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QB is pleased with most of Rams changes
BY STEVE KORTE
News-Democrat

ST. LOUIS - Quarterback Marc Bulger reported for the first day of the St. Louis Rams' offseason conditioning program already feeling fit in both mind and body.

"It's a whole different atmosphere, and I think this is the most excited I've been coming back to work," Bulger said.

The Rams have undergone a major overhaul in the 2 1/2 months since the 2005 season ended. They have a new coach Scott Linehan, a nearly entirely new coaching staff and a revamped roster.

"I think change is good, not that the old people that were here, there was anything wrong with them," Bulger said. "Sometimes you just need change. I think it is going to be good for everyone here. There's been changes on defense, and I'm sure there will be some on offense. It's all about getting better."

Bulger was glad that the Rams didn't make one change. Wide receiver Isaac Bruce was brought back after being cut in a move to save on the salary cap.

"A small part of me got scared, but knowing Ike, I don't think he'd play for any team except the Rams, and quite honestly, I don't think (Rams President) John Shaw would let him play for somebody else," Bulger said.

Bulger said he was no longer bothered by the shoulder injury that caused him to miss six of the Rams' last eight games last season.

"It feels good," Bulger said. "I have been able to golf a little bit, and I threw on vacation a couple of weeks ago, and there was no pain. I didn't lift (weights) at all.

"I waited until today to start lifting, and I had no issues. It felt like it was completely healed. You never say never, but hopefully it is done, and I won't have that frustrating problem again."

Bulger, who finished only five of the eight games that he started last season, said Linehan has made keeping his starting quarterback healthy a priority.

"I know one of his main objectives was protecting me, and doing it without losing our aggressiveness," Bulger said. "We're not going to run the ball on first and second down, and then throw it on third every time.

"At the same time, I think we'll be more selective, maybe not take so many shots down field. There might be more of the quick passing game than we have had in the past."

Bulger spent most of the last 10 weeks in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa. He also spent a day last month in St. Louis getting acquainted with Linehan.

"He's genuine," Bulger said. "He just wants us to win. It has nothing to do about him getting accolades or anything. He just wants everybody on the same page with the same goals. He's going to be demanding, but at the same time, it's not about just him. Not that it was just about Coach (Mike) Martz. I don't want anybody to read anything into that."

Bulger said Linehan has modified his offense to include much of the same language used by Martz and his staff.

"He has done a great job of trying to incorporate some of the things we used to do," Bulger said. "Some of the guys like Torry (Holt) and Isaac, and some of the linemen, have been here for like nine years, so it's tough to switch.

"After that long, it becomes habit. I've gotten some of the playbook, and some of the basic formations and motions are the same."

Bulger has been rooting for his alma mater, West Virginia, in the NCAA Tournament.

The Mountaineers have reached the Sweet 16, where they'll play Texas in the Atlanta Regional.

"They're fun to watch," Bulger said. "I had to go on the Internet yesterday, because they didn't show that game here. I had to link up, and the sound wasn't too good."

Bulger said he planned to watch the Mountaineers in person, if they advance to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

Bulger keeps in touch with the Mountaineers players through an intermediary, his younger sister, Meg Bulger, a member of West Virginia women's basketball team.

Meg Bulger, a 6-foot junior guard, missed the Mountaineers last 10 games because of a torn ACL in her knee. The women's team was 11-6 before Bulger's injury, but lost nine of its last 10 games without her to finish 12-15.

"I talk to her because she is in the training room at The (VWU) Coliseum where they play," Bulger said. "They all train together, and they all know each other. They all know my sister, and I send messages back and forth through my sister."