Faulk well-rested heading into opener


R.B. FALLSTROM

Associated Press



ST. LOUIS - Heading into his 11th NFL season, Marshall Faulk is feeling frisky.

The St. Louis Rams' running back was coddled in the preseason with only 14 carries, plus first-round pick Steven Jackson is ready to share some of the load beginning with Sunday's opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

The seven-time Pro Bowl player, who has missed 11 games due to injuries the last two seasons, said he and coach Mike Martz have not talked about how the playing time will be alotted. So he'll just adjust on the fly.

"Even when I've been healthy my work load at times has been less than normal," Faulk said. "It goes by the game and how the game is being played out and how things are going with coach."

Faulk said the presence of Jackson, who led the NFL with 323 yards rushing in the preseason, will not affect his play. Jackson provides a more bruising alternative to the elusive Faulk.

"With Steven here, that's added (pressure)," Faulk said. "But I have a job to do. I've got to go out there and I've got to perform.

"When he's in there, I'll tell him to do the same. He has to be him."

Jackson goes into the opener without great expectations, figuring Faulk will turn it on. He's happy to be Faulk's backup.

"He's helped me a lot," Jackson said. "He's the reason I've progressed so fast in this offense and I owe a great deal to him."

Faulk had 818 yards rushing last year, his lowest total since 1996 and also his second straight year under 1,000 yards. He enters this season 11th in career rushing yards (11,213), sixth in total yards from scrimmage (17,487), tied for fourth in touchdowns (131) and ninth in all-purpose yards (17,523).

He doesn't feel any pressure to bounce back.

"I don't have to show I'm healthy or prove anything because I can not be healthy and go through the whole year and have a decent year, and everybody will think everything is fine," Faulk said. "The need I feel is to be here and to play every game to give my team the best opportunity to win."

Notes:@ The Rams have a four-game winning streak against the Cardinals. ... St. Louis has won 14 straight regular season games at home, although they lost in the second round of the playoffs in overtime to the Panthers last January. ... Coach Mike Martz minimizes the influence of defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, who coached in the same capacity for the Cardinals from 2000-2003, on Sunday's game because Arizona has made so many changes. "What they do defensively is removed from what Larry did last year," Martz said. "If it was the same team, obviously it would be a terrific advantage, but they're all different." ... Travis Fisher (forearm) is out for the opener, leaving the Rams with three healthy corners. WR Torry Holt (back) is listed as questionable but is expected to play. ... The Rams are 6-3 in opening games since moving to St. Louis in 1995. ... Marc Bulger has the best starting record among active QBs with a minimum of 10 starts, going 18-4. ... K Jeff Wilkins needs one point to break a tie with Mike Lansford for the Rams' career scoring record. He enters the season with 789 points. ... The Cardinals' Emmitt Smith has 76 career 100-yard rushing games, one shy of the NFL record held by Walter Payton.