BY STEVE KORTE
News-Democrat
ST. LOUIS - Quarterback Marc Bulger put away his golf clubs and said good-bye to his family in Pittsburgh, Pa., a couple of days before the opening of the St. Louis Rams' training camp on Wednesday.

"I was down to a 2, but now it's going to start going back up," Bulger said of his golf handicap. "I was a 3 last year, and I got it down to a 2 this year. I was bummed out. But I don't play golf for a living."

Bulger and the rest of the Rams players went back to work on Wednesday as they prepare for their season opener against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 10 at the Edward Jones Dome.

Bulger said his golf game wasn't good enough yet to participate in any celebrity tournaments like former Rams quarterback Chris Chandler.

"I played with Chandler when he was here, and his game was a little bit better than mine," Bulger said. "I figure when I'm done playing I'll have a little more time to practice."

Bulger sees training camp as a necessary evil.

"It's something that we need to do," Bulger said. "It's important to get back together. The heat isn't going to be real fun, but everybody is going through it whether you're in college, high school or the pros. It's just something that you need to go through if you're into football."

The Rams will hold their first practice from 9:20 to 11:35 a.m. today at Rams Park. The practice is open to the public.

The weather forecast calls for the temperature to be in the high 80s by late morning.

Rams cornerback Travis Fisher, who lives in Tallahassee, Fla., got ready for training camp by spending as much time outside in the heat as possible.

"I hung out in the sun a whole lot," Fisher said. "I went out in the hottest part of the day every day."

Most importantly, Fisher is healthy entering training camp.

Fisher struggled last season as he tried to tough out a groin injury. In retrospect, he believes he shouldn't have played with the injury.

"It wasn't very smart," Fisher said. "The past couple of years I'd been used to playing hurt. I played with a broken jaw and I played with a broken arm. The groin is a little bit different."

Fisher reported for training camp down to a trim 187 pounds. He sees the 2006 season as a make-or-break season for him financially because he'll be an unrestricted free agent when it's over.

The Rams are holding training camp at their training facility in Earth City, Mo., for the second straight year.

Players carted in a variety of creature comforts such as video games and foot massagers into the Holiday Inn Airport West on Wednesday morning.

Defensive end Brandon Green brought an acoustic guitar. He planned on playing some songs by country singer George Strait to relax.

"I think I sing very well, but I don't know if anybody would agree with me," Green said.

Rams rookie linebacker Tim McGarigle carried a couple of 12-packs of Red Bull energy drink into the team hotel.

"I'm just not a morning person," McGarigle said.

Players prefer holding training camp at their home base rather than setting up camp at Western Illinois University in Macomb, the team's summer home from 1996-2004.

"I don't like driving to Macomb," Rams cornerback Jerametrius Butler said. "The police are all along the side of the road looking for us so they can pull us over."

Butler said he hoped to go home to see his wife and kids during any breaks in camp. There's an eight-hour span between the morning practice and the night practice during two-a-days.

New coach Scott Linehan has warned that the Rams' training camp won't be a country club. Practices will be long and physical.

Rams defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said he wasn't worried since he's survived training camps run by such taskmasters as Mike Ditka (with New Orleans) and Bill Parcells (with Dallas).

"I've been through some of the toughest camps," Glover said. "Mike Ditka's camp was tough. Bill Parcells' camp was extremely tough. It's going to be tough regardless. The weather is going to make it tough. It's not going to be a cake walk, but I think it will prepare us to have a successful season."

Rams offensive guard Richie Incognito hasn't had full contact in football pads since the Alamo Bowl in 2003.

"I'm not looking forward to getting popped, I'm looking forward to popping some people," Incognito said.