The Rams are 2-13 and rumors are flying about the head coach's job. Yet, players and coaches go about things like business as usual, hoping to find a way to win the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers.
It doesn't matter that fans want the team to lose so they will have a chance at the first pick in the draft. Despite a gloomy season, competitors keep trying to win.
Quarterback Sam Bradford, who is expected to miss another game with an injured ankle, was asked if there is a sense that players are trying to save the job of coach Steve Spagnuolo.
Said Bradford, "I don't think so. We're approaching this game just like we would any other game. We're playing a division opponent, a division rival. Obviously we're looking to beat them after the way they handled us in San Francisco, so I think we're approaching this just like we would any other game."
Kellen Clemens, who has started the last two games at quarterback, might have played himself into an opportunity to compete for a backup job in 2012. He said that's the farthest thing from his mind.
"Any opportunity to play is an opportunity to play," Clemens said. "Since we were five and six years old, you don't really come out here to practice, you come out to play. That's what we love to do, so that's what I've enjoyed over the last couple weeks is having an opportunity to play and be a part of this organization. I'm not really thinking about myself going into the offseason. I'm just excited for another opportunity to go out and play and have some fun.
"I've been blessed with just the opportunity to be here. I'm very grateful for that. Again, I don't think past San Francisco right now. Everything else plays itself out over the offseason which gives you weeks and months to think about it. Myself as an individual, us as an offense, us as a team collectively, we are all thinking about beating the San Francisco 49ers and then we will deal with what comes after that."
When asked if this game is one final audition for players whether it be with the Rams or another team, Clemens said, "The reality of this business is that, that's the case but the reality of this organization is that I don't think there's an individual on this team that is thinking about that, so it goes both ways. We have one more opportunity to get a win and that's what we are focusing on collectively."
After facing numerous issues last week against Pittsburgh's defense, now Clemens and Co. will be up against the 49ers.
He said, "If there is a defense that's better than Pittsburgh, we are playing them now this week. They are a little bit less multiple in what they do, but very, very talented at every single position. It will be another good challenge for us."
Spagnuolo was asked about San Francisco's approach changing since the 49ers are in the playoffs. He said, "Absolutely not. They're playing for a bye week. And I think two teams are going to be going at it with full bore trying to win a football game. I don't see that changing at all."
SERIES HISTORY: 124th regular-season meeting. Rams lead series, 61-60-2. The 49ers have won six of the last seven games in the series, including a 26-0 victory on Dec. 4 in San Francisco. The Rams defeated the 49ers in Week 16 last season, knocking San Francisco out of playoff contention, which led to the immediate firing of coach Mike Singletary.
--RB Steven Jackson, DE Chris Long and MLB James Laurinaitis were all voted as alternates for the NFC Pro Bowl team announced Tuesday.
Long, who has 13 sacks this season, said, "It's good to be in the conversation."
"I think he's blossoming," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "The best thing that's happened to him, he's been in the same system for three years. We've been smart enough to keep him at the same spot, and he's gotten comfortable. We're seeing what I think everybody expected to see out of Chris Long when he came in the league."
Long was the second overall pick in the 2008 draft and has been used solely at left defensive end the last two seasons.
Said Long, "I've just been trying to improve every year. Truly and honestly, just improve my game every year. Last year, I was close. If I fall into two or three (more) sacks last year, people probably would've been calling it a breakout year." Long had 8.5 sacks in 2010.
--CB Al Harris, who was lost for the season after tearing his ACL on Nov. 13 against Cleveland, was at practice Wednesday visiting teammates. Harris said he will have surgery on his knee Jan. 13, but that his football career is over.
"I've probably hit every single goal I've set for myself and it's time to turn the page," Harris said. "I guess the injury was God's way of telling me it's time. When the guy upstairs is talking to you, you have to listen."
Harris, who is in his 14th season and turned 37 on Dec. 7, said he probably would have tried to play another year if he hadn't planted wrong and been injured.
He did say, "You'll see me again, as a coach."
--It appears as if CB Justin King will remain on the active roster for the season finale despite being unavailable because of a shoulder injury that will require surgery this week.
The Rams did promote TE/FB Ben Guidugli from the practice squad to take the roster spot opened by the suspension of WR Austin Pettis last week.
Said coach Steve Spagnuolo, "If there was somebody we could grab or we thought would make a difference we'd do that. We're kind of looking into that right now, but as of right now we're not going to make any changes."
As for Guidugli, Spagnuolo said, "I tell you what, the guys like him, too. He's been the jack of all trades all year long. Played fullback on the scout team, tight end. On defense, he goes over and plays some linebacker for us. (General Manager) Billy (Devaney) scoured the other avenues and we just thought this was a good thing to do."
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- Number of players that have started all 15 games for the Rams, four of which are starters. Last season, the Rams had 22 players that played in all 16 games, and 11 starters. By contrast, this year, the 49ers have had 30 players in all their games, and 12 starters.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You've gotta have a lot of mental fortitude to play in this league. It's just something I've learned. And through the adversity and the losing, you can never let that take your passion away for the game and for competition. You just have to know that every week you've got another chance, and even if it's not going well, you just keep grinding away. It's easy to play hard when you're winning but I think the measure of this team when things aren't going well -- the measure of these guys as men is that they continue to work." -- DE Chris Long.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--QB Sam Bradford did not practice Wednesday, but did some physical work Monday and Tuesday to test his injured ankle. Said Bradford, "We pushed it a little bit Monday, Tuesday. Still not where I think our training staff would like it to be, but we've still got five days, so hopefully within those five days we can keep going and hopefully make some strides."
--LB Brady Poppinga was sent home with an illness Wednesday and did not practice.
--DE Chris Long (ankle) did some limited work in practice Wednesday, which was the first time in several weeks he did anything prior to the final practice before the game.
--DT Fred Robbins, who is battling a back problem, was limited in practice Wednesday.
--CB Josh Gordy, who has been playing on an injury to his oblique muscle, was limited in practice Wednesday.
GAME PLAN: The Rams were successful running the ball against Pittsburgh, so they will try to do that against the 49ers, and create manageable third downs. Of course, they have had numerous manageable third downs this season, but have not been proficient in converting them.
Defensively, the Rams did a good job on RB Frank Gore in the first game. Still, the key will be scoring points. The Rams have six games this season where they have scored fewer than 10 points and they were shut out in San Francisco Dec. 4.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams DLE Chris Long vs. 49ers RT Anthony Davis -- Long will try to beat Davis and get to QB Alex Smith, but Smith does a good job of getting the ball out quickly.
Rams coverage teams vs. 49ers KR Ted Ginn Jr. -- The Rams have allowed numerous big plays in the return game in recent weeks, and Ginn is averaging 27.6 yards on kickoff returns and 12.3 on punts, but might not play because of an ankle injury.