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Rams already feeling the heat

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Rams training camp

JULY 31, 2010 -- St. Louis Rams' head coach Steve Spagnuolo gestures during training camp at the Russell Training Center at Rams' Park in Earth City, Mo. (Photo by Sid Hastings | Special for the Post-Dispatch)

Linebacker Chris Chamberlain trudged off the practice fields at Rams Park late Monday afternoon, a towel around his neck and a bottle of water in his hand.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo drilled his squad in full pads for 2½ hours, during which the thermometer reached 91 degrees, with a heat index of 100. "Ooh, man, it's tough," Chamberlain said. "It really wears on you."

And it's only going to get worse.

Today's predicted high temperature is 101, according to the National Weather Service office here. Highs in the mid-90s are forecast for the rest of the week as the Rams continue training camp in Earth City.

"I don't think you want to (practice in the heat) all the time," Spagnuolo said. "Then you get a weak team and a team coming out of training camp that's just beat up and burnt. We don't want to do that.

"But it's early right now, so the heat's good … to get the team acclimated to this particular environment. We're going to play some games in some warm weather, especially early in the season."

Well, five of the Rams' first six games will be played inside domes; Oakland, on Sept. 19, is the lone outdoor venue. But you get the point.

"I feel like if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger," Chamberlain said. "In the long run, it'll benefit us because we'll be in great shape."

Linebacker James Laurinaitis prefers to regard the heat as merely a state of mind. That's why he wore a long-sleeve T-shirt under his jersey Monday. "I don't think my linebackers coach (Paul Ferraro) likes it very much," Laurinaitis said, laughing. "He told me to take it off tomorrow. We'll see how that goes."

Spagnuolo built a 15-minute cool-down break into the practice script. Misting fans and cold drinks awaited the players in a tent just off the field. Spagnuolo said he also 'shut down a couple of periods for two or three minutes to get them watered down."

The best way to beat the heat is to prepare in advance for it, noted wide receiver Laurent Robinson. "I carry around a little water jug with Gatorade and water and some electrolytes in it all day," he said. "Then we just go out there and practice ... and just toughen up and get through it.

"Not until I get done (with practice) do I think about the heat."

vermeil visits

As one who knows a little something about taking downtrodden teams to the top, Dick Vermeil — a visitor to camp Monday — had a meaningful message when he spoke to the team in the evening.

"I've been there and done it. No one's ever given me a team to coach that was winning when I took it over," said Vermeil, who led the Philadelphia Eagles and the Rams to Super Bowls. "So I have some experiences to relate to what they go through and what they have to do and what they have to become to be successful."

Vermeil, 73, also had some advice for Spagnuolo.

"It's so easy when you're as intense as he is — and I was — to blame yourself and beat yourself up," Vermeil said. "Just make sure that he takes good care of himself so he can walk in and present the image of confidence, and not exhausted and fatigued and emotionally drained every minute of the day."

Vermeil, who has gone from coach to winemaker, is in town to announce the release of Vermeil Wines' newest product, a red wine called "XXXIV." Vermeil's Rams beat Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV.

RAM-BLINGS

Defensive tackle Chris Hovan left practice early with lower-back pain. Defensive back Marquis Johnson tweaked a hamstring. … Defensive end C.J. Ah You (hamstring), guard Mark Lewis (ankle), defensive tackle Darell Scott (hamstring) and safety Darian Stewart (shoulder) sat out. … Two practices are scheduled for today, starting at 8:15 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. … The team's only camp scrimmage is set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Lindenwood University. Like all training camp practices, the scrimmage is free and open to the public.

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