Before being released this off-season, linebacker James Laurinaitis spent his entire NFL career with the Rams organization and has never finished a season with a winning record. Since signing with the New Orleans Saints, Laurinaitis has already noticed a big difference between the two teams’ cultures.
“We were really close every year to getting over the hump, getting over that .500 [record] and kind of breaking our way in a very tough division as the NFC West got better and getting into the playoffs,” Laurinaitis said of his time in St. Louis. “Going from a place where we were on the cusp saying, gosh we have the talent we have the talent, let’s get over the hump, you’re going to a place now when they’ve been 7-9 the last few years and there’s almost like such a disgust around here about that fact.”
In signing with New Orleans, the organization gets a player in Laurinaitis who has never missed a game in his seven seasons in the NFL, and someone who can tell you the exact number of snaps he’s missed since being drafted in 2009.
“I remember every single one I missed, man. There was one in Denver, think it was my third year maybe, and it was because I got poked in the eye. I remember coming on a blitz and the tackle just poked me in the eye, which is why I wear a visor now, because I figured there’s no way I’m missing a snap again for getting poked in the eye, so I will prevent that,” Laurinaitis said. “And the other one was actually we were playing the Colts. It was fourth down and Andrew Luck was trying to run a scramble up the middle to get in the end zone, and I met him helmet-to-helmet, and I got big ears naturally so my ear presses up against the ear hole and I went helmet to helmet and his face mask dragged across that earhole, and I had to get 14 stiches. When I came back out we were already up 31-17 or something like that our coach was like, we had this thing in control, why don’t you kind of sit the rest of the fourth quarter. Those are the only snaps I missed, and it bothers me that I missed any to be honest with you.”
Laurinaitis said he wanted to go his entire career without missing a snap and drew inspiration from a former Rams linebacker known for his durability.
“I always looked up to London Fletcher and just how durable he was. The fact that his teammates could depend on him every single Sunday to be ready to take care of his body to be on the field no matter what, that’s kind of the mentality,” Laurinaitis said. “I’ve never missed a game since fourth grade of playing football, all through little league up to high school, college. I mean, I used to get extremely mad at D-coordinator Luke Fickell at Ohio State, because we would be playing a team like Youngstown State and it would be like the second half and they’d be like alright, we’re going to put the second unit out there. I would just be like why? What’s the point of it? I want to keep going. I just love playing football, man. Like I said, I’ve been very fortunate even to get hurt, but I definitely had those expectations and I never expect to come off the field.”