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Jeff Fisher sends message with Ray-Ray Armstrong's release

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- After linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong picked up a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct Sunday against Philadelphia, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said the next time such a mistake happened that player would be sent off the field.

Less than 24 hours later, Fisher actually took it a step further as the Rams released Armstrong on Monday morning.

"It just wasn't working out," Fisher said. "So we moved on."

In elaborating further on the release of one of the team's special teams lynchpins, Fisher said Armstrong's release wasn't purely based on the silly flag he garnered for shoving an Eagles player to the ground after a Johnny Hekker punt in the first quarter. That penalty gave Philadelphia an extra 15 yards and set up a field goal that gave it a 13-0 lead.

"I was not happy with the production on the field," Fisher said. "This is a production business and when you don't get the production, you have to get better so that's what we're going to do.

"It was pretty much the whole body of work. He was just having a hard time doing things the way we wanted them done."

Left unsaid there, though, is that Armstrong is hardly a first time offender. Sunday's penalty was the ninth of his young career, a big number for a player who plays almost exclusively on special teams and has only played in 20 career games. Those penalties have cost the Rams 84 yards in field position.

Of course, Armstrong's "body of work" is limited pretty much to special teams, playing 19 defensive snaps in his time in the league. And though he's been productive in many regards on special teams, it's easy to connect the dots to the penalties.

Penalties have been a persistent problem for the Rams under Fisher, none more maddening than the continued mistakes made before and after the whistle. But rarely has Fisher held players accountable for those mistakes through serious action. Armstrong's release would indicate a needed shift change.

"It had been addressed with him numerous times and that penalty ultimately becomes my fault because when a guy is making mistakes over and over and he's allowed to play, it becomes my fault," Fisher said. "So we're going to get someone else in there that understands things a little differently. ... This is not a scapegoat, I'm not about that. But we need to make a change and go a different direction."

With Armstrong gone, the Rams now have just four linebackers on the roster. Fisher said the team will work out some other options over the next couple of days and that practice squadder Denicos Allen would be considered for a promotion.

In early September, the Rams worked out four linebackers: Pat Angerer, Kelvin Sheppard, Larry Dean, and Marshall McFadden. Sheppard and Dean have since signed with Miami and Buffalo, respectively.

Regardless of who replaces Armstrong, the message should be clear. Releasing a backup linebacker who plays on special teams isn't going to suddenly turn the Rams into a winner but it should at least raise the accountability quotient around Rams Park. These days, that counts as progress.