The teams most likely to thrive after a lockout that wipes out the entire offseason, training camp, and preseason will be the teams with the players who have spent the most quality time working together on their own during the workout.
The Rams hope to be one of those teams.
Linebacker James Laurinaitis, who is considering taking up pro wrestling if the lockout lingers, recently told Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the goal is to get the defensive players together soon.
“I’m actually coming back next Wednesday, the 20th,” Laurinaitis said. “I’m going to drive back there [to St. Louis] and just kind of remain for a couple months. I’ve been in contact with [defensive back] Ron Bartell here and there about trying to get a lot of the defense around each other.”
Bartell told Thomas that it’s all about helping the Rams build on their unlikely accomplishments of 2010.
“We’re just trying to make sure everybody’s on the same page, because we felt like we did some good things last year and we don’t want to lose that because of the lockout,” Bartell said. “So we’re just trying to make sure everybody’s staying in shape. We’re going to try to set up some things. If this [lockout] does last longer, we’re probably going to try to set up some ‘team’ work in the near future.”
It’s unclear how much field work they’ll do. As players find themselves in competitive situations, the risk of an injury that would expose the player to not being paid in 2011 increases.
“As defensive players, we all know our defense enough to where we could just talk through stuff just to keep each other mentally fresh on that as well,” Laurinaitis said. “I’m not worried about guys being in shape or not. I trust them. If you’re a professional, you’re going to keep each other in shape. It’s just a matter of trying to get as many people around each other as possible.”
Part of the goal is to ensure that the players have a strong sense of camaraderie.
“When everyone’s in St. Louis, it’s like, all right what are we going to do tonight?” Laurinaitis said. “Well, let’s all just go get dinner. Or let’s go check out a movie. Go watch the Cards. Or do something. That’s kind of like the little things that you can’t really measure.”
But those things that can’t be measured can make a huge difference, especially if the lockout lasts into late August or beyond.