He is far away from Los Angeles, in Williamsburg, Iowa, but Rams offensive lineman Austin Blythe still feels the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fifth-year pro, who signed a one-year contract to remain with the Rams, is trying to make the most of the situation by working out at a home gym at his parents’ house.
“It’s been wild,” Blythe said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters, “kind of a bittersweet time. … I’m sure everybody’s trying to find creative ways to stay in it.”
Blythe, 27, has played both guard spots and center for the Rams since they claimed him off waivers from the Indianapolis Colts before the 2017 season. In 2019, he began the season at right guard and then moved to center when second-year pro Brian Allen suffered a season-ending knee injury.
After the Rams finished a disappointing season and missed the playoffs, Blythe and nine other Rams players became unrestricted free agents. Coach Sean McVay said at the NFL scouting combine in February that Blythe was “part of the plan and definitely want to try to get him back.”
A bevy of defensive players either signed with other teams or were cut. But the Rams moved to retain Blythe and veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
Blythe signed a one-year, $3.9-million contract, according to overthecap.com. He said he was relieved to remain with the Rams.
“It just came to be a one-year contract because that’s what my agent advised me was the best route to take given the opportunities that were on the table,” Blythe said. “And right now, I’m focused on this one year.
“I’m going to be in the same boat a year from now. Hopefully, at that point, I’ll have another chance to return to the Rams and finish my career.”
Blythe played in college at Iowa and was selected by the Colts in the seventh round of the 2016 draft. His road from the NFL waiver wire to starter began in 2017 when he played as a reserve for a Rams team that made it to the playoffs in McVay’s first season. In 2018, he was installed as the starting right guard because Jamon Brown was suspended for the first two games of the season. Blythe never relinquished the spot, helping the Rams to the Super Bowl.
Last season, Blythe was consistent for a Rams line that suffered numerous injuries. He said playing center was “like riding a bike” but that he would be comfortable playing any spot the coaches assign.
“I’m still comfortable going back and forth,” he said. “I think that kind of ties into just my personality as a person — I’m more of a people pleaser. Wherever the team thinks that I can help the best or help the most, that’s the position that I’ll play.”
Blythe said Gurley was a great teammate and expected him to play at a high level for the Atlanta Falcons.
“Going to miss him but I wish him all the best,” Blythe said. “That’s just the nature of the game.”
The experience Rams linemen gained last season should help when they finally are able to convene, Blythe said. The NFL has mandated team facilities remain closed and indefinitely postponed offseason workouts, which were scheduled to begin April 20.
“It will let us hit the ground running,” he said. “If it happens to be training camp before we get on the field, I think that’s going to serve us really well.”