ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Right away, Steve Spagnuolo set a hard-nosed tone. Rather than ease players into training camp, the St. Louis Rams coach had about 30 plays of tackling on the first day of two-a-days.
Since the franchise moved from the West Coast in 1995, there's seldom been any of that aside from the occasional scrimmage. The Rams' new coach comes from a different background as an assistant with the Giants and Eagles, both of which did not shy away from hitting, and said it was important to get an early gauge.
"It's a whole new staff and a lot of unknowns," Spagnuolo said. "Really, the only way to find out is to put them in those kind of situations."
There was no complaining from the players, even if they had another practice just a few hours away. Advance notice helped them prepare, too.
"One thing about Spags, he's going to tell you everything that he's got going on," cornerback Ron Bartell said. "He told us we were going to do some live drills and guys are not afraid of it.
"That's what we get paid to do, tackle."
With enthusiasm, too. The new regime headed by Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney has players eager to turn the page from the past two seasons in which they totaled five wins, and optimistic about their chances for a turnaround.
"It's a new feel around here. I don't know if you guys can tell," he said to reporters, "but for us as players, we definitely feel it. I think guys are welcoming the challenge.
"He said camp is going to be tough, and we're ready."
The Rams have more than a dozen two-a-days scheduled, and will be in pads for the morning workouts on most days. The afternoons figure to be lighter workouts.
"It's not going to be one of those things that just feels absolutely great, but it's needed," linebacker Chris Draft said. "We have to get in better condition."
No one was exempt. Running back Steven Jackson absorbed his share of blows.
"It's not 'live, but hey, exceptions," Draft said. "Everybody has to get hit, we have to get ready, too. We have our chance to get out here, run to the ball, everybody be able to tackle and it doesn't matter who has it."
Spagnuolo wasn't overly tough on his players, though, ending a scheduled two-hour workout about 15 minutes early. He built in extra time to repeat plays in case of mistakes but didn't need it, although he noted coaches aren't using much of the playbook yet.
"We don't have a lot of volume in yet, so I'm going to kind of hedge on that one," Spagnuolo said. "But it's impressive in the first day they were able to do that."
Unseasonably mild weather, with temperatures in the low 80s and dropping to 73 after early afternoon showers, undoubtedly aided production.
"Somebody's taking care of us right now," Draft said. "I really appreciate it, too. It's beautiful out there."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)