St. Louis Rams

Rams’ Laurinaitis returning home to Minnesota; Watts suspended by NFL

Like many other Minnesota kids during the time frame he was growing up, St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinatis was a big fan of the Vikings.

His favorite player? Wide receiver Randy Moss, who played with the Vikings from 1998 to 2004.

“He was awesome,” said Laurinatis, who will play his first NFL game in his home state Sunday when the Rams take on the Vikings. “In ’98 they had like the ‘triple-threat’ poster of (Cris) Carter, Moss and Jake Reed. It was phenomenal.

“(They had Ohio State) Buckeye Robert Smith catching (passes) ... it seemed like every screen he caught went to the house. Then they came here and got destroyed in the playoffs. Cool, though.”

The Rams (4-3) are going after their third straight win, something Laurinaitis would be more than happy to help out with in his home state. He’s from Plymouth, Minn., and starred at Wayzata High, a team he helped reach the Class 5A state championship game as as senior.

“It’s my first time playing up there in the NFL so I’m excited about it,” Laurinaitis said. “I grew up a huge Vikings fan, so it’s going to be one of those cool, surreal moments. I’ll walk in, take a look around and get ready to roll just like any other Sunday.”

Just like any Sunday in the NFL has meant Laurinaitis lining up at middle linebacker for the Rams. He hasn’t missed a game in seven NFL seasons and is the Rams’ all-time franchise leader with 948 career tackles in 103 games.

Adding in his four years at Ohio State, Laurinaitis hasn’t missed a game in 11 years. He’s seen some low spots during his Rams’ tenure, but a win Sunday would give the team its first three-game win streak in coach Jeff Fisher’s four seasons.

“I’m glad that we got two and obviously you want to take three, but you’ve got take them one at a time,” Laurinaitis said. “This is a good football team. Good teams win a lot in a row, so that’s definitely what we want to be. Minnesota is extremely talented.”

Laurinaitis wasn’t some occasional Vikings fan, he was really into the team. He knew the words to the “Skol Vikings” fight song and has memories of the Vikings’ horn that would blow each time they got a first down.

“Every touchdown is that ‘Skol Vikings song ... I think I still have it memorized,” he said. “It’s one of those things that reminds you of college.”

WATTS SUSPENDED

Rams running back Trey Watts has been suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, the league announced Tuesday. This is the second suspension for Watts, who had to sit out the first four games of the 2015 season for a substance abuse suspension handed down by the league last May.

“It’s really unfortunate for Trey,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “We have a program and the players have to comply with the program. Trey had an issue that cost him the first four games of the regular season. Then when Trey came back, Trey was good.

“The setback was something that took place before he was suspended. It ends up being another positive, so the league requires him to sit. Unfortunately we’ll lose him for the remainder of the season, but emotionally, psychologically and physically, he’s doing good.”

Once he returned from the four-game suspension earlier this season, the former University of Tulsa back spent a week on the practice quad before being activated to the roster on Oct. 23. He played on special teams against the Browns on Oct. 25.

For running back depth behind Todd Gurley, the Rams have Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham and special teams ace Chase Reynolds. There’s also rookie back Malcolm Brown on the practice squad.

Fisher seemed just as interested in Watts the person than Watts the player.

“He’s on the road to recovery, if you will,” Fisher said. “We’re pulling for him, but we’ll be without his services for the remainder of the season.”

As far as Watts’ future with the Rams?

“We won’t deal with that until next offseason,” Fisher said.

RAMS INJURY REPORT

Not practicing for the Rams on Wednesday were defensive ends Chris Long (knee), Robert Quinn (knee) and William Hayes (thigh), offensive tackle Rob Havenstein (ankle) and running back Chase Reynolds (thigh).

Fisher explained Havenstein’s injury dealt with the Achilles tendon area.

“We’ve got him immobilized right now. He’s doing much better,” Fisher said. “So, we’re hoping to get him back on the field on Friday. We’ll see.”

Listed as “limited” at practice were safety T.J. McDonald (foot) and running back Tre Mason (ankle).

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

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