By Steve Korte
McClatchy Newspapers

(MCT)

ST. LOUIS - Left guard Richie Incognito takes pride in the physical presence that he brings to the St. Louis Rams` offensive line.

"How much do I like collisions?" Incognito said. "It depends what kind of collision, whether you are lighting somebody up or you are taking it. It`s a part of the game that I really like."

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Incognito has his own definition of lighting somebody up.

"That`s when you catch one of those linebackers not looking or catch somebody running the wrong way," Incognito said. "That`s just a kill shot."

Rams first-year coach Scott Linehan was pleased with how Incognito and the rest of the Rams` starting offensive line performed in a 19-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday.

The Rams rushed for 202 yards in the game and set the tone for the ground game with a 16-yard burst by Steven Jackson on their first play from scrimmage.

"I think we established a real physical style of play up front as a unit," Linehan said. "On the he first play, Richie had maybe one of the best blocks of the game. He just came off the ball and created a huge hole, and (fullback) Paul Smith got the linebacker. We busted off a 16-yard run on the first play, which was nice."

Incognito is currently the front-runner for the starting job at left guard, even though he hadn`t played in an actual game for almost 2 1/2 years before Thursday night.

"That was great," Incognito said. "Just high tempo, bodies flying around everywhere. The speed of the game is definitely a lot different than college."

Incognito said he was glad to see a running play to his side on the Rams` script of plays for their first series.

"That`s how I set my tempo," Incognito said. "I go out and try to lay the wood on the first play, and set the tempo and say, `That`s how it`s going to be all day long.""

Incognito fought through practice Sunday despite an upper respiratory infection that has made breathing difficult. He left practice briefly, but returned to finish out the last hour of work, including post-practice wind sprints.

"I`ve got something going on where I can`t breath, I`m all clogged up," Incognito said. "It`s no cakewalk out there. I can`t get any air. Today, I couldn`t breath, so I started overheating, and then my legs went on me right away."

The Rams took a gamble on Incognito with the second of their two third-round picks in the 2005 NFL draft.

Incognito was coming off knee surgery and he had a string of off-the-field problems that led to his dismissal from both the University of Nebraska and the University of Oregon football teams.

Incognito has worked on channeling his aggression to the field.

"He`s a physical guy, he`s a high-energy guy," Rams Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace said. "Sometimes I have to wind him down. I`m a little low key, and he`s a little high motor, so that`s a good combination for us."

Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said he likes the attitude that Incognito brings to the offensive line.

"He`s an intense guy," Bulger said. "I think he`s made drastic improvements since last year, and he`s definitely the kind of physical presence we would like to have up there.

"He brings a little attitude. Maybe we had a little bit of that with Kyle Turley. I think it was a good thing for the team."

Incognito said his knee is no longer an issue.

"Physically, everything is fine," Incognito said. "I feel athletic. I feel good moving around. The knee feels great, feels strong."

Rams veteran defensive tackle La`Roi Glover sees a lot of potential in Incognito from going against him in practice.

"I think he`s a raw, young kid," Glover said. "He has a lot of ability. He is extremely athletic. Coming from Nebraska, he was used to a run-oriented offense. He needs to work on a lot of technique stuff - pass blocking, the nuances of the game. He`s tough. He can hang in there. He is a strong fellow."

Incognito said he`s still refining his technique with both run blocking and pass blocking.

"Technique-wise on a scale of 1 to 10, I am probably like a 5 or a 6," Incognito said. "What`s really hard for me is little things, nothing major. I am conscious of what I am doing wrong, so I think in a couple of days, I can fix anything."