He built his NFL Draft resume with speed, tenacity, and incredibleness.
Those qualities caught the Rams’ eye and helped make little Tutu Atwell a surprise second-round draft pick in 2021.
But after a disappointing and injury-plagued rookie season, the 5-9, 165-pound Atwell used his phone to make what might be the most important step of his young career.
After the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium, Atwell texted star receiver Cooper Kupp.
The message was simple. And direct.
“I want to be great,” Atwell said.
“‘Whatever it takes to make you better, I’m here,'” Atwell said.
Atwell spent much of that offseason working on the field, in the weight room and in the briefing room with Kupp, the NFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year.
“He would be the first to tell you that last year wasn’t what he wanted his rookie season to be,” Kupp said. “He’s looking forward to coming out of here and doing some good things in his sophomore year and just unwinding.”
During organized team activity training, Atwell Reporter praised coach Sean McVay for questioning Atwell’s sense of urgency last season. Atwell will get another chance to demonstrate the results of his newfound commitment when the Rams begin training camp at UC Irvine on Saturday.
At that point, Atwell will be trying to show McVay that he should be part of a receiver rotation that includes Kupp, new signing Allen Robinson, third-year pro Van Jefferson and sophomore Ben Skowronek.
Free-agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr. could eventually re-sign with the Rams, but he continues to rehab from knee surgery and is unlikely to play for the Rams or any other team until mid-season.
“I’m more comfortable in my sophomore year,” Atwell said during offseason practice. “You know the games and it’s, ‘How can I help the team by playing some games when my number is called?’ ”
The Ram surprised most NFL watchers by picking Atwell with the 57th pick. Atwell had shown he was a pro in Louisville, but the Rams’ decision to pick him so high smacked of arrogance — that McVay and general manager Les Snead thought they were smarter than everyone else.
Atwell didn’t silence that narrative when he couldn’t find a role in the receiver corps. Like many rookies, he was mentally and physically overwhelmed by the demands of preparation and execution in the NFL.
He returned 10 punts and five kickoffs in eight games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery.
“It was kind of a learning experience,” Atwell said.
On and off the pitch.
“It’s almost like he took things for granted,” said Receivers coach Eric Yarber.
Atwell made a pact with himself not to repeat his rookie mistakes.
He acknowledged that top athletes can be proud. Some hesitate to seek help. But Atwell said he didn’t hesitate to reach out to Kupp.
“It wasn’t that difficult,” he said. “Sometimes you have to swallow that pride. He’s a great player. Triple crown. Why not?”
Atwell said Kupp took him “under his wing”. He followed, observed and interacted with the sixth-year pro who led the NFL in catches, yards receiving and touchdown catches last season.
The two receivers were on the field and in the weight room almost daily, Atwell said.
“Getting stronger, getting faster and better, coaching each other,” Atwell said. “He listens to me about some things and I listen to him.”
Atwell is a “special player” who can “do some pretty incredible things on the field,” Kupp said.
“I’m excited to see … some of those things come to life,” Kupp said, “because he’s been working really hard in rehab but also just building himself up, studying the playbook, all the things that he’s must do make sure that when he enters the field he can just play his game.
Atwell’s progress was evident during offseason practice and minicamp, Yarber said.
“Like day and night,” he said.
Yarber said Atwell understood the playbook and was on point when questioned.
“Cooper shows him how to be a pro — and he takes those lessons,” Yarber said.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford didn’t throw any passes during offseason practice, but he watched Atwell run stretches and catch passes from backup John Wolford and Bryce Perkins.
“Everything he does seems much more intentional,” Stafford said. “As a sophomore and a developing player, he understands that everything matters and tries to get something out of every practice.”
Receiver Van Jefferson said: “You can see the level of maturity from his freshman year to transitioning into sophomore year – that’s a leap for him. I’m looking forward to being on the field with him and watching him play.”
Atwell is confident he will help the Rams as they attempt to repeat themselves as Super Bowl champions.
“I always have confidence – I’ll bet on myself all the time,” he said. “I only do what I have to do.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-07-18/rams-tutu-atwell-training-camp-cut-receiver Rams’ Tutu Atwell has much to prove this training camp to make cut at receiver