sunday in Kenosha, Wis. Joseph-Day, who is active in social-justice issues, praised the Detroit Lions for canceling practice Tuesday in protest of the shooting. “Shout out to the Lions for doing that,” Joseph-Day said. “It’s amazing that they came together as a team to do that.”
• Cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s one-handed interception and runback of a Goff pass to Jefferson capped a good practice for the defense. “He’s had a dominant training camp,” McVay said of Ramsey.