Thursday, September 6, 2007

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

When the Rams drafted Marques Hagans last year and signed Drew Bennett this year, they did it with the full intention of making that duo part of the present and future at the wide receiver position.

What they didn’t expect was to have to rely on that pair as emergency quarterbacks. But, if it comes down to either of those players working as a signal caller, they won’t be going into it blindfolded.

Hagans and Bennett are former college quarterbacks with Hagans doing his work at Virginia and Bennett at UCLA. When the decision was made to carry just two active quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte, the task of emergency quarterbacking fell to Bennett and Hagans.

This week, the Rams have been using parts of practice to work that duo in. Although Bennett didn’t do much in practice until Wednesday afternoon, Hagans got some snaps each day.

“You have got to work that,” coach Scott Linehan said. “You don’t go crazy with it, but you take snaps. Marques got some snaps with the scout team and we will do a series tomorrow with the third quarterback.”

Working with emergency quarterbacks is nothing new to Linehan, who said he had a similar situation when he was in Minnesota as the offensive coordinator. When then quarterback Daunte Culpepper suffered and injury, the Vikings and Linehan worked receiver Randy Moss as the emergency quarterback, a time Linehan said was “the best part of practice” for Moss.

Hagans and Bennett’s previous experience, though, would seem to indicate that they could at least handle themselves should the worst case scenario develop and Bulger and Frerotte were lost in the same game.

Of the two, Bennett has the most experience as a quarterback. He played the position for the Bruins for parts of his first three seasons, where he was 56-of-102 for 771 yards and seven touchdowns. Of course, that means his last work at quarterback came in 1999.

However, Bennett has been the emergency quarterback in recent years while with the Tennessee Titans. Bennett said he never got much of an opportunity to do anything other than in practice, but he could still deliver the goods if called upon.

“Of course I can go down field,” Bennett said, laughing. “Are you kidding me? I can do it.”

Should the situation ever arise, though, chances are slim that Bennett would be throwing the deep ball or anything complicated for that matter. Chances are the play calling with Bennett as quarterback would likely consist of Steven Jackson left or Steven Jackson right.

“They are very exact about what I would be doing,” Bennett said. “It would be a very limited playbook, it would be limited plays so the ones they would put me through when I got in the game would be ones I knew comfortably already just from being a receiver. It would just be me and the receiver and me and the running back handing off.”

With Bennett battling a thigh injury, the Rams have turned to Hagans in parts of practice. Hagans threw for 4,877 yards and 27 touchdowns for the Cavaliers, but hasn’t worked at the position since he left two years ago.

Hagans, who converted to receiver after leaving Virginia, made the team at the position this offseason and says he would do anything to continue to make himself useful to the team.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Hagans said. “Any chance I have to help out the team and live out my dream of playing quarterback possibly. I am just looking forward to any opportunity.”

While it has been fun for Hagans and Bennett to discuss the possibility of playing quarterback, the reality is nobody in the locker room wants to see anyone but the Pro Bowler Bulger at the position.

"What you give up, you hope to gain with an extra man on the fifty-three," Linehan said. "On the flip side, if you lose two quarterbacks, then you have issues. I think if that happens, then you have issues anyway."

SETTLING STEUSSIE: With the probability that Todd Steussie’s broken foot will keep him out for about half the NFL season and the certainty that putting him on injured reserve would effectively end his season, the Rams took steps to find a happy medium late Wednesday night.

The Rams and Steussie came to an injury settlement that will allow the club to release Steussie from the injured reserve and the team altogether. But the bright side of the deal is that Steussie can, when he recovers from injury, re-join the Rams at a pro rated price.

That makes Steussie a prime candidate to come back to the team around week nine or 10 as the backup tackle.

With Steussie out, the Rams will use Adam Goldberg and Milford Brown as the backups at the tackle spots.

AIR TIME: The season opener against Carolina is now guaranteed to be on television Sunday. The Rams’ ownership group and Edward Jones have teamed up to buy out the rest of the tickets remaining for the game to lift a potential blackout and ensure the game will be televised on KTVI Fox Channel 2 in St. Louis.

Edward Jones bought 2,000 tickets which will be donated to various non-profit groups and military around the city.

INJURY UPDATES: Bennett was better in Thursday’s practice and participated in a workout for the first time this week. He is listed as limited participation for Thursday’s workout and looks on the right path to playing against the Panthers.

Guard Richie Incognito was also listed as limited Thursday and his status remains in doubt against the Panthers.

“They looked better,” Linehan said. “We have to talk to them and see how the respond between now and tomorrow and how the feel. I haven’t really talked to either one, but we really didn’t do a whole lot.”

Signs are pointing to Bennett’s playing, but Incognito will likely need to be more involved in Friday’s practice to be able to play. If he doesn’t go, Linehan said he will decided Friday between Claude Terrell and Milford Brown for the starting spot in Incognito’s stead. Terrell would be the likely choice.

Elsewhere, defensive end Victor Adeyanju was also listed as limited in practice with a knee injury.

For the Panthers, safety Nate Salley (knee) did nothing in practice and cornerback Chris Gamble was limited by an ankle injury.