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Change is in the air — and on field
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
The physical improvements to the Edward Jones Dome won't be completed until 2009. But football fans here will see plenty of new looks Sunday, when the winless Rams face Arizona.
They extend well past the depth chart at quarterback, where veteran Gus Frerotte has moved up to No. 1 so the banged-up Marc Bulger can have time to heal, and coach Scott Linehan replacing offensive coordinator Greg Olson as the play-caller.
Here are other modifications:
— Richie Incognito, who has been out with a high-ankle sprain since mid-August, practiced Wednesday and is expected to be in the lineup at right guard.
— Fakhir Brown is back after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy and already has been re-installed as a starter at cornerback.
— Jerome Carter and Todd Johnson are working at strong safety in place of Corey Chavous, who suffered a chest injury in Dallas.
— Andy McCollum is sharing reps at left guard with Claude Terrell. McCollum, a center for most of his 14-year career, started all 16 games at left guard in 2003.
— With Adam Goldberg (knee) out for at least a month, Milford Brown and Brandon Gorin are splitting duty at right tackle.
— Marques Hagans, the No. 3 quarterback the first four games, will be on the game-day roster at receiver, with Looker and possibly Isaac Bruce (hamstring) unavailable.
The most significant developments are the returns of Incognito and Brown. The offensive line has been battered — starters Orlando Pace and Mark Setterstrom have sustained season-ending injuries — and the secondary has been without both 2006 starting cornerbacks for three weeks.
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"I was so excited to practice," Incognito said. "I got more excited the more I could do, the more I pushed off on (the ankle). It's just great to be back playing football again."
Terrell and Milford Brown each started two games at right guard while Incognito rehabbed an injury he aggravated in the week before the season opener, setting him back even further.
Ron Bartell took over for Brown at right cornerback, and after Tye Hill suffered a back injury in practice, Lenny Walls started three games on the left side. Walls gave up two touchdowns to Cowboys wideout Patrick Crayton in Sunday's 35-7 loss, and Linehan didn't hesitate to drop him for Brown.
At practice Wednesday, Brown said he "felt a little rusty. But later ... I caught my second wind and I was pretty good."
Carter is the likely starter if Chavous can't go, although Johnson probably would sub for him in the nickel package.
McCollum, who lost the starting center's job to Brett Romberg in the preseason, said he felt comfortable at guard Wednesday and acknowledged that he was surprised his services weren't called upon earlier.
"I wish I could have gotten out there," said McCollum, 37. "I'm not foolish enough to think I can turn this whole thing around by being on the field, but I think I can contribute to helping us get a win."
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