Possible franchise move has Rams players on alert

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ST. LOUIS (AP) Jeff Fisher maintains it's just another game. And no, he's not following the relocation saga.

''I'd have a hard time doing that on a normal week, let alone a short week,'' the St. Louis Rams coach said.

Others on the team aren't shying away from the emotions attached to the home finale Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They realize full well it could also be the final game for the franchise in St. Louis after 21 seasons.

Just like the Cardinals after 1987 before moving to Arizona - Neil Lomax, Roy Green, J.T. Smith and the rest - they could all be traded to another city.

Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis gets quizzed constantly by family members and friends who want the insider information whether he'll be playing in Los Angeles next season. He has empathy for a frustrated, dwindling fan base.

''It's kind of uncomfortable for everybody,'' Laurinaitis said. ''I'm not very good at things I can't control, I've struggled with that my whole life, and this is one of those things.''

This is Laurinaitis' seventh season in St. Louis. Defensive end Chris Long has the longest tenure on the team, finishing his eighth season without a winning record, let alone a sniff at the playoffs.

''I'm appreciative of this place and I'll play as hard as I can,'' Long said. ''You never know, you just never know. As we've done all year, you have to worry about doing our jobs and handling what we can control.''

That's easier for those with less standing.

Quarterback Case Keenum pointed out last week's 21-14 slump-busting victory over the Detroit Lions was his first start in St. Louis. He's been on the hurry-up preparing for this game, although he's not above judging the head-to-toe yellow uniforms the Rams will be wearing.

''I'm excited it's on national television and we've got some colorful jerseys, so it should be a fun time,'' Keenum said.

Things to watch for in Bucs-Rams:

READY FOR PRIME TIME: With six wins, the Buccaneers have tripled their victory total for last season, when they finished 2-14 and wound up with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. They're making their only prime-time appearance of the season and are eager to prove they're not the same team that's missed the playoffs the past seven seasons. ''I just want to show the world how good this team really is,'' said rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, that top draft choice. ''This is our chance, and we have to take advantage of it.''

GO GURLEY: Todd Gurley snapped a personal four-game slump last week with a huge second half, rushing for 127 yards on nine carries with two touchdowns. He's 25 yards shy of becoming the first Rams rookie to rush for 1,000 yards since Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis in 1993. New offensive coordinator Rob Boras said it wasn't the plays, but rather the ensemble coming together.

WHERE'S DOUGIE?: Tampa Bay's Doug Martin is second in the league in rushing with 1,214 yards, 37 behind Adrian Peterson. Nevertheless, the Bucs struggled to keep him involved in the offense during losses to Indianapolis and New Orleans in two of the past three weeks. Martin carried 14 times for 97 yards while the team was taking a six-point halftime lead against the Colts, then got only three touches while the Bucs were being outscored 19-0 in the second half. He averaged more than 7 yards a carry against the Saints, but didn't get the ball much late when Tampa Bay fell behind by 14 points and was forced into catch-up mode.

''As a running back, you have to want a lot of carries,'' Martin said. ''But due to the situation of the game, you kind of stay away from the run (and throw more). That's what the coaches thought we needed to do to get ahead.''

BORAS FACTOR: The offensive coordinator said there's only one time he might have been more nervous than calling the plays against the Lions. That would be for the birth of his first child. He was so keyed-up he vomited several times, and was thankful to be spared suspense at the finish when Detroit ran out of downs just shy of midfield trailing by a touchdown.

''I excused myself one time in the press box,'' Boras said. ''I mean, yeah, it was nerve-wracking.''


AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall contributed to this report.


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