Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist

The Rams have enjoyed a splendid offseason to date.

But the most significant move of all wasn’t made at Rams Park. It was made at the Edward Jones Dome, where officials finalized plans to install state-of-the-art FieldTurf for home games this season.

This change was long overdue. The various officials who manage the Dome have finally figured out how to install the surface for football games without compromising its multi-purpose flexibility.

The old rug rolled right up after games, which made it quite convenient. But its absence of padding had a devastating impact on the team.

Playing eight games a season on that surface -– plus preseason and playoff games -– took an ugly toll on the players.

What was that surface like? Place a throw rug on your basement floor, take a running start and then jump -- knees or shoulder first -- onto the rug.

AAAAARGH! As you head to the hospital for X-rays, you can appreciate just how hard that “artificial turf” at the Dome really was. Throw in all the massive rug burns game after game and you can understand why the Rams hated playing on the stuff.

To ask players who are that big, fast and strong to wage war on a glorified parking lot . . . that was just nuts. Every other dome team in the NFL had made the upgrade.

Rams president John Shaw seemed ready to take drastic action if the folks down at The Ed didn’t follow suit. Fortunately, technology prevailed, solutions were discovered and the Rams will be somewhat safer as a result.

Back in the day, Lawrence Phillips suffered lingering knee injuries after playing at the Dome without knee padding.

(He believed that the absence of padding would make him faster. In fact, eating less, drinking less and training more would have made him faster. But L.P. never figured out much during his ill-fated tenure here.)

There is no telling how many games, yards and touchdowns running back Marshall Faulk lost by playing home games here. He’s had too many knee injuries to count, largely due to all that contact on the asphalt-like “football field” at The Ed.

Quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger also took a beating on that “playing surface,” with all those crash landings after getting sacked in those empty-backfield formations.

Rookie running back Steven Jackson was slowed much of last season by knee injuries suffered on that not-so-magic carpet.

The Rams played fast and won big on that fast track, but at great cost to their physical well-being. The new surface won’t make the games injury-proof, of course, but it WILL offer lots more give.

As a result, coach Mike Martz, who campaigned relentlessly for the change, should squeeze more out of Faulk in the twilight of his career.

He should be able to keep veteran receiver Isaac Bruce playing at a higher level during his final few seasons.

Receiver Torry Holt must be thrilled with this news, along with Jackson. This change will help them play at a higher level longer.

Future free agents will find the Rams more attractive, too, since the new surface won’t threaten their longevity, as the old stuff did.

As long as this surface can be installed, uninstalled and reinstalled without leaving nasty seams -– a big "if" in a league that produces so many grim knee and ankle injuries -– then the Rams will have cause for celebration for many seasons to come.

Now, if they could just do something about that second-rate sound system at The Ed . . .