Just playing football

Rams’ Laurinaitis not worried about new deal

ST. LOUIS — The toughest task for James Laurinaitis on Day 2 of St. Louis Rams training camp came off the practice field.

The rugged middle linebacker’s comfort zone has increased this summer, with his father and sister moving to St. Louis. But he found his squirming 15-month-old nephew Jacob a little too much to handle while talking with reporters, finally handing off the toddler.

“He was helping grab the mike, that’s for sure,” Laurinaitis said Monday. “He loves Uncle James. Don’t you, bud?”

So does his team. A day after Chris Long agreed to a new contract that will keep the defensive end with St. Louis for five more seasons, the franchise shifted its focus to locking up the player who has led the team in tackles all three of his seasons.

Laurinaitis was happy for Long, who led the Rams with 13 sacks last season, saying it was good to see a player who didn’t seek attention get rewarded.

He’s paying zero attention to his own negotiations, adding he’ll let his play do the talking, and let his agent take care of such matters.

“The last time I talked to Tom Condon it was ‘Hey, good luck in camp, just go out there and do what you do,’” Laurinaitis said. “I’ve got enough to worry about without making a mental error.

“That stuff will take care of itself.”

Laurinaitis is entering the final year of a four-year, $5 million contract he signed after the Rams drafted him in the second round in 2009. Beside topping triple digits in tackles each year, he hasn’t missed a start.

New coach Jeff Fisher hasn’t named captains yet, but that’s what he called Laurinaitis.

“He’s the kind of guy you want at the middle linebacker position,” Fisher said. “He’s dedicated, he’s intelligent and he’s very committed.

“Football is important to him and he wants to learn.”

Laurinaitis shed 10 pounds in the offseason, reporting at 242 pounds to better handle the pass-defending duties in Fisher’s system, without losing strength. He reported at eigth percent body fat, three percent higher than super lean running back Steven Jackson, whom he referred to as a “freak.”

In his first three seasons playing for Steve Spagnuolo, Laurinaitis needed a bigger body to fend off blocks from linemen more often.

“I went back to Ohio State and really got after it,” Laurinaitis said. “I notice it out there, just being able to run and then get back to the huddle with no problem. Next play, let’s go.”

Laurinaitis will consume 4,500 calories on a typical work day. Throughout the offseason he referred to a laminated sheet that gave values to various foods.

The Rams will put on pads for the first time Wednesday in a special teams practice, with the first full-squad test Thursday. Fisher said there was no letup on Day 2, much like opening day but with fewer fans watching on a workday afternoon.

More than 1,500 attended the opening workout and the team counted 593 on Monday.

“This team’s going to be consistent with that,” Fisher said. “They like practicing and they like the challenges. They know better than to pace themselves because as we say we don’t have a lot of reps to go around.”

First-round pick Michael Brockers said he knocked off some of the rust the first day.

“Just getting back into it, hitting the sled for the first time in a while, it was rough,” said Brockers, a defensive tackle. “Day 2 was a lot smoother after getting into your playbook overnight. Day 2 was a lot better.”

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