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Rams vow to be motivated for season-ending matchup with Cardinals

Says linebacker Mark Barron, shown leveling 49ers running back Shaun Draughn, of the Rams' season finale Sunday: "We’re still taking pride in this thing."
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

They have lost 10 of their last 11 games. They are playing for an interim coach, and assistants who probably will not be back next season when a new coach is hired.

With the finale of their lost season approaching, Rams players said Tuesday that despite what some might view as reason not to be, they remain motivated to finish with a strong performance Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

“The energy is not a thing where people are just saying, ‘You know, let’s just get it over with,’ ” linebacker Mark Barron said. “We’re still taking pride in this thing.

“People might be doing this for different reasons, but everybody’s still in it.”

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The Rams are 4-11 going into the matchup with the Cardinals, who improved to 6-8-1 with a 34-31 victory at Seattle last week.

The Rams defeated the Cardinals, 17-13, in Week 4 at University of Phoenix Stadium. The victory was the final one in a three-game winning streak that put the Rams in first place in the NFC West.

The Rams have won only one game since. Coach Jeff Fisher was fired after a Week 14 rout by the Atlanta Falcons and they are in the midst of a six-game losing streak.

“Obviously, it’s been an upsetting season,” cornerback Trumaine Johnson said. “But it’s my livelihood and it’s about if you love the game or not.

“And I love the game so I’m going to approach [Sunday’s game] like any other game.”

Interim Coach John Fassel said Monday that morale was low because of the losing. On Tuesday, he said it was better once players and coaches got outside and onto the field for a light workout.

But he won’t have a sense of where the team is really at until Wednesday.

“[It] will be a really good test for our psyche because … we’re going to run, and we’re going to practice hard and we’re going to go for over two hours,” he said.

Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold also described Wednesday’s workout as a demarcation point.

“Usually, I can tell from how the practice goes,” he said. “If it’s real flat, I can see that they’re just not motivated.

“If it’s high energy, high tempo, we’ve got some good enthusiasm going, then I can see us going at it again.”

Against the Cardinals, Saffold might switch from left tackle to right tackle in place of Rob Havenstein, who suffered an ankle injury in last week’s 22-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Saffold started last week at left tackle in place of Greg Robinson, who was benched and inactive for the second time in five games. Robinson, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, worked at left tackle Tuesday.

“It kind of caught me off guard,” Robinson said of being benched against the 49ers, adding, “I don’t really know what to expect week in and week out, so it was a decision they made as a staff and I just took it on the chest and try my best to be positive about it.”

Fassel will take a positive approach when he addresses players and coaches Wednesday.

On Sunday, after the Rams let a 14-point fourth-quarter lead slip away against the 49ers, Fassel said he planned to deliver a special message, but he declined to reveal the subject matter.

“I’ll hit them with something,” he said in his postgame news conference. “I’m not going to let my last week as an interim head coach just kind of fizzle and die out, be done in a week and call it an off-season.

“I’m going to do my best to get this team a win and say, ‘One day I won the game as a head coach in the Coliseum.’”

Fassel said Tuesday that players had asked him when he planned to deliver the message.

“I feel like, ‘Gosh I’m going to disappoint them,’ because they think it’s going to be hot, and it’s really going to take about a minute,” Fassel said, laughing. “But, the point is, hopefully, they’ll remember it.

“Maybe if it’s not even for this week. … Sometime down the road in their lives that they’ll remember it and use it.”


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