ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jeff Fisher took an offbeat approach for breaking the ice when St. Louis Rams veterans and rookies met for the first time.
Besides standing and reciting their names, schools, favorite movies, etc., during introductions, the new players were asked to recall the name of their first pet along with how it died. Fisher said several mentioned hamsters and turtles, while some remembered the family dog or cat getting squashed by trains or buses.
"We had one whose parents just put him down that morning," Fisher said Wednesday. "You know, it was sad. No, it was good. Good introduction."
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan recalled lighthearted goings on when he was a rookie playing for Fisher in Tennessee. There, he got saddled with the nickname Fido.
"It's something coach Fisher always throws in there for giggles," Finnegan said. "I played the nickel and I would always run after the wrong guy."
Rams rookies got hung with nicknames, too. Finnegan said one looked like Greg Oden, and another resembled Gonzo, the Muppet.
There are limits to the frivolity. Players won't be asked to sing and Fisher went out of his way to emphasize there will be no hazing, no rookies taped to goal posts or the like.
"They're here to help us win," he said after the team completed a second day of organized team activities.
There is fresh optimism surrounding a franchise that's a sorry 15-65 the last five years. Defensive end Chris Long, the second overall pick of the 2008 draft, is playing for his fourth coach entering his fifth season and can't recall a vibe quite like this.
"There's been a lot of changes since I've been here. This is by far the one I'm most excited about," Long said. "I think we're all very excited about it. It's a new beginning for a lot of people and, in the same sense, you have to re-prove yourself."
Fisher does not seem worried about all those lean seasons in the recent past.