(AP) — Rams running back Daryl Richardson expects a heated training camp competition with teammate Isaiah Pead for the vacant spot left by the departure of long-time standout Steven Jackson.
But the battle won't extend off the field.
Richardson and Pead are not only roommates but the best of friends. The two second-year players bonded together last season as rookies and that kinship remains strong even though they are fighting for the same starting position.
"No matter what happens, we're cool," Richardson said.
Explained Pead, "He's my friend and he'll always be my friend."
Richardson, a seventh-round choice out of Abilene Christian and Pead, a second-round selection from the University of Cincinnati, have taken turns practicing with the first unit during the first two days of camp. The two alternated during Saturday night's practice and the early returns have them deadlocked.
St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher has indicated that there are four or five players in the hunt for Jackson's spot. Rookie Zac Stacy, a fifth-round choice out of Vanderbilt, is also a serious contender. Benjamin Cunningham, a rookie from Middle Tennessee State, and 2012 waiver pick-up Terrance Ganaway are in the running, as well.
But for now, all eyes are on Richardson and Pead.
Richardson, listed at 5-foot-10 and 196 pounds, was steady in the No. 2 role behind Jackson last season. He carried 98 times for 475 yards. Pead, the 50th overall pick, showed flashes in 2012 but struggled at times and finished with just 54 yards on 10 carries.
With Jackson in Atlanta, the two will be forced to develop quickly.
"The way I look at it is I'm still trying to find a spot on this team," Pead said. "I feel good physically, it's the mental part I'm working on."
Pead, who is 5-10 and weighs 197 pounds, has been putting in extra duty and remains in the running for a kickoff/punt return role.
"I'm just doing anything I can to get on the field," he said.
Richardson has more experience than all of the running backs in camp.
"I don't feel any pressure, but I'm excited about the season and what it's going to bring," Richardson said. "It looks like I'll have a bigger role and I'm just happy for that."
Fisher has indicated he may end up using several running backs in rotation — a system he has had success with before. In 2008, as coach of the Tennessee Titans, Chris Johnson (1,228 yards) and LenDale White (773) formed a perfect tandem.
"We may not end up with a, "bellcow," like we had last year," Fisher said. "One of them may emerge and carry it 350 times this year. But it's nice to have two or three guys in a rotation."
No matter what happens, Richardson and Pead will remain close. For now, the pair are enjoying the situation.
"Off the field we just talk about life and other things," Pead said. "We'll question one another about what to do in a certain situation, but we don't talk a whole lot about football."
Richardson says the best part of the friendship is that the two push each other to become better.
"We hold each other accountable," he said.
Notes: QB Sam Bradford hit WR Brian Quick on a 65-yard scoring toss to highlight Saturday's two-hour out practice. The throw came during 11-on-11 drills. Bradford also hooked up with Austin Pettis on a long score. ... The defense appeared a step ahead of the offense during most of the drills. S Rodney McLeod picked off a pair of passes. ... A record crowd of 2,297 attended the practice. ... The Rams will hold a special teams-only practice Sunday.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.