Routines can be hard to break particularly 30-year ones. So Todd Hewitt, the former equipment manager of the St. Louis Rams, still gets up around 5 a.m. every day.
"My whole routine was getting up in the morning, just going right to work," Hewitt said. "I'd shower at work, and do paperwork in the morning. Things like that."
Since being let go by the Rams in January, Hewitt no longer makes the trek to Rams Park every day at the crack of dawn.
"I take the dogs out," he said. "Then I piddle around and read the paper, and stay quiet so I don't wake anybody else up at the house."
Nearly three months after his long association with the Rams ended, Hewitt has a couple of job prospects but nothing firm.
Consultant's work for Rawlings, the St. Louis-based sports equipment firm, is one possibility. Nike, the sports apparel giant, is another. Nike gets the outer apparel and jersey licensing for the NFL in 2012, and is looking for a national promotions person to work with all 32 clubs. Hewitt may interview for that job in the next week or two.
He has a resume in at Northwestern University. "Their equipment manager retired after 27 years, and they think it might be a good fit," Hewitt said.
Hewitt also has applied for a couple of non-sports related jobs in St. Louis.
"We want to stay in St. Louis," he said. "We love St. Louis. We love the community; love the people here. I don't want to move if I don't have to. So ideally, we would stay here and be able to work out of St. Louis and just travel to where I need to, and things like that."
Then he laughed and added, "Ideally, I'd hoped to be with the Rams for about another 10 years."
Hewitt's 43-year association with the Rams ended on the morning of Jan. 7, when he was summoned to coach Steve Spagnuolo's office, and told that his contract was not being renewed.
Hewitt began helping his father, the late Don Hewitt, with Rams equipment at age 11 when the franchise was located in Los Angeles. He officially joined the Rams equipment staff in 1978 and succeeded his father as equipment manager in 1986.
"There's two reasons equipment managers lose their jobs," Hewitt said. "They want to retire or they really screw up. I didn't want to retire and I didn't screw up. Even the head coach told me when he fired me, ‘Well, you didn't screw up. We're just going to go in a different direction.' "
During that same conversation on Jan. 7, Spagnuolo told Hewitt he would serve as a job reference for him. "He was telling me that five minutes after he fired me, that he'd give me a good recommendation," Hewitt said.
Spagnuolo declined comment the day Hewitt was fired, issuing only a brief statement, and hasn't commented since.
Hewitt said his dismissal surprised him because in his mind things had gone better in 2010, Spagnulo's second season.
"After the '09 season, he called me in and said, ‘I'm going to keep you for now but I'm on the fence about letting you go,' " Hewitt said. "I was like, ‘Why?' He kind of gave me some reasons that didn't make sense, made no sense at all."
Since his first season as equipment manager (1986), Hewitt had worked with seven head coaches and two interim head coaches. There was always an adjustment process.
"They're all different," Hewitt said. "Even Scott Linehan, it's not like we didn't get along, he just was different than Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz. And I think Linehan felt kind of intimidated because Mike Martz and I were very close.
"But one day I was just talking to Scott and I kind of said, ‘Hey, I know you probably think that I was really close with Mike, which I was. But you're the head coach. I answer to you. Whatever you want me to do I'll do because you're the head coach of the Rams now. Mike Martz isn't. My whole life revolves around the Rams, so whatever you want me to do, I'll do.'
"After that, Scott and I were great. I think he just had a feeling out period, kind of."
All NFL head coaches have control-freak tendencies, and Hewitt said Spagnuolo was at the high end of that spectrum.
"He is a hard person to deal with," Hewitt said. "He's just very hands-on. Controlling. It's an everything has to go through him kind of deal."
According to Hewitt, that included jersey numbers for players. For an example, Hewitt cited running back Chauncey Washington, who was signed to the active roster three weeks into the regular season but spent most of the year on the practice squad.
Washington wanted jersey No. 33, but Hewitt had to go through Spagnuolo for approval. The procedure was as follows: "The player wants jersey No. 33. We have 31, 33, and 38 open, please advise me."
Then there was the "events' of Game 7 last season, a warm late October contest at Tampa Bay. With about five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, running back Steven Jackson called for Hewitt on the sidelines.
Jackson uses a "sticky" towel known as Gorilla Grip and wanted Hewitt to rub the towel on his hands. Hewitt said Jackson asked him to sit down on the bench while using the towel. The day after a wrenching 18-17 loss to the Buccaneers, Spagnuolo summoned Hewitt to his office. According to Hewitt, Spagnuolo wanted to know why Hewitt was sitting on the bench near the end of the game.
"He said, ‘You were sitting on the bench like you were getting a suntan on vacation,' " Hewitt recalled.
Hewitt explained what he was doing but said Spagnuolo replied that he didn't want to hear excuses, and didn't want to see the equipment staff sitting on the bench during games.
Even so, Hewitt thought things went much better between he and Spagnuolo in 2010.
"So I kind of figured I made it over the hump," Hewitt said.
The day he was fired, Hewitt said offensive guard Jacob Bell and linebackers James Laurinaitis and David Vobora asked him to come to Mexico with them on a trip _ they'd pick up the tab. Hewitt was grateful but declined the offer. He has heard from all kinds of players _ past and present _ from Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk, to Roman Gabriel and Jack Youngblood, to Jackson and Chris Long, since he was fired.
Hewitt appreciates the support and good wishes, but it's not going to get his job back.
"To me this wasn't a job," he said. "I never went there and said, ‘OK, 9 to 5, then I'm coming home.' I loved the work. It was part of my life. I considered it like a family almost."