By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch

In nearly two decades of football, dating to his pre-high school days in Cozad, Neb., Chris Dishman never had suffered a significant knee injury. Now, it's two in two months.

Dishman, an eight-year NFL veteran who signed with the Rams as a free agent Aug. 5, will be sidelined four to six weeks with a complete tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Dishman, who had started five games at left guard, was injured in the third quarter Sunday in the Rams' 23-12 victory over Seattle at the Edward Jones Dome.

"I was locked up with a guy that I was going against, and he came into the side of my leg," Dishman explained. A series later, he re-entered the game.

"I braced it up, and I thought I could do it," he said. "I went out and tried to make an adjustment on a linebacker, and at that point I knew something was wrong in there, because my knee kind of flopped out the side."

An MRI exam Monday revealed the damage. No surgery is planned.

Veteran Tom Nutten played left guard the rest of the game and is expected to start Sunday, when the Rams (5-4) square off with the Buffalo Bills (3-6) at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Rams' last regular-season game is Jan. 2, so Dishman could return this season.

"If we're fortunate enough to be in postseason play, he should be back by then," coach Mike Martz said. "That's still a ways down the road, but ... he'd play right now if we asked him to."

Dishman, 30, missed two games after hyperextending his right knee Sept. 26 against New Orleans. "It still isn't 100 percent," he said. "And then I go out there and do this. So I've kind of been a gimp."

The offensive line was thinned further when it was determined that guard/tackle Scott Tercero would have shoulder surgery this week and miss the remainder of the season. Tercero, who also had been playing with a broken left hand, started four games at left guard.

"Scotty Tercero was playing so good, I can't stress that enough," Martz said. "He's an exceptional offensive lineman. That's a big-time hit on our part. I can't be more pleased with him."

Illness hits Faulk

When running back Marshall Faulk showed up Wednesday at Rams Park, Martz threw him out.

"He's got that flu bug. He was going to come and practice, and (I told him), 'Go home, go to bed,'" Martz said. "He's been down for a couple of days. He came in and got some medicine, got the game plan and went back home."

Martz reported that Faulk was improving. "He feels a lot better. He was really bad" Tuesday. As much as anything, Martz wanted to keep Faulk away from his teammates.

"We've got a couple of guys sniffling and wheezing and sneezing," Martz said. "Once it gets going on a team, it just hits everybody. And I'm the one that probably started it. I've had it for three weeks; I'm just getting over it now."

Colorado connection

When linebacker Drew Wahlroos learned Wednesday that he'd been promoted to the active roster from the practice squad, the first call he made was to Bills defensive tackle Justin Bannan.

"He was my roommate in college for four years, so that's pretty cool," said Wahlroos, an All-Big 12 Conference player at Colorado. "I told him I'd be out there. He was excited."

Wahlroos, who signed with the Rams on Sept. 15, played for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe after spending the 2003 preseason on the Philadelphia Eagles roster as an undrafted rookie free agent. He has yet to appear in an NFL game and won't know until Sunday whether he's part of the 45-man game-day roster.

"But either way, whatever I've got to do to help us get this win in Buffalo, I'm ready," Wahlroos said. "Since I've been here on the practice squad, I thought it'd be best to prepare like I was going to play, even when I knew I wasn't . . . so when I do get a chance to get out there, that week of preparation isn't a big change from what I've been doing."

Injury report

The newest Ram, center-guard Terry Wagner, didn't make it through his first practice at Rams Park. Wagner was taken off the field on a cart after suffering what appeared to be a serious leg injury. . . . Wide receiver Torry Holt, who suffered a concussion in the first quarter vs. the Seahawks and missed the rest of the game, was listed as questionable on Wednesday's injury report. But Martz said Holt had passed a neurological exam and is expected to play in Buffalo. . . . Safety Antuan Edwards, signed last week after his release by Miami, probably will miss another week with a groin injury. "We're going to be very patient with him," Martz said. "I think he's a terrific player."

Wide receiver Dane Looker, who has sat out two games with a sprained ankle, practiced Wednesday and was listed as questionable. Tight end Cam Cleeland (knee), Faulk (flu), linebacker Tommy Polley (hamstring) and tackle Grant Williams (shoulder) are probable.