Injuries add up for Rams
BY JIM THOMAS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Coach Steve Spagnuolo entered the week hoping for a little luck on the injury front.
"We do have to get healthy," he said Monday. "We've got some guys that are banged up. We need to get some guys back."
Instead, things went the other way Wednesday at Rams Park. Both starting wide receivers, Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton, couldn't finish practice because of what Spagnuolo termed sore hamstrings. Backup safety Anthony Smith, who spent most of the San Francisco game with the starting defense following Craig Dahl's concussion, couldn't finish practice because of an Achilles tendon problem.
All told, the Rams' official injury report had seven players listed as limited participation. Six are potential starters Sunday when the unbeaten Minnesota Vikings visit the Edward Jones Dome.
"We got a little more dinged today," Spagnuolo said following Wednesday's practice. "It's that time of the year in the NFL. Guys are going to be sore. They've just got to fight through 'em, and our guys are doing that."
To cut down on wear and tear, the Rams weren't in full pads Wednesday, usually the one day of the week where most teams work in full gear during the regular season.
Among the walking wounded, cornerback Ron Bartell (thigh) and Dahl appear the most ready to play Sunday ... just in time for Brett Favre.
"It feels 10 times better — the week off really helped," said Bartell, who missed his first game since high school Sunday against San Francisco because of his thigh injury. "I feel like with the next four or five days, I'll make enough progress to play. I have every intention of playing and starting Sunday, and helping us win. So barring no setbacks, I'll be playing."
Dahl, the starter at strong safety until James Butler (knee) returns in a week or so, suffered his concussion in the first quarter against the *****. "On a tackle I had made, I got hit in the side of the head by the running back," Dahl said. "I came up fine, but just a little disoriented. Could tell things weren't right. I stayed in the rest of the series and then came out."
But Dahl passed the "baseline" memory and cognitive skills test Tuesday, a necessary first step for players returning from concussions. If he gets through the practice week without any post-concussion symptoms, he will be back in the lineup against Minnesota.
Things aren't as clear cut at quarterback, where Marc Bulger is trying to work his way back to game readiness after suffering a bruised rotator cuff Sept. 27 against Green Bay.
Last week, Bulger had test results sent to noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews for a second opinion on his injured right shoulder.
"He concurred with what the Rams staff said, and we've been treating it according to their diagnosis," Bulger said. "There's no structural damage. The ligament's intact. So it was all muscle strains and bruising, things like that. It doesn't make it less painful, but it's sound, which is good."
Bulger did some throwing during Wednesday's practice, but no reps with the starting unit. All of that work went to Kyle Boller, who started in Bulger's place against the *****. Bulger's only work during 11-on-11 periods was as the scout team quarterback, running Minnesota offensive plays against the Rams' starting defense.
"We're progressing well," Bulger said. "Threw in a little bit of pain. I've just got to get my strength back in my arm a little bit."
Bulger plans to increase the amount of throwing in practice today. But barring rapid improvement over the next few days, it looks like he's still a week away from playing. On Wednesday, he threw mainly short tosses and didn't have much zip on the ball.
"There's certain things he couldn't do," Spagnuolo said. "But it was good to see him out there throwing, taking snaps. ...We're trying to take it easy, and not (have him) make certain throws. I thought he looked OK."
Bulger still doesn't have full range of motion in the shoulder, although he's much further along on that front than he was a week ago.
"If it was just a throwing issue, I think I could get out there," Bulger said. "It's just a matter of taking a hit now. I think the trainers are able to tell by the level of weight (lifting) I can do and the exercises were doing in the training room if it's ready to take a hit."
Meanwhile, offensive tackle Jason Smith had his first practice reps since suffering a knee injury in the first half Sept. 20 at Washington. However, it still looks like Alex Barron will be the starter at left tackle and Adam Goldberg the starter at right tackle against Minnesota. Smith's reps Wednesday were sprinkled in at various times at both tackle spots.