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Rams' Approach Remains the Same

Posted Dec 29, 2010

Although he’s in just his third season in the NFL, Rams defensive end Chris Long has already figured out what it takes many players a long time to understand: success in the NFL is as fleeting as it is enjoyable.

So it is that Long and the bulk of his teammates began preparation Wednesday for the biggest game they have played in their relatively short NFL careers.

“It is great to be playing meaningful games this late in the year,” Long said. “It means a lot. It’s a lot of fun. This is why you play football but then again it doesn’t mean as much if you can’t get the W. And there’s no guarantee we’ll be back there. You have to try to own this moment.”

This moment just so happens to be the do or die, winner-take-all battle for the NFC West Division against Seattle on Sunday Night Football at Qwest Field. It’s a big stage, a stage many young Rams are not used to but also one that should provide the ultimate challenge and a whole lot of excitement for all that are involved.

“I’m excited,” defensive tackle Fred Robbins said. “I’m excited for the team, excited for the guys to have this opportunity to be on primetime and fighting to win the division, get a chance to be in the playoffs. I’m definitely excited but guys still have to be focused on this one. If you look past this one, things happen. You still have to hone in and look at it like an ordinary game for us.”

Clearly, that is the message this week from coach Steve Spagnuolo, who made it known in meetings Wednesday morning that while it’s fine to embrace and enjoy the opportunity that awaits, they also can’t allow themselves to look beyond the task at hand.

“That’s exactly what I told them,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s part of it. We are going to embrace it. We’re certainly happy that we’re involved in this thing. But there is a certain way to handle it. The way we do it is kind of just stick to the process we have been used to. We don’t change very much because we still have got to go out there and do the same things that we’ve done in the other 15 games.”

While Spagnuolo acknowledged Monday that not much would change in terms of the team’s routine as it prepares to play in a primetime game, he did alter things a little bit in terms of Wednesday’s practice.

Having played in domed stadiums in each of the past four games and with the weather getting cooler, the Rams had not practiced anywhere but their indoor facility in advance of any of those contests.

In anticipation of playing outdoors in a likely cold and rainy atmosphere in Seattle, Spagnuolo took his team outdoors for the first part of Wednesday’s workout just to get re-acclimated to the expected conditions of Qwest Field.

Spagnuolo was pleased with the way his team responded in the first day back on the practice field.

“I’m just going to take today, it was a Wednesday practice and there are some days in between here and there are emotions, etc., etc. this particular group, they operate best when they just enjoy each other and go out and practice and play,” Spagnuolo said. “As the game gets closer, they just keep that up because that’s how they function better. That’s the way they have been right now. We’ll see how it goes throughout the week but I don’t anticipate them being any different.”

In the next couple of days, those practices will feature pumped in noise meant to simulate the notoriously loud crowds in Seattle but as safety Oshiomogho Atogwe is quick to point out, there isn’t much that can be done to fully replicate just how loud and crazy that venue can be. 

“The fans are going to go crazy whether they are booing or screaming at us,” Atogwe said. “It’s just going to be a lot of noise, a lot of energy. The atmosphere is built for football.”

STEADY HAND: From the day he arrived in St. Louis via trade from Minnesota, offensive lineman Adam Goldberg has embraced his role as the Swiss Army Knife of offensive linemen.

Need him to play tackle? No problem. How about guard? Sure thing. Center? Why not?

Goldberg had seemingly done it all as a Ram save for the one thing he wanted most: becoming a full time starter.

But when he takes his usual spot at right guard on Sunday in Seattle, it will mark his 16th consecutive start, all at the right guard position.

What Goldberg has brought the offensive line goes beyond pass protection and run blocking, according to Spagnuolo.

“Adam has been very solid,” Spagnuolo said. “The one thing about Adam is he knows anything and everything about what everybody does on offense. When I say that, I am serious. He will know what wideout routes they run and what the running back does so he helps all those guys right across the board. He’s a good, solid football player.”

ANOTHER QUARTERBACK QUANDARY: It’s become a bit of a trend for Rams opponents not to have a decision on a starting quarterback long before the game in recent weeks.

Leading up to the Dec. 19 game against Kansas City, it was unclear whether injured starter Matt Cassel would take his usual spot or the duties would fall to backup Brodie Croyle.

Last week, San Francisco kept the choice between Troy Smith and Alex Smith under its hat until later in the week.

Once again this week, there are questions about who will start for the Seahawks, though coach Pete Carroll indicated it would be backup Charlie Whitehurst starting for injured starter Matt Hasselbeck.

As it stands, the Rams are expecting Whitehurst but are aware that Hasselbeck could be under center come Sunday.

“We talked about the two quarterbacks this morning – and we defend the system – but he seems to walk in there and he’s been playing in the league long enough he certainly knows what he’s doing and get them in and out of trouble, etc, etc,” Spagnuolo said. “So I am sure with a week of practice and all of that they won’t feel like if he is the guy that they will lose very much.” 

INJURY REPORT: The Rams didn’t have much to report on the injury front on Monday after the San Francisco game and it appears they will be in pretty good shape heading toward the weekend barring any setbacks.

Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui did some limited work but most of his efforts were concentrated on sideline work with head athletic trainer Reggie Scott.

“He got a little bit of work,” Spagnuolo said. “He kind of worked with Reggie all day but he looked pretty good. We’ll see if we can’t get him into practice tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, cornerback Jerome Murphy is playing with a dislocated pinkie finger. He wrapped it up and made it through the bulk of the workout.

“He did practice in a limited fashion,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s kind of fighting through a dislocation but we think he’ll be OK.”

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