THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- One of the first things you'll notice about Robert Quinn's locker now is an Instagram post, printed out and taped to one of the wood panels that hold his personal belongings. It came from the account of DeMarcus Ware, the retired former defensive end and outside linebacker who seems like a lock for the Hall of Fame. It's a jersey graphic, half Dallas Cowboys and half Denver Broncos, with Ware's career accomplishments highlighted along the bottom.
It keeps Quinn going.
"He kind of led a good path," Quinn said from organized team activities earlier this week. "I'm just trying to either repeat it or do a little bit better. It's just something to keep myself motivated."
Ware's name has come up a lot whenever somebody on the Los Angeles Rams talks about Quinn, and it has very little to do with them donning the same No. 94. Quinn spent his first five years playing out of a three-point stance in a 4-3 system, but new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is converting the unit to a 3-4, which will require Quinn to act as an outside linebacker when the Rams are not in subpackages.
In the words of new head coach Sean McVay, Quinn will "play a similar role to what DeMarcus Ware did in Denver for Wade the last couple of years," which basically means he will still spend most of his time getting around the edge to rush the quarterback.
Quinn likes the link.
"Coming out of college, I actually heard some comparisons to DeMarcus Ware," Quinn said. "This was early on. And now I'm hooked up in the same system that he played in. And really I've got his stats in there because once he's eligible for the Hall of Fame -- in five years, however many years -- he's instantly in there. He went from [defensive] end to playing outside linebacker. If he stayed in either system, he would've been a Hall of Famer at either position."
Ware, voted first-team All-Pro on four occasions, was a star defensive end at Troy who became a rush linebacker on a Bill Parcells defense that was transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in 2005. Ware's best years coincided with Phillips' time as the Cowboys' head coach from 2007 to 2010. He later transitioned back to defensive end under Monte Kiffin and Jack Del Rio from 2013 to 2014. But Ware finished his career as an outside linebacker when he reunited with Phillips in Denver from 2015 to 2016, playing a pivotal role on a defense that was deemed the NFL's best.
Quinn, the 14th overall pick out of North Carolina in 2011, is walking a slightly different path.
The two-time Pro Bowler racked up 40 sacks from 2012 to 2014, third-most in the NFL during that time. But he has been limited to 15 starts the last couple years, the first of those seasons ending prematurely because of back surgery. Quinn, who benefited from a normal offseason this year, said he feels "great" now and that "my explosion, my strength is coming back." He's down about 15 pounds, to somewhere around 250, and hopes to stay right around there now that he will occasionally drop back into coverage.
"The tough part is just getting used to the two-point stance and getting used to dropping sometimes," Quinn said. "It's a little different. But a couple of practice days, you kind of become used to it. The less you can think about it, the faster you can play."
Quinn needs a big year, to free up space in the interior for Aaron Donald and to secure his own future.
Quinn signed a six-year, $65.6 million extension heading into his fourth season, which Donald now aims to do. But he's only got three more guaranteed years left. And less than $1 million in dead money will remain on the deal after 2017, which means the Rams can very easily cut ties with Quinn if he doesn't prove to be a fit this season.
"I don't feel the pressure from the outside world," Quinn said. "I have pride in myself to want to be a productive player."
Quinn has only really met Ware in passing, but he has long admired him, for obvious reasons.
Ware's stats on the bottom of the printout in Quinn's locker state that he was invited to the Pro Bowl nine times and made 657 tackles. That he accumulated 138 1/2 sacks, eighth most in history. And that he won a Super Bowl -- as part of a defense that was led by the same coordinator who will now try to get the most out of Quinn.
"I look at it every day," Quinn said. "I respect everything he's done."