Wednesday, September 28, 2005

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

It’s a sight that no coach would like to see, but as receiver Isaac Bruce and running back Steven Jackson stood on the sidelines watching practice Wednesday afternoon, Mike Martz could take a little bit of solace in the fact that it isn’t Sunday.

Bruce is listed as doubtful and Jackson is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Giants. Jackson suffered a chest injury late in the second quarter of last week’s game against the Titans and Bruce followed by suffering a toe injury minutes later.

The injury to Jackson didn’t appear to be as severe as the one to Bruce, for Jackson returned to the game while Bruce did not. Simply because Bruce knows his body better than anyone and is a veteran, he will be given every chance to finds his way on to the field in New York.

“It’s kind of how he feels,” Martz said. “The capsule was not torn. There was nothing torn, just swollen. We’ll just see where he is. Now Isaac could line up on Sunday and play without…it’s just where he is. We’re not going to worry about it right now.”

In other words, Bruce doesn’t necessarily need the three practices this week to get ready for a game and thus his judgment will be trusted by the coaches when Sunday rolls around.

“If it wasn’t Isaac, then you have to really watch him and rep him,” Martz said. “If Isaac’s ready to go, he’ll be ready to go, but I’ll talk to him everyday and see how he is.”

If Bruce is unable to play, Kevin Curtis will take his spot in the starting lineup with Shaun McDonald moving up to the slot as the third receiver. Curtis is well aware of the situation, but he doesn’t want anyone to think that he is trying to replace Bruce, just fill in during the interim.

“I’m not trying to be Isaac,” Curtis said. “Those are some huge shoes to fill. I know I’m not Isaac. I go out and do my job. Basically I have a job and I try to do it. I can’t try to perhaps be Isaac when I’m out there and do it as he would do it, because that’s Isaac Bruce. I’m just going to my best and do my job.”

If Curtis does the job of filling in for Bruce as well as he did last season, the Rams won’t miss much of a beat against the Giants. Curtis filled in when Bruce was out because of a groin injury during the playoffs and had his best game as a pro.
Curtis has seven catches for 128 yards and a touchdown in that game, giving him the confidence to know that he can compete as a starter in the NFL.

“It helps me a lot,” Curtis said. “Last year toward the end of the year when Isaac was banged up, I knew I was going to come in and play. I knew that I could play and to go in and do some things last year and do a good job gave me confidence that I could do it. I know I can do it, I just have to trust in that and go out and play ball.”

As for Jackson, his outlook for this week appears even more uncertain. He didn’t do much of anything during Wednesday’s practice aside from some running on the side. To that end, it appears that Marshall Faulk is going to handle the starting duties this weekend.

Martz didn’t have much to say about Jackson’s injury other than that the Rams will take a wait and see approach.

“We’ll just have to see where they are tomorrow,” Martz said.

ARCHULETA’S BIG MONTH: Strong safety Adam Archuleta will be named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Month when the league announces its awards tomorrow.

Through three games Archuleta has 15 tackles, but it is a sack and an interception that earned him the award.

Archuleta returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown to turn the Tennessee game in the Rams’ favor one week after coming up with a late-game sack to seal the win at Arizona.

That is the type of playmaker the Rams had two years ago before injuries sidetracked him last season.

“This was Adam in college,” Martz said. “This was Adam in ’01 and really until he got injured a year ago, this is who he is. Coming back from that injury and removing the doubt about his back and being comfortable with the new defense. Remember, he was a linebacker in college and moved to safety and only knew one system. We changed the system, and he’s injured, so he’s going to have a hard time adjusting. He’s fought through both of those situations and is really playing very well.”

TERRELL TO THE TRENCHES: Rookie guard Claude Terrell could get some playing time this week with starting left guard Tom Nütten struggling with a toe injury.

Nütten is listed as probable on the injury report, but didn’t participate in most of Wednesday’s practice. Terrell took most of the repetitions in his place with Blaine Saipaia also working into the mix.

Terrell appeared to have claimed the starting job at the position during the preseason but Nütten’s leadership and experience ended up winning out. Still, Martz has a lot of confidence in the young guard out of New Mexico.

“Claude has never backed up,” Martz said. “Make sure that is clear for everybody. Claude has never backed up, period. Tom stepped forward, and he was playing so well, he’s a veteran who has played for us for many years, that he deserved the chance to go back and be our starter, and he played very well. With both toes, we’ll see where he is. If he can play, great, if not then Claude will play.”

INJURY REPORT: The Rams’ injury report is much more extensive than in the first three weeks.

Joining Jackson, Bruce and Nütten on the injury report are: tackle Rex Tucker (calf) who is listed as doubtful, free safety Michael Hawthorne (ankle), who is questionable, and quarterback Marc Bulger (ribs), cornerback Terry Fair (neck), defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (illness) and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna (knee) are probable.

If Hawthorne is unable to start, he will be replaced by Mike Furrey, who filled in for Hawthorne at the end of the Tennessee game.

“You don’t know when that’s going to happen, and Mike’s mature enough to prepare himself for that situation, and I was very pleased and proud of the way he played,” Martz said.