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Fisher has Rams thinking positive heading into training camp

Monday, July 23, 2012 | 8:08 p.m. CDT
St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher stands during NFL football practice at the Rams' training facility in St. Louis. Besides building a stronger roster after a year away from the NFL, new coach Jeff Fisher has been working on instilling a positive attitude and brushing aside the bad old days.

ST. LOUIS — "Forget about it" is the operative phrase for the St. Louis Rams heading into training camp.

Besides building a stronger roster after a year away from the NFL, new coach Jeff Fisher has been working on instilling a positive attitude and brushing aside the bad old days.

And why not? The Rams tied for the NFL's worst record last year at 2-14, and have won a total of 15 games over the past five seasons.

Fisher spends no time talking about failure. He wants his players to believe they can turn it around fast. As in this year.

"They're not hungry to win," Fisher said. "They expect to win. Everybody does. The past is the past, we're looking forward with the expectation of winning games."

Fisher gets the chance to rebuild the Rams after the coach he replaced, Steve Spagnuolo, compiled a 10-38 record in three seasons. A new general manager is aboard, too, with Les Snead replacing Billy Devaney, who lasted four mostly futile years.

There was a glimmer of hope in 2010, when the Rams went 7-9 — a six-win improvement that left them one win shy of the playoffs. Last year, though, St. Louis started 0-6 against a tough schedule, then injuries to quarterback Sam Bradford, key offensive linemen and pass defenders ended any chance of recovering.

Fisher, though, has some of last year's better players back and will try to surround them with a better supporting cast when training camp opens July 28. The first preseason game is Aug. 12 against the Indianapolis Colts.

Last season, the offense revolved around two-time Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson, the senior drafted in the first round in 2004. He'll try to put up his eighth straight 1,000-yard season, and get more rest, too, after the Rams drafted running back Isaiah Pead in the second round.

Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 and the NFL offensive rookie of the year. Last year he was dogged by a high ankle sprain, and with better protection could blossom. Center Scott Wells was among the free-agent pickups. Tackle Jason Smith was the second overall pick in 2009 and retains considerable potential if he can shake off the concussion-related problems that have dogged him.

Bradford has been throwing three times a week since minicamp ended in mid-June. He said he's comfortable with the offense of new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and unlike last year when his partnership with Josh McDaniels never got off the ground, this time he really means it.

"I think last year I probably rushed to judgment and jumped to some conclusions with my comfort with the offense and everyone else's general comfort with the offense," Bradford said. "This year I want to see it against a live defense before I really go out and make that statement.

"But for what we've done, I feel very comfortable."

Danny Amendola, who caught 85 passes in 2010, is back after missing virtually all of last season with an elbow injury. Other potential targets are draft picks Brian Quick and Chris Givens.

More scoring would take the heat off a defense that too often was drilled by the big play and barely avoided setting a franchise record for yards allowed. There are three quality pieces to build around.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who played for Fisher in Tennessee, was the top free-agent pickup. He is being counted on as the shutdown guy in the secondary. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, as second-round pick, could be an immediate contributor.

End Chris Long is coming off his best year and was among the sacks leaders with 13½, and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis has been a model big-play defender, leading the team in tackles in all three of his seasons.

"We could not have asked for a more perfect middle linebacker," assistant head coach Dave McGinnis said. "He's exactly what you need."

First-round pick Michael Brockers, a tackle, bolsters a line that has three first-rounders including end Robert Quinn, who had five sacks as a rookie.

McGinnis is one of three former defensive coordinators on the staff filling the duties of Gregg Williams, suspended indefinitely for his role in the Saints bounty scandal. McGinnis is the most likely to have a hands-on role on game day.

"Believe me, we will get it handled," McGinnis said. "Everybody is in tune. We're going to call a defense and make them punt — on your mark, get set, go."


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