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Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013 8:45 am | Updated: 11:31 am, Wed Jan 2, 2013.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jeff Fisher’s comeback was a rousing success. Coming off the worst five-year stretch in NFL history, the St. Louis Rams shattered their sad-sack image.

Players from the NFL’s youngest roster cleaned out lockers Monday energized about a future of playoff contention after barely missing out on the franchise’s first winning record since 2003 — and feeling that this seven-win season will not be a mirage.

“I was on a team that was 7-9, came back and didn’t do well,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “That’s not this group. The postseason, that’s on everyone’s mind, and it’s not just a far-fetched hope, it’s an expectation.”

Quarterback Sam Bradford was the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year after the Rams went 7-9 in 2010, then hobbled through a humbling two-win season that ushered in a rebuilding effort under Fisher and general manager Les Snead.

In retrospect, Bradford believes the wins came too easily his rookie year, and that the Rams (7-8-1) got what they deserved this season while moving past the bad old days from 2007-11 when they totaled a measly 15 wins.

St. Louis was strong in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions, going 4-1-1 in the NFC West. Two of the victories came over division champions and a third came against a wild-card playoff team. In the finale they went to the wire at Seattle, which had blown out its previous three opponents and was unbeaten at home.

“I don’t know if earned is the right word, but it felt like this team just had a little toughness,” Bradford said. “We were able to go out and get some wins that some people thought we wouldn’t be able to do.”

The 54-year-old Fisher led the way, refreshed after taking a year off following a 17-year run in Tennessee.

“I had a blast, and I can’t wait to get started again,” Fisher said. “I really enjoy it. It was a great group.”

There’ll be no burnout this January. Unlike last season, when about two-thirds of the roster was replaced, Fisher and Snead aren’t facing a massive roster overhaul, either.

Fisher wasn’t certain how active the Rams would be in free agency. Last season, they picked up several starters, including cornerback Cortland Finnegan, defensive tackle Kendall Langford and center Scott Wells, all difference makers.

“It’s awful early right now, you know,” Fisher said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes. We’ve got some of our own we want back.”

Running back Steven Jackson, who became just the sixth player in NFL history with eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and also reached 10,000 yards rushing, is at the top of the list. Jackson can opt out of a contract that has one year to go at $7 million and Fisher reiterated that he wanted the 240-pound Jackson back.

Jackson wants to return, too, and believed the parties would meet soon. But he also said the Rams need to do “due diligence in deciding where they want to go with the roster.”

“We’re definitely going to sit down,” said Jackson, wearing a red sweat shirt given to him by rookie running back Terrance Ganaway to commemorate the 10,000-yard milestone. “I would hate to watch this organization go on and be successful, which I believe they will, without me.

“I want to be part of that, yes.”

The Rams head into the offseason with no glaring physical issues. Last year, Bradford’s troublesome high left ankle sprain was a question mark, but the quarterback said he’s had no problems for months.

Bradford had been sacked in 30 consecutive games, the longest streak in the NFL, before the line kept him clean the last two games, and said the ankle felt “good, really good.”

“During the spring I could still feel it, but as time went along it just kind of went away,” Bradford said. “It’s something that was a really positive thing, the fact that it didn’t bother me the whole year.”

The Rams stayed the course with Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, and reaped a bounty of premium draft picks when they dealt the No. 2 overall pick and the rights to Robert Griffin III to Washington in March. The Redskins made the playoffs while the Rams ended up with three rookie starters, including playmaking cornerback Janoris Jenkins, plus have Washington’s first-round picks in 2013 and 2014.

Bradford believes the Rams are clear winners in the deal.

“I think we did, for sure, just with all the picks that we have and what we’re going to be able to build, what we’ve already started to build here,” Bradford said. “I think this team is on the fast track and I really look forward to the future, and to next year.”

Plus, next season should be his first time as a pro in which he doesn’t have to switch offensive systems.

Sticking with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer should help the Rams score more down the road. This season, they were among six teams scoring 300 or fewer points.

The defense was a plus, tying for the NFL lead with 52 sacks behind big seasons from ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn, without a coordinator. Fisher said the future of Gregg Williams, suspended for his role in the NFL bounty scandal, would be “something I’ll address over the next couple weeks.”

Long and Quinn are the Rams’ first duo with double-digit sack totals since 2000.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

/sports

Area Scoreboard

Football

Friday, Sept. 26

Washington at Union    7 p.m.

*Borgia at Duchesne    7 p.m.

*St. Clair at St. James    7 p.m.

*Owensville at Pacific    7 p.m.

*Sullivan at Hermann    7 p.m.

Cuba at Liberty Wentzville    7 p.m.

Warrenton at Parkway West    7 p.m.

Wright City at Mark Twain    7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 19

*Ft. Zumwalt S 56, Washington 7

Borgia 42, Cardinal Ritter 6

*Union 55, St. Clair 35

*Sullivan 27, Pacific 10

Owensville 19, Hermann 16

St. James 28, Ash Grove 7

Brentwood 41, Cuba 24

*St. Charles West 49, Warrenton 7

South Callaway 55, Wright City 6

Friday, Sept. 12

*Ft. Zumwalt North 49, Washington 0

*Borgia 35, St. Dominic 0

*Union 27, Pacific 19

*Sullivan 47, St. Clair 21

Hermann 65, Wentzville Liberty 7

*Owensville 29, St. James 28 (OT)

Cuba 22, Windsor 6

*Warrenton 14, St. Charles 6

*Bowling Green 55, Wright City 0

Softball

Saturday, Sept. 20

Union at Ft. Zumwalt N Tny    TBA

St. James Tny    TBA

Monday, Sept. 22

*Washington 7, Ft. Zumwalt S 2

North County 2, Union 1

Warrenton at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

Principia at Sullivan    4:30 p.m.

Hermann at Cuba    4:30 p.m.

Owensville at Cuba    4:30 p.m.

St. James at Bourbon    4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 23

*Borgia at Duchesne    4:30 p.m.

*Holt at Washington    4:30 p.m.

*Pacific at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

*Owensville at New Haven    4:30 p.m.

*Hermann at St. James    4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 24

*Washington at Ft. Zumwalt E    4:30 p.m.

New Haven at Valley Park    4:30 p.m.

Waynesville at St. James    4:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 25

*Borgia at Rosati-Kain    4:30 p.m.

*Ft. Zumwalt E at Washington    4:30 p.m.

*Sullivan at Union    4:30 p.m.

Pacific at Windsor    4:30 p.m.

St. James at Linn    5 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 26

*Ft. Zumwalt N at Washington    4:30 p.m.

Owensville at Rolla Tny    TBA

Saturday, Sept. 27

Borgia, Hermann at Montgomery Co Tny    TBA

Owensville at Rolla Tny    TBA

Monday, Sept. 29

Borgia at Trinity    4:30 p.m.

Washington at Pacific    4:30 p.m.

St. Clair at Salem    4:30 p.m.

Sullivan at De Soto    4:30 p.m.

Hermann at Wright City    4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 30

Borgia at Union    4:30 p.m.

Washington at Rockwood Summit    4:30 p.m.

New Haven at Bourbon    4:30 p.m.

Volleyball

Monday, Sept. 22

St. Clair at Salem    5 p.m.

Bourbon at Sullivan    5:30 p.m.

Dixon at St. James    5:30 p.m.

Hermann Tournament

Washington def. Montgomery Co., 25-22, 25-14

Borgia def. Pacific, 25-13, 25-14

Washington def. Montgomery Co., 25-8, 25-14

Borgia def. Pacific, 25-13, 25-16

Pacific split with Montgomery Co., 25-9, 24-26

Borgia def. Washington, 25-16, 25-23

Tuesday, Sept. 23

Cuba at St. James    5:30 p.m.

Crosspoint at Bethel    5:30 p.m.

Crosspoint vs. Thomas Jefferson    6:30 p.m.

Hermann Tournament

Hermann def. Owensville 25-19, 25-10

New Haven def. Union, 25-15, 25-17

Union split with Hermann, 25-22, 12-25

New Haven def. Owensville, 25-9, 25-9

Union def. Owensville, 25-23, 25-22

New Haven def. Hermann, 25-21, 25-15

Wednesday, Sept. 24

Sullivan at Northwest    4:15 p.m.

*ECC at Jefferson    6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 25

Crystal City at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

Hermann Tournament

Consolation — Pacific vs. Union, 4 p.m.

Semifinal 1 — Borgia vs. Hermann, 5 p.m.

Semifinal 2 — Washington vs. New Haven 6 p.m.

Third-place match, 7 p.m.

Championship match, 8 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 26

Crosspoint at Mississippi Valley    4:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 27

%Northeastern Oklahoma at ECC    10 a.m. (Seed Tournament)

%Longview at ECC    11:30 a.m.

%Cottey at ECC    2:30 p.m.

Owensville at Chamois Tny    TBA

Monday, Sept. 29

Union at Hillsboro    5 p.m.

Borgia at Lafayette    5:30 p.m.

Washington at Hermann    5:30 p.m.

St. Clair at Bourbon    5:30 p.m.

Cuba at Sullivan    5:30 p.m.

Owensville at Rolla    5:30 p.m.

ECC at Rend Lake    7 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 30

*Borgia at Notre Dame    4 p.m.

*Hermann at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

Eureka at Washington    5 p.m.

*Union at St. James    5:30 p.m.

*Owensville at Pacific    5:30 p.m.

*Sullivan at New Haven    5:30 p.m.

Crosspoint at Panthers Home School    5:30 p.m.

Boys Soccer

Monday, Sept. 22

Hillsboro 3, Union 1

Washington 0, Bayless 0

Tuesday, Sept. 23

*Fulton SA at Thomas Jefferson    4:30 p.m.

North County at Union    5 p.m.

*St. James at Pacific    5 p.m.

*Borgia at St. Dominic    6:15 p.m.

CYC Tny    TBA

Wednesday, Sept. 24

Warrenton at Sullivan    5 p.m.

CYC Tny    TBA

Thursday, Sept. 25

*St. Charles at ECC    4 p.m.

Valley Park at Fulton SA    4:15 p.m.

#Thomas Jefferson at Crosspoint    4:30 p.m. (Pacific)

*Pacific at Union    5 p.m.

Sullivan at Borgia    6:15 p.m.

CYC Tny    TBA

Friday, Sept. 26

*Eagle Ridge at Fulton SA    4:30 p.m.

St. James at Belle    5 p.m.

Crosspoint at Mississippi Valley    4:30 p.m.

CYC Tny    TBA

Saturday, Sept. 27

CYC Tny    TBA

Monday, Sept. 29

Northwest at Pacific    4:15 p.m.

*ECC at St. Louis (Florissant)    4:30 p.m.

*Borgia at Duchesne    6:15 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 30

Fulton SA at John Burroughs JV    4:15 p.m.

*St. Clair at Union    5 p.m.

*Sullivan at Pacific    5 p.m.

Calvery Lutheran at St. James    5 p.m.

*Borgia at St. Mary’s    6:15 p.m.

Cross Country

Thursday, Sept. 25

Washington at Rolla Inv    4 p.m.

Union, Owensville, St. James at Belle Inv    4 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 27

Hancock Inv    8:30 a.m.

Pacific at Viburnum Inv    10:30 a.m.

Monday, Sept. 29

St. Clair at Elsberry Inv    4 p.m.

St. James at Dixon    4 p.m.

Girls Golf

Wednesday, Sept. 24

Washington at GAC Central Meet    TBA

Thursday, Sept. 25

*Duchesne at Borgia    3:30 p.m.

Boys Swimming

Monday, Sept. 29

Washington at Ft. Zumwalt South    3:30 p.m.

*Conference Games

Racing News