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St. Louis Rams keep morale up despite 1-10 record

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  • St. Louis Rams keep morale up despite 1-10 record

    St. Louis Rams keep morale up despite 1-10 record

    They were out of playoff contention by Halloween. They're an afterthought on the highlight shows. The losses continue to mount.

    They are beaten, banged up — and there's still five games to play. What keeps the Rams buying in?

    "I'm trusting that the leaders will kind of step up," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "That's what you do in this league. We'll stick to the process and trust the character of the guys we've got in the locker room, and that's all we can do."

    If the Rams are giving in to defeat after defeat after defeat, it isn't showing yet at Rams Park. Not on the practice field, where the effort remains good. Or in the locker room, where the attitude hasn't reached the going-through-the-motions stage.

    No Rams player is taking shots at his head coach via Twitter a la Larry Johnson. None of the nine players on injured reserve is critiquing the quarterback or running back. (See Urlacher, Brian — Chicago Bears.)

    At least not to this point.

    "I'm a prideful man, and I love football, and I'm a competitor," tight end Randy McMichael said. "I mean, that's what it's all about right now. All your team goals at the beginning of the year, of winning the NFC West and all those things — they're out the window. But at the same time, we still have football games to play, and we're not going to lay down."

    Had he accepted a free-agent offer from New Orleans last offseason, cornerback Ron Bartell would be undefeated and part of a Saints team that is taking the NFL by storm. Instead, he re-upped with St. Louis because of the challenge of helping the team that drafted him become a winner.

    Bartell has gotten heartache, frustration and more losing in 2009. Not to mention a quad injury that bothered him for most of the first half of the season.

    Nonetheless, Bartell says, "A lot of people would kill to be in this situation. I know everything seems dark, but there's a lot of more important stuff going on in the world than being 1-10.

    "So when you look at it from that aspect, how could you not come out every day and play hard and practice hard? You're getting paid a king's ransom to play a kid's game. So that's the way I'm approaching it, and that's the way a lot of guys in the locker room are going to continue to approach it."

    In four seasons at Ohio State, linebacker James Laurinaitis lost only eight football games. He topped that total less than three months into his rookie season with the Rams. Even at 1-10, winning remains just as important to him as if the team was 10-1.

    "That's kind of the way that I've always played football," Laurinaitis said. "You go out to win no matter what your record is, no matter what happens. So that's what we're doing, and hopefully we'll get this thing snowballing and get some momentum going into next season."

    Even with losing streaks of historic proportion for the franchise, Laurinaitis says he's still eager to get out on the field every week. In his mind, even bad football is better than no football.

    "You've got a few weeks left and that's it," he said. "Then you're sitting there kind of bored all offseason thinking: When's next season going to come up? Counting down.

    "I remember when I was in high school, I always used to count down to the next time that camp opened. That's how excited I was. I knew how many days I had to prepare. It'll be the same thing this year."

    At running back, Steven Jackson continues to put up impressive numbers, even while everything around him is — well, extremely unimpressive. He played through a back injury last week against Seattle and will attempt to do the same Sunday against Chicago.

    "I feel like it's only right to play a game hard, week in and week out," Jackson said. "Your career's only so long. It's short-lived, especially at the running back position. I want to take advantage of each and every opportunity that I have to play the game because I won't be able to play forever. So that's how I approach the game. The game is still fun, but I'm here trying to build a legacy. I don't focus (or obsess) on one game."

    Many players credit Spagnuolo for keeping the atmosphere positive even though the team has failed on 10 of 11 Sundays so far.

    "He's a very positive coach," McMichael said. "And I think that's the one thing that's keeping us up."

    "He's stayed consistent in his message," Bartell said. "And he's stayed consistent with how he treats us. That's big."

Related Topics


  • r8rh8rmike
    Young Rams Want To Stick It Out
    by r8rh8rmike
    Young Rams want to stick it out


    Last offseason, free agent cornerback Ron Bartell re-signed with the Rams in part because he wanted to help with the turnaround of a once-proud franchise. In so doing, he passed on a chance to join the New Orleans Saints.

    Less than a year later, the Saints are 13-3 and have the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Rams are 1-15 and have the No. 1 pick in the draft.

    "When I re-signed, I knew it wasn't going to be an overnight thing," Bartell said. "I got into it for the long haul. So I knew it was going to take time. ... We still have the right people in place. I totally, firmly believe that. I think I made the best decision for me. I still think we can get this thing turned around."

    Maybe so, but the last thing Bartell and his teammates expected was 1-15.

    "It was extremely difficult," Bartell said. "With all the changes we made, you definitely didn't see that coming. But it is what it is. We put ourselves in this position. The only thing we can do now is move forward."

    Nobody expected miracles in 2009. But with a new front office, a new head coach, and massive roster changes, nobody expected fewer victories than 2008 — a 2-14 season that saw Scott Linehan fired after just four games and interim head coach Jim Haslett shown the door after finishing the year with 10 consecutive losses.

    The new head coach, Steve Spagnuolo, insists a foundation for success was laid emphasizing "team," hard work, and optimism for better days ahead. General manager Billy Devaney insists there are fewer holes on the roster than a year ago, although he concedes plenty of work remains to be done.

    But after all was said and done, the 2009 team was worse than the '08 version, which lost four of its last five contests by four points or less. And it's debatable whether the Rams are any closer to being playoff competitive in the near future.

    An optimist might say the Rams knowingly took their lumps in '09 while scorching the roster of older, declining veterans; getting the team's salary cap situation back on solid footing; and giving loads of younger players valuable playing experience.

    A pessimist might say that the franchise remains stuck in the muck at the bottom of the standings. That the Rams have a glaring lack of playmakers. And that it's debatable how much better many of the youngsters will get in another season or two.

    "I think we have a lot of talent on this team," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "That if you look at a lot of the games this year, they could've gone other ways. I think we have great coaches. Another year together, it's going to be something good. There's definitely a lot of competitiveness in this group."...
    -01-10-2010, 07:30 PM
  • MauiRam
    'Ugly start' tests the resolve of the St. Louis Rams ..
    by MauiRam
    BY JIM THOMAS • Wednesday, September 22, 2010 12:05 am

    As the preseason wound down and the regular season approached, more than one Rams player talked about having a belief that the 2010 squad would be better. Not a "hope" but a sincere "belief."

    It was a belief fueled by several things. A second year in the defensive system. A new quarterback (Sam Bradford) who had some sizzle to his game. A healthy Steven Jackson. And success moving the football and stopping the run in the preseason, particularly in the last two exhibition games.

    But two games into the regular season, the Rams are in an all-too-familiar position, namely the bottom of the NFC West standings. Their games against Arizona and Oakland were close and hard-fought. But still losses.

    Has the team's 0-2 start already chipped away at any "belief?" Granted, the 12 rookies on the current roster had nothing to do with what happened in 2009, '08, and '07. But for the veterans, it still adds up to 44 losses in 50 games since the start of '07. For those players, how soon do they start falling into a here we go again mentality?

    "It's a persistent uphill battle," left guard Jacob Bell said. "It's one of those things where you see looks in guys' eyes, and you tell 'em, 'Hey, snap out of it.' You see a guy putting his head down, 'Pick your head up.'

    "It's just little things. Because when the little things start compiling, it turns into a problem, then you've got guys talking negative and acting negative. And you don't want to panic. I mean, you've got a lot of football left. It doesn't get any easier."

    Two winnable games have been lost. And this is supposed to be the softer part of the schedule.

    "These are ugly losses," Bell said. "But we are a better team than how we played (Sunday), I'll tell you that."

    The toughest opponents are yet to come, including San Diego (Oct. 17), Atlanta (Nov. 21) and New Orleans (Dec. 12). Even Washington, Sunday's opponent at 3:05 p.m. in the Edward Jones Dome, probably represents a step up in class from Arizona and Oakland.

    Coach Steve Spagnuolo will be curious to see how his team responds today when the practice week begins after Tuesday's day off for players.

    "You trust the guys we have," Spagnuolo said. "I talk to them a lot about that. We think we have some character leaders and some guys that have enough inner drive that they're still hungry for a win.

    "We also realize that this is way early in the season. Nobody wants to start out 0-2. But all it takes is one game to start the recovery. So we focus on the next one and hope that's the one that gets it rolling. I'm always interested in how they come into work on Wednesday."

    Two losses, however tough to take, aren't going to...
    -09-22-2010, 01:02 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    St Louis Rams' Coach Steve Spagnuolo Makes Transition
    by r8rh8rmike
    St. Louis Rams' coach Steve Spagnuolo makes transition

    Catching his breath during the bye week, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo talks about the transition from NFL assistant to NFL head coach with Post-Dispatch football writer Jim Thomas.

    Q: Once you arrive at work, how hands-on have you been with the defense?

    A: "I'm in all of the meetings. (Defensive coordinator) Ken Flajole and I, toward the end of the week, we'll sit down by ourselves. We'll come up with what we want to do. And then, when we're on the 'phones' during the game, it's kind of a natural flow. I let him run with it most of the time. I usually chime in a lot on third down. So it's kind of a constant back and forth."

    Q: Often, when the Rams have the ball and there's a timeout, you're not involved in the sideline huddle with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, quarterbacks coach Dick Curl, and the quarterback. Why is that?

    A: "Sometimes, I don't (participate) purposely because it's another voice in there. At that time, the less voices the better. Now, I'll step in there when I want something done a certain way. But when it's just a decision of what play to select — Pat, Dick and Marc (Bulger), that's their venue. I try not to step on their toes that way. That's why I physically step out, so that they don't feel like that."

    Q: During the week, how involved are you in the offense?

    A: "Pat and I visit every morning, so that if I haven't been in an offensive meeting, he updates me on what's going on and what they're doing. I trust those guys over there. So there'll be a suggestion here and there ... but never to throw it out of whack."

    Q: You have an inflatable bed in your office here at Rams Park. Are you putting it to use much by staying overnight?

    A: "Usually Monday and Tuesday. Every once in a while Wednesday, but I try not to do that because I like seeing my wife. I try every week to get home on Monday. Tuesday's a given that I'm sleeping here."

    Q: How long is the commute from your home in the Lafayette Square area?

    A: "It's 25 minutes. It's not bad. But you go 25 here, 25 back. And when I go home, I can't go right to bed, so that's another 30 minutes. So it ends up being an hour-and-a-half of lost sleep, whereas if I can just stay here (at Rams Park) — bang. You get an extra hour-and-a-half (sleep). Toward the end of the week, it adds up."

    Q: From Day One you've stressed togetherness with this team. Has it been tough to get that message across with so many personnel changes?

    A: "Because we're preaching 'team' and 'staying together,' it doesn't mean that we're talking out of two sides of our mouth. Some of the moves were forced because of injuries, and I think players understand that. With a couple of...
    -11-05-2009, 09:38 PM
  • Rampingitup
    Rams look to Rebound by Nick Wagoner
    by Rampingitup
    Rams Look to Rebound

    By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer
    Posted 15 hours ago


    In a quiet and solemn locker room following Sunday’s loss to Baltimore, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo kept the message to his team as simple as possible.
    There was nothing profound there, no deep, introspective Sun-Tzu philosophical speech, no Lombardi-esque rah rah speech.
    No, it was a simple message delivered with the urgency that would be needed when your team just fell to 0-3 and you are doing your best to keep a season from slipping away.
    “I told the team when you get in a situation like this as a football team, all you worry about is winning a game,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s it. You don’t worry about stats or any of that stuff; you just worry about winning a game. This particular year the next team on the schedule is Washington so that’s what we’ll focus on.”
    In that message, Spagnuolo emphasized to his team that there is no reason to look at anything else right now. Three games into the season is way too soon to begin wondering about scenarios or playoff pictures or any of that kind of stuff.
    Anything beyond what happens this week is of little to no importance. The task right now at 0-3 is to fix the myriad mistakes that have plagued the Rams in the first three weeks and go back to work.
    As one of the team captains and the heart and soul of the team, running back Steven Jackson reiterated Spagnuolo’s message to his teammates and later to the media about focusing on the task at hand.
    “The season is not lost,” Jackson said. “First things first, we need to get a W. I wouldn’t lie to you. We definitely need to get a W and we need to get one fast. It’s not because of a lack of work ethic. I can rest assure you that. I give you my word as the captain of this team. Guys are working hard. To be competitive, you have to show up each and every Sunday, you have to do the little things right. You can’t continue to come in each game making mistakes in the red zone, making mistakes on special teams and different areas of the game, especially when you play good teams like we have these first three weeks.”

    Indeed, the Rams have faced three teams widely regarded to be among the league’s legitimate playoff contenders in the opening three weeks.
    In the first two weeks against the Eagles and Giants, the Rams suffered double digits...
    -09-27-2011, 07:02 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Ready For New Beginning
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams Ready for New Beginning
    By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer

    Posted 2 hours ago

    As first games go, Sunday’s showdown with the Arizona Cardinals might have as much meaning as any regular season opener in recent Rams history.

    With buzz around the team building, confidence growing from a successful preseason, a divisional opponent in town and an opportunity to set the tone for the 2010 season, there’s no doubt that the 3:15 kickoff at the Edward Jones Dome could hold the key to what’s to come this year.

    “I think there’s some confidence there and there should be, rightly so,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “Nobody’s getting overconfident in this building because the real job is just beginning now. We’ve got a regular season game at home in front of our fans. We’d like to kind of get on a roll here. It’s important to come out of the blocks early and try to win a football game. The sooner we get our first win, the better off we’ll be.”

    That confidence springs from a preseason in which the Rams went 3-1 and were particularly impressive with the starters on the field for the first half of the New England game and the opening quarter or so of the finale against Baltimore.

    In the aftermath of that successful exhibition slate, Spagnuolo and the Rams went about trying to erase any memory of it in the sense that it doesn’t mean much in terms of what is to come.

    Still, there were plenty of positives to take away from it, including the development of rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, the performance of the top unit on defense and the emergence of young players such as tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and linebacker Larry Grant.

    “You take some positives out of it but you can never get your head in the clouds about preseason,” cornerback Ron Bartell said. “The Lions were 4-0 in preseason a couple of years ago and went 0-16. You can’t take too much out of preseason. But you can take a little from the good things you do and a little from the bad things you do too.”

    In Arizona, the Rams get perhaps the perfect opponent for the season opener. The Cardinals have been the bench mark for the NFC West Division, winning it rather comfortably over the past two seasons.

    Arizona has also been a recent tormentor of the Rams in winning the past seven meetings between the teams. There is, however, a precedent for season opening contests between the teams.

    The Rams and Cardinals have met 10 times in season openers with the Rams holding a 7-3 advantage. The most recent season opening meeting occurred in 2004 with the Rams walking away with a victory.
    Getting a win against a team with so much recent success against them would go a long way toward validating the buzz that has been building around the Rams in the past few weeks but it would also hold plenty of additional meaning within the walls of the organization....
    -09-10-2010, 03:10 PM