EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Always one to look at the bright side of even the worst situation -- something he had plenty of practice doing playing for the Rams the past seven years -- linebacker James Laurinaitis was already looking ahead to his next destination just hours after the only NFL team he'd ever known released him Friday.
"I’m not done at all," Laurinaitis told ESPN. "I feel like I have a lot of good years left. I don’t know what to expect. This is my first time being a free agent. I’m going to look at what the interest is and let my agent go and talk to teams and see kind of who is out there. I obviously want to have a chance to get in the tournament and a chance to get the trophy. It will be fun to kind of have this process play out for the first time for me."
Laurinaitis was caught off guard when he was called into coach Jeff Fisher's office Friday. He was at the team facility working out at the time. He immediately knew something was up.
"Coach just thanked me for what I meant to the organization," Laurinaitis said. "He really thought that I was first class and the blueprint for what a pro should be and was just grateful for all I’d done. Basically, he wished me luck in the future and I was told they are going to go a different direction at the 'Mike' linebacker position."
"I’m more just, I was surprised by it, I was shocked at first," he said. "But I also know this is a business and when you start to move toward the front of the parking spaces and get a little older, all those people in front of you have left so you are not any different than anybody else who is getting up there. I’m going into Year 8 and I’m still 29 and I still feel like I’m playing at a productive level. I was a little shocked from that point of view but man, other than that, it’s a business.
"Once you get to Year 8, you really allow yourself to kind of sit back and be like, ‘You know what, I’m not going to be surprised by anything.’ I have seen a lot of things and seen a lot of people go. I have been grateful to have seven years with the same team. That’s rare in and of itself. I’m not bitter about that. Just a little surprised it happened this year but that’s football."
Laurinaitis has made plenty of money in his career, but he has never been on a team that finished .500, let alone with a winning record or in the playoffs. He's coming off a season in which he battled an elbow issue for most of the year but still played more defensive snaps than any player in the league. And he posted his seventh consecutive season of 100 or more tackles, on his way to becoming the franchise's all-time leader in that category.
"Goodness, for me, I want to get to 10 or 11 years," Laurinaitis said. "I think I’ve still got four years left in me, if not more. It all depends on the organization. I want to win, I want to compete, I want to get to the playoffs and experience that. I want to play in a good scheme, I loved playing for (defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams. Him and Blake (Williams) and that scheme is one of my favorites. I’m excited to see what other schemes are out there and what could be a good fit."
Though Laurinaitis didn't think he'd be looking for such a fit so soon, he even found a silver lining in the timing of it all, as the Rams have a voluntary players meeting set for early March in Los Angeles.
"I am happy about that," Laurinaitis said. "At least they told me so I don’t have to go out there with my wife and daughter and try to look at places and go through all that to be cut at a later date. I think it’s good now that teams are aware I’m a free agent and that I’ll be available. So the one thing I’m trying to look at as a positive is the timing."