Friday, December 17, 2004

By Nick Wagoner
Staff Writer

Last week the Rams faced the unenviable task of beating Carolina on the road without quarterback Marc Bulger.

This week, only the opponent is likely to change. Bulger threw lightly on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, providing a glimmer of hope to St. Louis that he might be able to play against Arizona on Sunday.

Coach Mike Martz said earlier in the week he would like to wait until Friday to make any determination about the quarterback situation. After Friday’s practice, it was clear what is most likely to happen.

Bulger did not take any repetitions and said he is unlikely to have much of a chance to play or even dress Sunday. He said he had hoped to have a chance to play, but it doesn’t appear that he will.

“It didn’t get much better the past few days,” Bulger said. “I would prefer not to (play without practicing). You don’t want to, but if you have to, guys have done it.”

Bulger will likely return to the team against Philadelphia on Dec. 27. That was the original target date of his return and appears the most likely time. That leaves veteran Chris Chandler as the team’s starting quarterback for the second consecutive week.

“We’ve got Chris ready to go,” Martz said. “I don’t think that we’ll have Marc.”

The move goes as a vote of confidence in Chandler, who Martz and the Rams hope will improve. In reality, he couldn’t get much worse as he threw six interceptions against the Panthers.

Chandler did not come out of that game, but Martz might have a quick hook if Chandler struggles again.

Last week, rookie Jeff Smoker was the backup, but it appears that Jamie Martin, who was signed last week, will be the No. 2 man against the Cardinals.

Martin, of course, spent most of his career with the Rams and was brought back because of his knowledge of the system. Martin said he is ready to go if needed.

“That was kind of the best-case scenario,” Martin said. “If I could have been back in a week, that would have been a bonus, I guess. Every day I have been here, it kind of gets me back to where I was when I got back. I feel comfortable now, whereas last week I needed a couple more days.”

O-LINE RESHUFFLES: Quarterback isn’t the only position that is dealing with injuries. Right guard Adam Timmerman and left guard Tom Nütten missed time in practice this week. Timmerman will play against Arizona, but Nütten will not get the start.

In Nütten’s place, rookie Larry Turner will get the nod. Turner has had a busy week, alternating between first-team guard and practice squad center, but his hard work is about to pay off in the form of his first start.

If Turner struggles or if Martz decides to go with a rotation at left guard, Darnell Alford will step in. Alford has been active for just one game this season and has not made an appearance yet.

Martz said he is excited to see what Turner and Alford can do with this opportunity.

“They may both take turns in there, but either one of them are both to the point now where they deserve an opportunity to start,” Martz said. “They are good players.”

RUNNING BACK UPDATE: Marshall Faulk will probably make his first start since the Green Bay game on Nov. 29. He has been out the past few weeks with a bruised knee.

Joining Faulk in his return is rookie Steven Jackson. Jackson made his first start against San Francisco, rushing for 119 yards, but he missed last week’s game against Carolina with a sprained knee.

Faulk and Jackson will probably share carries in the running game, but Jackson is still listed as questionable on the team’s injury report.

The return of the two running backs could be especially important without the presence of Bulger. The Rams will probably look to run the ball as much as possible against Arizona’s poor run defense. So, what does Jackson think of the Rams having him and Faulk back?

“Good for us, not for them,” Jackson said.