Linebacker gets big deal, puts up big numbers
Friday, September 14, 2012
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The day before the St. Louis Rams' opener, middle linebacker James Laurinaitis signed a five-year contract extension. The business of sport out of the way, he put up the usual double-digit tackle day.
Laurinaitis led the Rams in tackles his first three seasons and he got a nice head start on making it four straight after participating in 15 tackles in the loss at Detroit in Week 1. He the new contract gives him a measure of security.
He also believes the Rams, who have won just 15 of their last 81 games, are poised to make a move.
"Obviously with the regime we have, I'm proud to be a part of it and I'm proud to be in St. Louis," said Laurinaitis, a former second-round pick out of Ohio State. "It's nice to know that I'll be here for sure for another five years. I don't have to wonder at all about it going through the season."
Defensive end Chris Long got a multiyear extension the day before training camp, and at that time the Rams said Laurinaitis was the next priority. Laurinaitis said his agents kept him informed during negotiations and advised patience.
A handful of other stalwarts have long-term contracts, including cornerback Cortland Finnegan, quarterback Sam Bradford, center Scott Wells and defensive tackle Kendall Langford.
Now, Laurinaitis said, it's time for the investments to start paying off.
"I'm honored to be considered one of those blocks, and now with everybody kind of locked up so to speak, it needs to translate to wins," Laurinaitis said. "So hopefully that happens. This is a business where you've got to execute. We all know that."
Running back Steven Jackson is an exception for now, although there's no urgency since he's signed through next year.
"Laurinitis, it's a well-deserved contract for him," Jackson said. "I'm glad to see that we're signing our young talent and keeping them locked up for a while, so we can all grow old together."
The 29-year-old Jackson, seeking his eighth straight 1,000-yard season, added, "I'd like to think I'm still young."
A major challenge looms. The defense on Sunday will be trying to contain electric rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, the NFL offensive player of the week after leading a 40-point effort in the Redskins' opener.
"You can't really simulate the speed," Laurinaitis said. "I think it's important as a defense that we rally, have that swarm mentality. You have to trust your eyes, trust what you see, and react."
It's not just the legs, either.
"The kid's got a cannon," Laurinaitis said.
The Rams added a veteran backup behind Bradford by re-signing Kellen Clemens, released not long before the opener. Defensive tackle Darell Scott was released to make room for Clemens. Rookie Austin Davis was the backup for the opener.
The 29-year-old Clemens has a home in St. Louis and stayed in town after getting released on Aug. 31 with the understanding the Rams would add him to the roster when they could, and they never cleaned out his locker stall. Clemens made three starts last year, completing 52.7 percent of his passes for 546 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
"You don't get many opportunities like that to spend time with your family, especially in September," Clemens said. "So that's what I did, followed the team as closely as I could from a distance and just made sure that whenever they called to bring me back that I was ready to go."
Offensive tackle Rodger Saffold returned as a full participant, just four days after getting carted off the field and then hospitalized with what the team characterized as a significant neck strain. Saffold said he was just testing his conditioning.
"With this type of thing, the best way to figure out if I'm ready to play is if I go out and actually do something," Saffold said. "I'm still taking it day by day, but at least I get to be able to do something instead of standing around out there on the field. I hate that."