Injury may sideline Laurinaitis for Rams' final exhibition game

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Linebacker James Laurinaitis has led the Rams in tackles the past two seasons. (Jeff Curry ~ Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS -- Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis wants to play in the Rams' last preseason game, saying his chest injury is no big deal.

"I'm good, good to go," Laurinaitis said Tuesday. "Absolutely, I think I'm going."

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo wasn't sure, weighing the value of giving the team's leading tackler the last two seasons one final tuneup against the risk of aggravating the injury.

"We'll just see how he feels on game day," Spagnuolo said. "If he feels good enough and we can get him in for some plays, we might."

Even if he sits Thursday night at Jacksonville, Laurinaitis said there's no doubt he'll be ready for the opener Sept. 11 against Philadelphia. He hasn't missed a start his first two seasons while amassing 205 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions, quickly emerging as a defensive leader.

St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis (55) defends against Tennessee Titans running back Herb Donaldson during the first quarter of an NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

"There's no question about Week 1, I'm going," Laurinaitis said. "If it's my choice, I'm going Thursday. The last thing you want is a tear, but I think it's good to go."

The outside linebacker spots have been settled, with newcomers Brady Poppinga and Ben Leber on the flanks. Poppinga's spot was solidified with the release of Na'il Diggs, who started 12 games last season.

Poppinga is back from a knee injury that limited him to six games last year in Green Bay.

"Ultimately, I've learned that starting role is not anybody's," Poppinga said. "It's not yours. They let you lease that out until they feel your lease is up."

Laurinaitis has dealt with soreness and fatigue in his left pectoral area for a few weeks from a practice injury when he ended up on the bottom of a pile and tried to brace his fall with his left forearm. He was held out of practice Monday but was a full participant Tuesday.

Laurinaitis said weightlifting is fine, but explosive moves such as shedding blockers can irritate the injury. He's experienced tightness during periods of inactivity, such as halftime.

"I need as many reps physically and mentally as I can get," Laurinaitis said. "You see certain plays develop by going through it in practice."

Spagnuolo anticipates most starters will play about a quarter or so against the Jaguars. Tight end Mike Hoomanawanui (calf) is the only player not making the trip.

"I don't like to put a number on it because it will kind of be a feel thing during the game," Spagnuolo said. "Generally, if you feel like they've gotten some good work in and it's 20 plays, they're out."

The Rams waived three injured players: safety Mikail Baker (hamstring), defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo (back) and cornerback Dionte Dinkins (ankle, knee).

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