Rams rookie head coach Steve Spagnuolo, left, and rookie linebacker James Laurinaitis, spoke to the Houston media by telephone on Wedesday.
Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo and rookie linebacker James Laurinaitis spoke to the Houston media via conference call on Wednesday. Following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo
(on making the transition from defensive coordinator to head coach) "Challenging. Very challenging, but it's challenging, encompassing and a grind wrapped up into a wonderful experience. It's hard to describe because it has been rough, especially with the season we've had. Every bit of it, in a small way, has been enjoyable. I wouldn't want it any differently with regards to the experience I'm having. I'd certainly like to win a few more games, but I'm a blessed man for having the job I have right now.
(on how he keeps a positive outlook on this season and if it stems from the young talent on the team) "Well, it's some of that. The other part of it is my strong faith in God. My wife helps me out in that regard. I've been in the business long enough to know that whether you've won 12 straight games—or 13 in the case of New Orleans and Indianapolis—or you've lost a bunch of them like we have, when Wednesday rolls around, it's always time to get ready for another opponent. That never changes. The teams that continue to win can't think about the wins or they're going to get beat. The team that struggles and loses can't keep thinking about that because then there is no way they can win. We have a rough time Sunday night when we lose and certainly into parts of Monday, but once we get on to the next team, we tuck it away and move on."
(on RB Steve Jackson's season) "I could talk forever about it because he's been a terrific example of leadership in the locker room, his personality, and he's an intense guy that's competitive and wants to win more than anybody else. I know at times it gets a little frustrating for him, but he rises above that each and every week. He comes out and gives 110% effort all the time. He's been a little banged up. We all know that, but he performs on Sunday and that's the most important thing. "
(on his quarterback situation this week) "Well, we're still navigating through the injuries. (QB) Kyle Boller still has got some tenderness in that thigh. We're not sure where it is right now. We're going to see if we can get him out there to practice today. He's also battling a cold, so he's got a lot of things going on. If Kyle is not out there, (QB) Keith Null will step right in. He'll get his reps and we'll keep him tuned up. By the end of the week, we'll have it all figured out and we'll have a guy lining up there on Sunday."
(on what they liked out of QB Keith Null in his start on Sunday and coming out of the draft) "I think there are a lot of positives. Certainly, we'd like to have the five interceptions back, but he comes out the first play of the game and throws a completion for eight or nine yards and that's not easy as your first throw as a rookie. When he got the call and knew he was going to go, there was nothing but excitement in his eyes. He's a very composed guy and manages the game real well. The game is not big for him. I'm sure it's a little faster than he was used to. He remembers back in preseason, there is a difference of speed in this league and we all know that. I think the growth process, the foundation by getting him in there and having those reps will benefit him greatly. Along the way, we'll see where he is in his development and see if he gets some more reps."
(on if he's worried about having two new guards starting this week) "Worried is not the right word; only concerned, in that you've got a short time to get those guys ready. But we've got complete trust in the guys that we put in there. We've faced a lot of injuries and adversity and when you do get injuries in this league, somebody else has to step up. That's why we have coaches, that's why we have so-called back up players and they're always preparing for one turn of an ankle, they're in there playing. So the guys that will step in there with treat it that way and hopefully we won't fall back too far."
(on rookie LB James Laurinaitis and rookie LB Brian Cushing) "I tell you, we're talking about two quality rookies, both of them coming out obviously highly touted and played at two good, solid programs, obviously winning programs, and I think—I don't know Brian very well but my guess is that his experience in college has helped him in the NFL just like I know it has for Laurinaitis. James has been terrific, he's been thrust into a role that's very, very tough as a rookie. He's making all the calls for us, he steps in front of the huddle, gets the defense going and he hasn't skipped a beat. He was there from game one and I know going forward; getting all this experience in the game is going to help him tremendously."
(on what he sees when watching film of LB Brian Cushing) "I thought this when he was coming out of college: he can run and he's passionate for the game of football. You add those two components, well you're kind of describing in a linebacker—a guy that can run and makes plays and is very passionate. I see that in him, saw that coming out of college and I think he's playing that way now and he's certainly having a good season."
(on DE Mario Williams' play against the Seahawks) "Very dominant. He stuck out on the field no question and he's a quality player and I'm sure (Texans head coach) Gary's (Kubiak) glad he's got him. It sounds like he's coming on right now and that's maybe not good for us but good for them."
(on how difficult it is to prepare for WR Andre Johnson) "Very difficult. It's a decision making process. Do you commit two, three people to him and kind of hang on with the rest of the quality players that they have there or do you not do that, do you play the run, do you defend him. There are all kinds of questions. Anytime an offense has a playmaker with the skill of Andre Johnson, the defense has to worry about him. We'd have to pick and choose where we pressured, if we did at all, because he can beat you and the quarterback is good enough to get it to him. So he presents some problem, no question."
(on the development of Houston product WR Donnie Avery) "I tell you what, Donnie is one of the hardest-working individuals we have in this locker room. And the other thing about Donnie is if he has a nick or a bump, when he's hurt, he doesn't want to be hurt and he's always fighting for a way to get back in there. I have to keep him—way back in OTAs when I was first learning this football team, Donnie had an injury, I don't remember what it was, and he was always trying to sneak back out there when he should have been resting. I think that's a good quality in a player—that they fight through injuries. He's done that a little bit this year, he's had to fight through some injuries again and he stumbled coming out of the blocks early this season but he's really come on strong and I think he's had a good season coming down the stretch here and hopefully in these last three games."
Rams LB James Lauirinaitis
(on how happy he is to see S Dominique Barber, his former high school teammate, starting for the Texans) "I'm real happy for him. Dom and I go back to, shoot, when we were five years old. And I was always watching him, even when he went on to play with the (Minnesota) Gophers, I was watching him and proud of him there. Dom's been basically like a brother to me. I remember when Marion (Barber III, Dominique's older brother) went off to college at Minnesota and his parents would drive to the road games, Dom would always stay at my place for the weekend. So we spent a lot of time together playing football and hockey, and I'm just glad to see him doing so well."
(on how difficult the transition has been to the NFL on a 1-12 team) "You know, like I kind of said to some of the guys up here, you just have to keep moving on to the next week. You have to know and trust that things are going to get turned around, which I think they definitely will. But I think whether you win or lose, the way we approach this week of practice and everything, nothing changes. You forget about the 14 weeks or so and you just kind of move on. That's kind of the way you've gotta do it. If you dwell on the past, whether you're winning every game or losing every game, all that does is hurt you in one way or another. So you've just got to keep moving on, and Coach Spags has done a great job of he sets an example for that. He never dwells on plays or things that happen in the past. You correct it on Monday in film and you move on from there."
(on how much he keeps an eye on his fellow rookies like Texans LB Brian Cushing) "I keep a pretty good eye on the guys that came out in the class with me in general. I want to see everyone that came out as linebackers in our class this year be successful. I kind of want it to be one of those classes where people look back at it and they're kind of like, 'Dang, that class of 2009 linebackers, they were a successful bunch,' and we can all kind of be named for our own style of play. So I like seeing Cush do well, I like to see (Packers LB) Clay Matthews do well, I like to see (Bengals LB Rey) Maualuga doing well. I like to look around and see those LBs making plays. And obviously, having (LB) Marcus (Freeman) down there and Dom, I'm well aware of how Brian's playing, and you can see it on the highlights, you can see it on the film. It's good to see him playing well. I've talked to him a couple times this season and always wish him the best of luck and hope he stays healthy, because he's playing great football for the Texans."
(on the concept of the rookie wall) "I definitely think there's a point in the season where you really have to make a conscious decision, like, 'Hey, am I going to keep taking care of my body and doing this and that, or am I just going to go through the motions? Am I going to try to get better, or am I just going to coast?' And it usually comes right around when your normal college season would end. There's something about that mentally; your body is kind of used to going through that clock. For four years, you go through that same time like we'd always done right before Thanksgiving. That week, I was aware that, 'Hey, your body might want to shut it down this week,' and I took some extra steps and really realized, 'Hey, I've got to do those little things,' like maybe extra cold tub, extra massage, make sure I'm eating right, get enough sleep, that stuff; to really have a conscious decision like, 'Hey, don't believe in that wall.' And to be honest, I never hit it. There was never a point, as some of the guys described before, 'Dang, I don't know if I can do this, only a couple more weeks.' There's never been that point for me. Maybe there are for some guys, but I wanted to make a conscious decision not to have that."
(on if he thinks hockey helped him at all as a football player) "I think it helps you with regards to taking angles. Dom and I were always a little bigger than the average hockey player in high school, so we were dealing with a lot of small, quick guys, and I was a defenseman, so it helps a lot with taking angles, I think. Hockey's a physical sport, so any time you have to deal with a tough sport, that's going to help your overall toughness and overall competitiveness. But I think also what hockey did, is it really builds muscles that, for me, are helpful in the sense that when you skate, you could run a marathon and go skate just a couple laps around the rink and you're going to be sore the next day, because you're using a whole bunch of different muscles in your thighs. And I think when you really boil it down, what does a linebacker do? They go side-to-side when they shuffle. So you use the inside part of your leg, kind of like if you were skating. And to be honest, I kind of found that to be pretty helpful when it comes to first steps and stuff. And you can always tell guys who skate in the way that their legs look versus guys that are just straight runners. There's a different complexion to it. Sometimes, also, when you run, you start to go side-to-side at first before you start getting those things moving forward, too."