Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Progress in 2012 Raises Rams' Hopes for 2013

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Progress in 2012 Raises Rams' Hopes for 2013

Article excerpt

Even after a good year, about one-third of an NFL roster changes over the course of an offseason.

So as players cleaned out their locker stalls Monday afternoon at Rams Park and headed out into the offseason, they said their goodbyes knowing full-well they won't see some of those same faces in 2013 at least not as teammates.

"It was a special group," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "Sadly, the business of the NFL, not everybody will be back. But the guys that will be back, they're ready to work, and they're ready for 2013."

After some time off, that is.

And rarely has a team that isn't going to the playoffs headed into the offseason with such a positive vibe, such hope for the future, as the 2012 Rams.

"Hope's a good word," defensive end Chris Long said. "We have a lot of reasons to believe right now; real tangible reasons to believe. So we'll just continue to put faith in what Coach Fish and Les are doing."

That would be coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead.

Perhaps running back Steven Jackson, the most-tenured Ram, with nine seasons wearing the blue and gold, put it best:

"What's exciting is actually being a part of something that was dead, and being a part of it being alive again," he said.

Even in a year where teams such as Indianapolis, Minnesota and Washington made big leaps forward, no one had to climb out of a hole as deep or a challenge as daunting as the Rams. Namely, no winning seasons since 2003, no playoff berths since 2004 and a 15-65 record from 2007 through 2011 the worst five-year stretch in NFL history.

So as the Rams gathered for their final team meeting of 2012, Fisher concentrated on the big picture in the immediate aftermath of a 20-13 season-ending loss in Seattle and a 7-8-1 record. Fisher has been part of several such meetings in his long coaching career but said this one was a little different.

"We really felt like when the guys left the auditorium, they left with a great deal of enthusiasm and optimism for what's ahead," Fisher said.

He talked to the team about what was accomplished in a short period of time. And he congratulated the players on their accomplishments and their effort.

"We know that we're the youngest team in the National Football League," Fisher said. "We had the third-toughest schedule. We had the best record in the division amongst our division opponents. We let some slip away. We also won some that people didn't think we probably had a chance to win."

With Fisher in place, the players feel a confidence about the future unlike most years past. Jackson, for example, was part of an 8-8 team in 2006 and the 7-9 team in 2010. But he has never felt as strongly about the prospects for taking the next step as he does after the 7-8-1 of 2012.

Why?

"This is the best I've felt about a head coach," Jackson said. …

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