Fisher is holding up his end well
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch


A half-dozen Rams players either grew up in the Seattle area, or once played for the Seahawks. So the fact that Sunday's game marks a homecoming for Renton, Wash., native Bryce Fisher is interesting but not unusual.

No, what sets Fisher's return apart from some of his teammates is that the fellow he's trying to replace for the Rams, defensive end Grant Wistrom, is now one of the Seahawks' marquee players.

Much was written about Wistrom facing his former team, particularly in the Seattle-area newspapers in the days leading up to the game. But Fisher says he feels no pressure trying to fill Wistrom's shoes Sunday for the Rams.

"Pressure only comes when you feel like you're not prepared," Fisher said. "Grant can have all the publicity as long as we get the win. ... He was No. 6 overall (in the draft), and I was No. 248. When you're the 248th pick in the draft, nobody expects you to play well."

So far this season, Fisher is holding his own at right defensive end, the position manned by Wistrom for the previous five seasons in St. Louis. In fact, Fisher's statistics are very comparable to Wistrom's, although Seattle has played only three games so far to the Rams' four.

Wistrom, who signed a six-year, $33 million free-agent contract with Seattle in March, has 10 solo tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and two pass breakups for the Seahawks.

Fisher, who signed a one-year, $628,000 contract last spring as a restricted free agent, has 12 solo tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and three breakups.

"I'm doing OK," Fisher said. "There's some good things and some bad things. I didn't do as well against Atlanta and New Orleans - and go figure - we lost those games. I did a little bit better against Arizona and San Francisco. I need to continue to work at getting better and being productive for 45-50 snaps. Rather than last year playing 15-20 snaps."

Fisher has a tough matchup Sunday in Seattle's Pro Bowl left tackle, Walter Jones.

"I've played against him three or four times," Fisher said. "He blocked me pretty good the last few years. He's as good as there is. The good thing is I practice against a guy who is the best in the league."

That, of course, was a reference to Orlando Pace. Jones is a couple of inches shorter and about 10 pounds lighter than Pace, but has great balance and recognition skills.

"The game, you can tell, comes easy to him," Fisher said.

Fisher is expecting about 15-20 friends and relatives in the stands Sunday at Qwest Field. His mother is cooking red beans and rice, with potato salad and hot cucumber salad for Rams defensive linemen to munch on during the flight back to St. Louis.

Martz is rooting for La Russa

Martz didn't have time to wish Cardinals manager Tony La Russa good luck before the baseball playoffs began.

But they've become pretty good friends over their years in St. Louis - and kindred spirits.

"We had quite a bit of communication during the (baseball) regular season," Martz said. "I thought all along he'd do this well from the very beginning. It's just fun to sit back and watch him have the success that they're having. He's a terrific manager and he deserves all the best.

"He's very intense and relentless. His intensity doesn't wane, whether you see him in the morning, or you see him late in the afternoon, or after the game that night. He doesn't change. He's a very focused guy."

That sounds an awful lot like Martz.

Rare miss for Wilkins

Including playoffs, kicker Jeff Wilkins has been on an incredible tear since late in the 2002 season. Beginning with a three-for-three performance against Arizona on Dec. 15, 2002, Wilkins had made 55 of 59 field goals before his fourth-quarter miss from 33 yards Sunday in San Francisco.

"He's very, very competitive," Martz said. "And this upsets him more than anybody. He takes this stuff to heart. He's angry. He'll come back and respond well."