Butler visiting more specialists in search of decision on knee
R.B. FALLSTROM
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS - This season still hangs in the balance for Jerametrius Butler, the St. Louis Rams' starting left cornerback the last two seasons.

Butler, who has a torn ligament in his right knee, visited a specialist in New York on Monday and was scheduled to see another in Alabama. Butler is trying to decide whether to attempt to strengthen the knee and play the season or undergo surgery that would sideline him for the year.

Butler led the Rams with five interceptions last season and four in 2003. Coach Mike Martz has thought he was leaning toward playing.

Making matters worse, Butler's backup, DeJuan Groce, missed much of Monday morning's practice with a bruised left knee. Another cornerback, Corey Ivey, missed practice with a sprained wrist, and a fourth, Duvol Thompson, is out with a broken hand.

Martz did not believe the injury to Groce, who started four games last year and is entering his third season, was serious. He also was effusive in his praise.

"DeJuan Groce is having the best camp of all the corners so far, by far," Martz said. "He's been a standout. We look at him as a starter."

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NEW TURF: The Rams' new FieldTurf surface drew mostly rave reviews from players after its debut in the preseason opener on Friday.

The team had only two days to break in the field, the same cushioning mix of rubber shavings and sand along with fake blades of grass as in use at the team's indoor facility for several years, before beating the Bears 17-13.

"Our players are really pleased with that surface," Martz said. "I think the next day the comment by everybody was how much better they felt."

Running back Steven Jackson broke a 33-yard carry early in the game and had 47 yards on seven carries.

"This turf is a lot softer but it's not as fast as last year's track," Jackson said. "It should save a lot of careers."

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QB TALK: Backup quarterback Jamie Martin enjoyed perhaps his best day in several stints with the team in the preseason opener, throwing two touchdown passes and going 12-for-19 for 143 yards. Martz has said Martin, who signed with the team late last year and showed little, will benefit greatly from spending a full training camp with the Rams.

"I felt comfortable overall and I was seeing things, and I felt like I made the right choices," Martin said. "I don't think I have to prove anything to anybody, I just go out and try to do what I can and do what I know how to do."

Starter Marc Bulger is anxious to play again after going 3-for-5 for 38 yards and an interception, producing no points in a quarter.

"I wasn't antsy but I know I rushed things a little bit," Bulger said. "I wanted to make things happen too quick. You try to pick up where you left off last season."

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BRIEFLY: OT Orlando Pace (thigh) returned to practice after missing the preseason opener but did not finish the morning session when the injury flared up again. ... OG Adam Timmerman, recovering from injuries to both shoulders and a foot from last season, participated in one of his first contact drills. Martz had said earlier in camp that Timmerman likely would not play until the final two preseason games. "We were surprised he took the reps today, as many as he did," offensive line coach John Matsko said. "If he wants to go in, he's going to go in there." ... DE Brandon Green, a low-key free agent pickup after missing most of his first two pro seasons with a fractured kneecap, had one sack and could have had as many as three in the second half on Friday except for an incompletion thrown while on the way to the ground and an intentional grounding call. He's making a big push for a backup job. "He's a little more athletic than what we thought," Martz said. "This was a terrific get for us." ... Martz said Thompson's broken hand involved the "meta-whatever bones."