ST. LOUIS (AP) - Cortland Finnegan comes by his feisty disposition naturally. The St. Louis Rams' new shutdown cornerback joked that the single mother who raised him, Linda Finnegan, is a wild woman with about 400 tattoos.
"She's got a military background," Finnegan said Thursday at his introductory news conference. "So, I think just her wild side is part of what it's all about for me."
Jeff Fisher has always appreciated the edge Finnegan brings to the game, making one of his favorite Titans players the first piece of a franchise he's rebuilding from the ground up. Finnegan has had his share of scrapes and fines, including a notable fistfight with Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson in 2010, but was an All-Pro in 2008 and is considered a leader on the field.
"Yeah, I play with an edge," Finnegan said. "If there is an edge, I'm standing over it, looking over it, never stepping over it. I think that's part of my game, but also play with a smart side as well."
The 28-year-old Finnegan stuck with his comfort zone when he signed a five-year, $50-million deal with $27 million guaranteed and $33 million in the first three seasons. Though he was one of the top defensive players in free agency, Finnegan wasted no time opting for the familiarity of Fisher, who in 2006 invested a seventh-round draft pick on an undersized player from tiny Samford in Birmingham, Ala.
Fisher thought so highly of Finnegan that he brought him in as one of his "top 30" visits to the Titans prior to the draft and remembered, "We put on the tape and "Wow!'"
"This is the first of many great exciting days for the future of this organizaFisher said. "I'm especially excited because of our relationship. If two people know each other any better, I challenge you to find those people. He has made our defense better today."
General manager Les Snead was more concise: "I'll say this. He had me at Andre Johnson."
"Is that like, "He had me from hello?'" Fisher asked.
Finnegan and Brandon Carr, who signed a free-agent deal with Dallas for virtually the same money, were the top two defensive backs in free agency.
A few hours before the opening bell of free agency on Tuesday afternoon, Finnegan went bowling with his wife and took a perfect game into the final frame. The resulting 289 game for a guy who usually rolls about 160 was the beginning of a very good day.
"I bowled out of my body, I'll never eclipse it," Finnegan said. "I think with everything that was going on with free agency, I was in another place. I told everyone in the bowling alley I would streak out of it if I bowled a perfect game, and I don't think they wanted to see that."
Later that day, Finnegan decided against shopping himself around the league and agreed to terms. He's expected to stabilize a position that was ravaged by injuries, with the first four on the depth chart all ending the year on injured reserve.
The Rams plan to build mostly with youth, and after the blockbuster deal with the Redskins for the No. 2 pick they have three of the first 39 selections in the April draft. Finnegan will be among a group of veteran leaders who'll help hasten the developmental phase.
"It just made sense," Finnegan said. "I love coach Fisher and the direction he's taken the team. I respect him for everything he stands for and I definitely wanted to come be a part of this."
The Rams were negotiating with another ex-Titan, defensive lineman Jason Jones, although Jones had left St. Louis to visit another team. Snead expected a decision perhaps by the weekend.