A crowd of just under 1,100 fans jammed Rams Park on Tuesday for what could be, at least in theory, the final public practice for the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis.
The rest of the training camp workouts are closed to the public and with rumors swirling of a potential move to Los Angeles, St. Louis is dealing with the unsettling proposition of finding itself without an NFL team for the second time since the 1988.
The former St. Louis Cardinals moved to Arizona following the 1987 season.
“The fans have always come out since I’ve been here,” Rams veteran linebacker James Laurinaitis said Tuesday. “We’ve had good showings here at Rams Park ever since I’ve been part of this organization.”
Throughout training camp, Rams players and coaches have been peppered with questions about a potential franchise shift to Cailfornia.
“It’s one of those things I can’t control, none of the guys in the locker room can control, so we really don’t talk about it and we don’t worry about it,” Laurinaitis said. “What we do want to do is start fast and get a lot of excitement going on in the city, get the dome packed and give them a football team that they can cheer for and root for.”
Rams coach Jeff Fisher also appreciated the support.
“We’ve had great crowds since we started camp,” Fisher said. “Unfortunately for our fans because of the circumstances where we’re going to be practicing out (in California) it kind of shuts down… I wouldn’t say shuts down, but it reduces the number of opportunities they have to come out and watch us.
“But it was great, great to have them out here today.”
Laurinaitis and his teammates haven’t experienced anything like the brief window of Rams success that included the Super Bowl win in the 1999 season, a Super Bown runner-up finish in 2001 and five playoff appearances from 1999 to 2004.
Things have stalled considerably since then. The Rams are 35-92-1 since 2007 with four seasons of three wins or fewer. In three seasons under Fisher they are 20-27-1.
Could the Edward Jones Dome become a tough place to play again and full of loud Rams fans? Laurinaitis believes it is possible.
“You hear the stories about ’99 and the early 2000s, how that place was the hardest place to play in the NFL,” he said, comparing atmosphere to the one every visiting team faces now in Seattle. “Heck, any time you see a false start at Seattle and they put it on their board about how many false starts...you still see the Edward Jones up there and think about the many years it hasn’t been that jam-packed.
“That’s all we can focus on, how can we get better as a team and get this city excited about the players and the coaches.”
Preparing for Oakland
Fisher said new Rams quarterback Nick Foles won’t see extensive playing time in the preseason opener Friday against the Oakland Raiders. No big shock there.
“I think you’d expect a couple of series, something like that, and then we’ll start making changes,” Fisher said. “We want to protect him. We don’t want to get him hit, get rid of the ball. (Raiders Head) Coach (Jack) Del Rio is a good football coach, a defensive guy, and he’s going to have them rolling off, so we just have to be smart offensively.”
The Rams practiced without shoulder pads Tuesday and have a scheduled day off Wednesday.
Fisher was asked about the possibility of rookie offensive linemen Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown seeing more playing time.
“We’ve got some younger guys that will probably play into the second half,” Fisher said. “I don’t know how much Rob and ‘JB’ will play beyond the other guys. I think you can expect to see them play three or four series.”
Rams Camp Notes
- Defensive end Chris Long (back tightness) had the day off Tuesday along with cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins, E.J. Gaines (foot) and Brandon McGee (foot) and rookie offensive lineman Cody Wichmann (calf). Cornerback Trumaine Johnson and running back Tre Mason (hamstring) returned to action while rookie running back Todd Gurley (ACL surgery) continues to take part in team drills while being held out of scrimmage situations.
- Among the visitors at Rams camp Tuesday were Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and assistant coaches Brad Shaw, Kirk Muller and trainer Ray Barile. Hitchcock said the Rams have an “old-school” coaching staff that comes from the Buddy Ryan family tree.