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Rams return from Wisconsin closer together, but missing Jackson

 After 20 days and 22 practices with a preseason game mixed in, the St. Louis Rams are heading home from Wisconsin.

MEQUON, Wis. -- After 20 days and 22 practices with a preseason game mixed in, the St. Louis Rams are heading home from Wisconsin.

Holding training camp away from St. Louis for the first time in three years, the Rams came to Concordia University with a goal of coming together and working to improve on last season's 3-13 disaster.

As far as wide receiver Torry Holt is concerned, mission accomplished.

"Guys have really put in some work," Holt said. "I think it's been a great experience. I think our football team has jelled and I also think we gained a little bit of toughness by coming up here. Now, it's a matter of us putting all of the hard work and focus and the grind together and going out and winning some games."

The Rams wanted to escape the potential distractions of home as well as the oppressive heat of a St. Louis summer. Still, it was tough to do at times without running back Steven Jackson, who has failed to report to camp in a contract dispute that has cost him $302,320 in fines so far.

After losing their preseason opener, 34-13, at Tennessee, the Rams play host to San Diego on Saturday at the Edward Jones Dome. They'll continue training at Rams Park through the rest of the preseason.

"We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful setting than this," linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. "I have really grown to like it up here."

Compared to the 2007 training camp, the team is relatively healthy. The only significant injury was to fourth-round draft pick Justin King. The cornerback tore a ligament in his left big toe and is out for the season.

The Rams will fly back to St. Louis Thursday morning and hold a walkthrough on Friday in preparation for the San Diego game.

Coach Scott Linehan said the dismal showing in the preseason opener has motivated his team this week, and he believes players are focusing on having a strong bounce-back performance against the Chargers.

"It's very important," Linehan said. "I don't discount the importance of any game, preseason or not. You're always extremely disappointed if you don't win, and that's how we'll feel if we don't win this game too."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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