ST. LOUIS (AP) - Tired of the no-contact rule in practices and scrimmages, St. Louis defensive end Chris Long is eager to unload on a quarterback.
"As a competitor you want to get out there and get that sack," Long said Wednesday. "I realize you have to protect your quarterback, and it's just practice. But for us defensive guys, it's not easy. It's only natural, you just want to hit someone."
Long will finally get that chance Saturday night when the Rams host Indianapolis in the exhibition opener.
The 6-foot-3, 276-pounder, the son of Hall of Fame lineman Howie Long, has been a terror so far in training camp. He dominated play in the Rams' lone public scrimmage Sunday. Long controlled the line of scrimmage and could have recorded at least three sacks if given the opportunity. Instead, he calmly pulled up when he reached quarterback Sam Bradford, just like the inter-squad rules state.
"You know when you win a rush and you know when you should have a sack," Long said. "But, you've got to let the offense work too."
Long, the second overall choice in the 2008 draft, is coming off a breakout season. He had a career-high 8 1/2 sacks and led the team with 16 quarterback hits and 21 pressures. A product of the University of Virginia, Long helped the Rams finish second in the league in third-down defense. St. Louis had 43 sacks, seventh in the NFL.
This time around, Long said the defense will have to perform even better. St. Louis, which finished 7-9 in 2010, came within one win of winning the NFC West, losing at Seattle 16-6 in the final weekend.
"That's made us hungry," Long said. "We don't want to come up just short like that ever again."
Long's strong play in camp has helped inspire the rest of defense, which has swarmed around the ball at every opportunity.
"He's just a workhorse out there and he sets a good example," fellow defensive lineman Gary Gibson said. "He's a great guy to have because he's so optimistic."
Long said he picked up his intense work ethic from his father. In his fourth season, he still communicates with his father every day during camp.
"It's more like a son talking to a father," Long said. "But we talk a little football, too."
Long is counting the minutes until Saturday's game. He is ready to cut loose.
"This is what we work so hard in practice for," he said. "It's time to get going."
Notes: Linebacker James Laurinaitis was held out of practice Wednesday because of a strained pectoral muscle. "It's a day-to-day deal," St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo said. ... The Rams have closed today's practice to the public. ... Wide receiver Danny Amendola got into a brief skirmish with safely Mikail Baker during Wednesday's workout. ... Defensive end James Hall (flexor muscle) and cornerback Ron Bartell (thigh) did not practice.