Lighter touch goes over well at Rams camp

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams rejoiced Wednesday when coach Steve Spagnuolo gave them the night off -- a sign the hard-charging coach has sought a balance after players wore down last summer.

Spagnuolo livened up practice by sending his coordinators onto the field to catch simulated punts from a ball machine. Pat Shurmur (offense), Ken Flajole (defense) and Tom McMahon (special teams) each fielded a punt successfully in a playoff after finishing tied in the preliminary round.

As a result, Spagnuolo canceled the night of meetings for all three coaches' position players.

Watching Shurmur, Flajole and McMahon battle winds while tracking footballs proved entertaining.

"I was really shocked," Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson said. "I thought we were all going to have meetings tonight."

Spagnuolo has run tough training camps in St. Louis while trying to set the tone for a mostly young team.

"If you are a veteran team, you can afford to give guys a night off more and trust them to study their playbook," Jackson said. "When you have such a young team, you gotta try to guide them in a way and it sucks for a veteran because you've been through it. But I think coach is finding that good middle ground to help everyone grow and get better."