Faulk Feeling Comfortable in the Middle
Wednesday, November 30, 2005

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

Trev Faulk is all grown up.

After spending most of his short NFL career as a special teams specialist, Faulk appears to have claimed the Rams’ starting middle linebacker job. That means he is pulling double duty between playing defense and special teams.

“It’s what I like to call a big boy day,” Faulk said. “It was a big boy day. I just go play, I don’t even think about it.”

Faulk made his first start of the season, third of his career against Houston last week. He finished with seven tackles and a quarterback pressure. His biggest play, though, came on special teams. On the Rams’ onside kick, Faulk leveled Houston’s Marcus Coleman, causing the ball to come loose and allowing Torry Holt to recover to set up the tying score.

Interim coach Joe Vitt said Faulk did enough to earn another start, but hedged some about whether Faulk will get another start over former starter Chris Claiborne.

“Yes he did,” Vitt said. “He practiced very well today. That evaluation is ongoing. Whoever practices the best will play.”

Faulk continued to get many of the repetitions with the first-team defense Wednesday and appears poised to stake a full claim to the job. But Faulk isn’t worried about it either way.

“I’m just trying to take things day to day starting today,” Faulk said. “I’m going day to day then after that week to week. I prepare myself the same regardless of going in I know that I’m starting or going in knowing that I’m a backup. It doesn’t really matter.”

Faulk has had to take a humble approach to the NFL after a precarious beginning to his career. After declaring for the NFL Draft as a junior in 2002, Faulk went undrafted.

Faulk signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent, but didn’t make it out of the preseason. He signed with the Rams on Dec. 31, 2003 and has slowly moved his way up the depth chart as a linebacker.

Faulk first made his impression as a special teams dynamo last season, leading the team with 24 tackles on special units.

When the Rams signed Claiborne in the offseason, it appeared Faulk would be reprising that role this season. But as Claiborne has struggled, Faulk has shown a newfound comfort and willingness as his role increases. The differences are plain.

“Night and day,” Faulk says of the difference between last year and this. “I know so much more now. I’m so much more comfortable out there now than when I got the chance to start a few games last year. I’m better prepared from having more experience and having a couple of years in the system.”

Faulk has yet to prove that he is the long term solution. He still runs somewhat upright and can be a little stiff in his pursuit of the ball. Admittedly, Faulk knows he still needs to work on his coverage skills and run/pass recognition.
In addition, Faulk also wants to work on finding the balance between playing at full speed and playing out of control, a difficult beam to walk.

“A line Joe Vitt uses a lot is an old John Wooden line and he tells us to be quick, but don’t hurry which is play as fast as you can, maximum effort with maximum amount of ability, but be under control,” Faulk said.

Faulk is apparently doing that better than any of the other candidates at middle linebacker right now.

“He’s got a little bit more range,” Vitt said. “He’s been in the system longer so he is more familiar with it. We are just trying to upgrade the position a little bit.”

FITZ’S FIRST START: Although Vitt is remaining mum on the subject; it appears to be a near certainty that rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the start at quarterback against the Redskins. After all, Fitzpatrick was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week and usually players that win that distinction don’t find themselves on the bench the following week.

If for no other reason than the concussion that has Jamie Martin questionable for this week, Fitzpatrick appears to be in the driver’s seat for the start.

Fitzpatrick took all of the repetitions with the first team in Wednesday’s practice and will continue to get them throughout the week.

Fitzpatrick said he hasn’t been told anything as far as his status for this weekend, but he has no problem with whichever direction the Rams choose to go.

“The coaches are going to do what’s best for the team and put us in the best situation to win,” Fitzpatrick said. “Whatever decision they make is a good decision. I think I’ll get more reps in practice this week regardless. I think that will make the transition a little bit smoother. There’s probably a little more expectation now than there was last week if I were to play.”

Vitt said he doesn’t understand all of the questions about Fitzpatrick’s status.

“It’s unbelievable isn’t it?” Vitt said. “It’s like the Kennedy assassination. We will make that decision later on this week.”

It doesn't appear that there is much of a decision to make. If Martin can’t go, Jeff Smoker would be the backup.

INJURY REPORT: The list of injuries for the Rams features some big names and based on the amount of players on the list practicing Wednesday afternoon, it will be hard to get a gauge on who will play and who won’t this week until closer to Sunday’s game.

Quarterback Marc Bulger is listed as out again because of a shoulder injury. Right tackle Alex Barron is listed as doubtful, but Vitt ruled Barron out for this week because of ligament damage to his thumb.

“Alex Barron is going to need surgery,” Vitt said. “He’s going to get it either this evening or tomorrow morning. He will be in a cast for the rest of the year. We won’t have him for this week, but we’ll have him for the following week.”

Safety Adam Archuleta (concussion), cornerback Travis Fisher (groin), quarterback Jamie Martin (concussion) and offensive lineman Blaine Saipaia (concussion) are questionable. DeJuan Groce (concussion) and tackle Orlando Pace (hamstring/hip flexor) are probable.

Archuleta and Groce took part in most of Wednesday’s practice and Vitt thinks they should be ready to go.

“They were a little bit rusty today and they had to knock the rust off,” Vitt said. “We have two more days of good work and I think they’ll be fine.”

As for Martin, though he came away from a visit to the ophthalmologist fine, he is dealing with a concussion and might not be ready. Martin sat out Wednesday’s practice.

“Jamie Martin has blurred vision,” Vitt said. “We thought that he’d be a little bit better. He flunked his baseline test and said he couldn’t go today.”

Vitt said he expects Pace to be ready to go in time for Friday’s practice and perhaps have limited participation in Thursday’s practice.

IRVIN HONORED: The Rams honored Matt Irvin, the coach of MICDS High, as the St. Louis Rams’ High School Coach of the Year. Irvin led the MICDS version of the Rams to a 13-1 record and a second place finish in Missouri’s Class 3.

MICDS will receive a $2,000 donation to the football program for his work in his debut season as the head coach.