By Bill Coats

As if the Rams' injury situation wasn't dire enough, perennial Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace has joined the walking wounded. He suffered a hamstring injury in practice Wednesday, and his availability for Sunday's game in Houston is uncertain.

"I think I'll be able to go," said Pace, who was listed as "probable" on the team's injury report. "I'm going to get some treatment and then on Sunday, we'll test it out and see how it feels."

Pace said he was injured when "somebody stepped on my foot. I kind of pulled back, and I think I pulled something. I don't think it's that serious, though."

In fact, he said he "probably could've practiced" Friday. Sitting out, he explained, "was precautionary. We'll see what happens (today) and see how it feels pushing off of it."

Pace hasn't missed a game since the 2002 season, when calf and hamstring injuries kept him out of six. If he's unable to play when the Rams (4-6) take on the Texans (1-9), rookie Alex Barron will move to left tackle and veteran Rex Tucker will take over on the right side.

"And the scary part is, if anything happens, then I'm back at tackle," guard Adam Timmerman said. "So, we're getting thin."

Offensive lineman Blaine Saipaia (concussion) is out, and guard Claude Terrell is nursing a toe injury. Last week, guard Tom Nutten (neck) was placed on injured reserve, ending his season, and guard/center Larry Turner returned to the Rams after being released in September.

On Friday afternoon, tackle Matt Morgan was promoted from the practice squad; wide receiver Dominique Thompson was cut to make room on the active roster. Thompson could be re-signed after 24 hours if he isn't claimed off the waiver wire.

Morgan, 6 feet 6 and 304 pounds, spent most of the 2004 season and all 10 games this season on the practice squad. The second-year pro from the University of Pittsburgh never has suited up for an NFL game.

Inexperience in secondary

Cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Chris Johnson, who have one NFL start between them, fully expect to be tested by Houston quarterback David Carr.

"I wouldn't expect anything less," said Bartell, who started last week for the injured Travis Fisher (groin). "I look at it as more opportunity for me to make plays. That's what they brought me here for, to play corner and make plays. So, any ball that comes my way, I'm going to contest it."

Johnson, a third-year pro, has been used mostly as a kick returner and fill-in cornerback. He'll start in place of DeJuan Groce, who is recovering from the concussion he suffered last week against Arizona.

"They need me to go out and compete, so that's what I'm going to do," Johnson said. "It has been a long time coming. I'm going to give it my best."

Mike Furrey will make his sixth start in a row at free safety. Rookie Jerome Carter will step in for strong safety Adam Archuleta, who also is sidelined because of a concussion.

Interim head coach Joe Vitt said the Texans "know we're banged-up in the secondary. It's going to be a challenge."


The Rams never have played the Texans, who joined the NFL in 2002 as an expansion team.

Wideout Isaac Bruce is 12 yards short of becoming the 11th player in NFL history to amass 12,000 receiving yards.

With a catch Sunday, wideout Torry Holt's streak of games with at least one reception will reach 100, a franchise record.