THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Ask Los Angeles Rams defensive end Robert Quinn for his first memory of ''Monday Night Football'' and nothing comes to mind.
''Oh shoot. Yeah, you got me stumped on that one,'' Quinn said.
Coach Jeff Fisher remembers its infancy when the antics of Howard Cosell and Don Meredith captivated the nation, and it offered the only chance to see everything that happened in the NFL that week.
''Things have changed,'' Fisher said. ''Back in the day when Howard and Don and the rest of them were doing it, that was the only way you got to see highlights from the weekend. Now you get to see highlights moments after they happen.''
Playing a game on Monday night is no longer a novelty, the television broadcast accompanying it no longer a cultural phenomenon, but the Rams' season opener at the San Francisco 49ers will mean plenty to linebacker Cory Littleton.
''`Monday Night Football,' everybody in America watching it,'' Littleton said. ''It's exciting.''
Littleton seemed set for a limited role this season as an undrafted free agent from Washington before the Rams cut veteran Akeem Ayers last week. When Ayers signed with the Indianapolis Colts, it all but locked the Rams into using five defensive backs as their primary personnel package with Littleton backing up starting hybrid linebacker-safety Mark Barron.
''All you can do is just keep pushing forward,'' Littleton said. ''Yeah, there might be changes around you, but ultimately you can't control that.''
''It doesn't really change anything for us,'' added middle linebacker Alec Ogletree. ''We feel like we played mostly nickel throughout the whole season last year, and most teams do play nickel more because it is a passing league.''
Littleton thrived as an outside linebacker as the Huskies led the Pac-12 in points and yards allowed last season. He had 65 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and six sacks as a senior, showing good range and versatility that has carried over through this summer.
Littleton wasn't sure he would get the opportunity because of a rule that limits the contact rookies can have with their teams until the end of the academic year. For schools on the quarter system, including Washington, rookies like Littleton had to wait until well into June to participate in conditioning workouts or organized team activities. That forced Littleton to quickly familiarize himself with a new team and scheme.
Littleton said the coaches were understanding, but that ''it was just a crappy situation.''
''There was nothing I could do about it,'' Littleton said. ''Try to learn and do everything as fast as possible, that's the only thing I could do.''
Littleton's quick maturation actually seemed to strengthen his case for making the final roster. After recording three tackles in the Rams' second preseason game, Littleton believed for the first time that he could make the team.
''Cory really didn't get to do much until he got to training camp, so I think that speaks volumes for him because he had a short period of time and he showed us what he can do,'' coach Jeff Fisher said.
On Monday night, Littleton will go from watching the game to playing in it.
''Every time we go to a new stadium it's just like I'm a little kid in a candy store with a big old smile on my face because these are the places I have been seeing on TV for years or these are the players I have been seeing on TV for years or this is my favorite player,'' Littleton said. ''It's just a great experience.''
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