By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
If quarterback Marc Bulger has decided he no longer can play for Scott Linehan, he has not informed the Rams' coach. So said Linehan on Friday, another tumultuous day at Rams Park.
"He's never given me any (such) indication," Linehan told reporters. "I know he's disappointed with my decision. He's practiced very well this week, and worked hard, and all those things. If that's his feeling, he's never mentioned that to me. You have to ask him that particular question."
For the fourth day in a row, Bulger ducked reporters at Rams Park. The two-time Pro Bowler has yet to comment publicly about being benched by Linehan for Sunday's game against Buffalo. (Trent Green starts instead at quarterback.)
Team sources told the Post-Dispatch on Thursday afternoon that Bulger was so upset over his benching that he no longer wanted to play for Linehan. Steven Jackson strongly implied the same thing Thursday evening on his "Rolling the Dice" radio show. Jackson also criticized Linehan's decision to bench Bulger.
"I don't think it's far-fetched that if things don't work out (with Green), you've lost Bulger," Jackson said on his radio show. "We've only played three games and it hasn't been pretty at all. But you've just awarded this man a new contract worth ... millions of dollars and you bench him. ...
"I just don't like it at all. There are more people that can take the blame for this. I don't think it's fair that one person takes the blame. You don't put your head guy, the general, the staple center, and you bench him with no excuse. It's not right."
When asked Friday if he had discussed Jackson's radio comments with Jackson, Linehan replied: "I haven't talked to him about it, but I will. ... We're in this together and we're trying to find solutions to what has not been a good start to the season with our record."
Linehan then defended his decision to bench Bulger.
"To sit here and not make some decisions — which are hard decisions as a head coach — I would not be doing my job," Linehan said. "But I will, at some point here soon, talk to Steven about it. But other than that, I have no comment further."
As a follow-up, Linehan was asked if he would voice his displeasure to Jackson about Jackson publicly second-guessing the Bulger benching. Linehan wouldn't nibble. "When I talk to Steven, and what I say to Steven, will be between me and Steven," Linehan said.
Linehan met with reporters much later than scheduled on a bizarre Friday afternoon. By all accounts, he left the field in a huff after practice before reporters were assembled outdoors.
Linehan is the first coach in "St. Louis" Rams history to permanently close practices to the media. Only the first 20 to 30 minutes are open to the press. After that time period expires, the media is escorted off the field and must wait in the media workroom until summoned for Linehan's post-practice news conference.
Nearly two hours passed between the end of practice Friday and Linehan's remarks to the press. Depending on who you talked to, the delay was a result of Linehan either 1.) Meeting with president of football operations Jay Zygmunt; 2.) Getting treatment for a shoulder problem; 3.) Yelling at radio officials for Jackson's radio comments; or 4.) Some combination of the above.
During the locker room interview period Friday at Rams Park, Jackson declined to speak to reporters. Bulger was nowhere to be found. Some Rams players were unaware of Jackson's radio comments.
Wide receiver Torry Holt said he was beyond surprised at Bulger's benching. "You know I was shocked, man," Holt said. "I was really shocked. First and foremost, I went up to Marc immediately and apologized to him as a receiver. And (apologized) for our receiving group, and for our offense — for not making enough plays to give him an opportunity to stay on the football field with us as we move forward in the fourth week."
Jackson also said on the radio that he wasn't the only player in the locker room who thought benching Bulger was the wrong decision.
When asked if he felt that way about Bulger's benching, Holt said, "I'll keep those thoughts to myself, and just go ahead and move forward with what we've got."