ST. LOUIS James Laurinaitis walked from a shower area to his locker Friday at Rams Park and passed fellow linebacker Brady Poppinga. Over the last five months, Poppinga has come to respect Laurinaitis' mental and physical approach to his craft honed over three seasons. But one recent episode captured Laurinaitis' grit, and Poppinga gestured his teammate closer to hear his praise.
At about 3 a.m. last Saturday, less than nine hours before the St. Louis Rams were scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Steelers, Laurinaitis suffered from flu symptoms. He vomited and experienced diarrhea. He received little sleep. When he arrived at Heinz Field later that morning, he slouched near his stall without his usual pregame energy.
Poppinga approached Laurinaitis before kickoff and thought the Rams' defensive leader was in for a long afternoon. He told the Ohio State product he would be tested. Then Laurinaitis went out and earned a game-high 13 tackles.
"I mean it, bro," Poppinga said to Laur...