By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
12/01/2006


Tye Hill, the Rams' 5-foot-10, 185-pound rookie cornerback, doesn't want to hear about Arizona's extra-large wide receivers, Larry Fitzgerald (6-3, 226), Anquan Boldin (6-1, 223) and Bryant Johnson (6-3, 216).

"That's every week," Hill said, shrugging. "Everybody in the league's pretty big."

Besides, Hill pointed out that when the Rams drafted him in the first round he had some of his best games at Clemson vs. receivers who dwarfed him.

"He doesn't back down from the challenge," coach Scott Linehan said. "He knows he'll get tested, based on being a rookie and not being 6-2 or whatever. But he has a lot of other things he brings to the table. One of the things he's done that I've noticed is, for a small package, he brings a lot of physical play."



Hill will make his sixth start when the Rams (5-6) take on Arizona (2-9) at noon Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome. Hill still was being used mainly as a nickel back when the Rams nipped the Cardinals 16-14 on Sept. 24.

"He feels much more confident now in his ability to play with the big boys," Linehan said. "He's growing up before our eyes."

Added defensive coordinator Jim Haslett: "The things that he struggled with early in the season have come on, and he's getting better and better every game. He's going to be an outstanding player in the league."

Hill did a creditable job two weeks ago against Carolina's dangerous Steve Smith in his first start since replacing Travis Fisher (arm) on the left side. Last week vs. San Francisco, he snagged his third interception, which ties him for the team lead and is also No. 1 in the league among rookies.

One of the knocks on Hill heading into the draft was that he'd totaled just five interceptions in college. One scouting report said he had "questionable hands."

Hill isn't worried about proving anyone wrong at this point in the season. "I think I did that in the first game, when I got a pick" vs. Denver, he said.




As for his season as a whole, Hill said: "I guess you could say it was what I expected, a lot of ups and downs. That's the rookie year, and it's important for me to build off this year and go forward."

Playing regularly now is speeding his development, he noted. "It's helping tremendously," he said. "The only way you can grow is if you get the actual playing time."

A strained thigh muscle has been bothering Hill for a couple of weeks, and he wasn't able to finish last Sunday's game. He said he'd made "a lot of progress" this week. He wasn't planning to sit out anyway.

"This is the final run, the backstretch of the season. What we do now determines our fate when it comes to the postseason," he said. "So, if I've got to play hurt, I'm going to play hurt. They didn't draft me to be in the training room. I'm going to be out there."

Injury report

Guard Adam Timmerman still is nursing sore ribs suffered at Carolina and didn't practice Thursday.

"He went a little bit (Wednesday), and it got very painful," Linehan said. "So we just decided that until it gets better, we'll probably have to give him one practice a week off."

Timmerman has played in 202 consecutive games (regular season and playoffs), and though he remained "questionable" on the injury report Thursday, the streak should continue. "I don't foresee it being a problem for him to be ready to go Sunday," Linehan said.

Fullback Paul Smith (hamstring) also was "questionable." Hill, quarterback Marc Bulger (ribs), center Richie Incognito (foot) and defensive lineman Claude Wroten (hamstring) were "probable." All practiced Thursday.

Defensive end Victor Adeyanju (arm) and linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski (concussion) are "out."

Ram-blings

The final tickets for Sunday's game were purchased Thursday, meaning it will be televised locally (KTVI, Channel 2). All the Rams' regular-season and postseason games have sold out since the team moved here in 1995. ... Cardinals back Edgerrin James, a free-agent pickup in the offseason, hasn't had a 100-yard rushing game this year. The Rams have yielded triple figures to eight backs and are last in the NFL vs. the run.