ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The telephone has been ringing a lot this week for St. Louis Rams rookie linebacker James Laurinaitis.
That's because the Rams (0-4) are hosting the Minnesota Vikings (4-0) this Sunday. Laurinaitis, a native of Plymouth, Minn., grew up a Vikings fan and everybody back home wants to get his thoughts about the game.
"The fact that I'm from there is the only thing different this week," the 6-foot-2, 247-pound Laurinaitis said Friday after practice. "You get a few more phone calls from the family saying, 'Hey, do you know you play the Vikings?' I go, 'Oh really, we do? I must of forgot about that."
Other than that, it's business as usual for Laurinaitis, the three-time All-American from Ohio State who won the Nagurski Award as the nation's best defensive player as a sophomore and the Butkus Award, as the nation's top linebacker the next year.
"Yeah, I grew up a Vikings fan but that's actually from being from there," Laurinaitis said. "I think as you start getting to college and you realize the possibility of playing in the NFL, all those biases and all that stuff kind of goes out the window a little bit and you start opening your eyes up to all the teams in the league."
The Rams made him the 35th choice overall in the draft. He justified that selection by grabbing the starting job in training camp.
He has settled into his role for the Rams, who have lost 14 games in a row, the NFL's longest current streak, and 27 of their last 32.
"Everything week to week is still the same for us," Laurinaitis said. "We're trying to improve, trying to get better and that's all we can focus on."
Laurinaitis leads the Rams with 38 tackles (27 solo) this season. He made an immediate impact in his first career start against Seattle in the season opener when he recorded 14 tackles, then forced and recovered a fumble.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo said he is pleased with how Laurinaitis is developing.
"I watch him out there and we'll give him a little tidbit or a little check or a little call early in the week -- maybe do it once yesterday and it jumps up again today sometime late in practice -- and he is right on top of it," Spagnuolo said. "So far, so good."
Laurinaitis is doing well at making the defensive calls. He knows the details of the defense.
"I have been pleased with him, said Ken Flajole, the Rams' defensive coordinator. "He has really grown as a player and probably, as you guys are aware when you watch our practices, we put a lot of management responsibilities on him as far as making checks and calls and those types of things. He seems very comfortable every week; he seems like he gets more comfortable in that role.
"I have been very happy with the progress he has made since he has been with us. He is a good person and I think he is going to be a real solid football player for us."
The Rams also said quarterback Marc Bulger (shoulder) worked Friday with the scout team. He is listed as questionable, and Spagnuolo said there's a chance he will be the backup for Kyle Boller. Safety James Butler (knee) is out for Sunday.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)