By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
07/27/2008

MEQUON, Wis. — Training camp is barely under way, and yet two starters were missing Saturday on the first two-practice day. Running back Steven Jackson, holding out as he seeks a contract extension, was nowhere to be seen.

Cornerback Fakhir Brown was in full sight on the sideline, his left shoulder in a brace. Brown was hurt midway through Friday's opening practice, and an MRI exam Saturday disclosed a slight tear of his rotator cuff, coach Scott Linehan reported.

Brown, who won't need surgery, is likely to be sidelined two to three weeks. That means he'll sit out the Rams' first preseason game, Aug. 9 at Tennessee.

A STEADY PACE

No red "no contact" jersey for Orlando Pace. But the heralded left tackle is, uh, pacing himself during the first part of camp.

"Coach and I talked about it and decided they were just going to work me in," Pace said. "Right now, it's limited reps and team stuff. I'm not doing one-on-one practice. I'm getting used to tackling and hitting again … just getting my body ready."

Pace's 2007 season ended in the second quarter of the opener, when he went down with a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his left shoulder that required surgery. Three practices into camp, Pace reported that his shoulder "feels fine. It's a little sore … but everything is a little sore."

CHANCE FOR PITTMAN

With Jackson AWOL, second-year player Antonio Pittman is getting plenty of work with the first team as he tries to establish himself as a viable No. 2 running back.

"We have a pretty good idea of what Steven is capable of doing, but there's quite a bit unknown about our younger backs," Linehan said. "I think it's a great opportunity for (Pittman) and the other guys to move up the ladder and get reps with the other groups."

Pittman played in 11 games last year, rushing for 139 yards on 38 carries. He also caught three passes for 15 yards.

MIXED RECEPTION

When the Rams' buses rolled onto campus Thursday afternoon, they passed by a group of youngsters participating in a basketball camp. Presumably most were Packers fans, and their greeting was mixed, quarterback Marc Bulger reported.

"About half the kids were giving us thumbs up," he said, "and about half of them were giving us thumbs down."

RAM-BLINGS

One practice is scheduled for Sunday, starting at 3:50 p.m. … Sunday's weather report for Mequon: a high of 86 degrees, with a 20 percent chance of rain.