By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Aug. 19 2008
On the first Monday of training camp, July 28 to be exact, tight end Anthony
Becht was chasing down an interception on the practice field at Concordia
University Wisconsin.

"I hustled to get the defender," Becht said. "I reached out, and I guess I
over-stretched it or something like that."

Pop goes the hamstring. In his eight previous seasons in the National Football
League, Becht had never had any hamstring problems. But the current injury has
sidelined him for three weeks.

"It's tough not being out there with everybody, kind of fighting," Becht said.
"Training camp's such a grueling thing for everybody, coming out here and
working hard."

It's certainly not the way Becht wanted to start his first season with a new
club after signing a two-year, $2 million deal with the Rams on March 11.

"I want to be out on the field," he said. "I've never really sat out this many
practices in a row in my career."

Becht, in fact, has been a model of durability in the NFL. Since being selected
in the first round of the 2000 draft by the New York Jets, he has missed only
two games — both as a rookie with a sprained knee. >From 2000 to 2006, he made
104 consecutive starts with the Jets and Tampa Bay. Even last year, he played
in all 16 games for the Buccaneers, although he made just two starts.

Hamstrings can be tricky. It's always difficult to gauge exactly where you are
until you hit top speed on the field. Becht tested the injury during the first
week of August in Wisconsin and suffered a minor setback.

More treatment and rehab followed, and now Becht has reached the point where
he's ready to test the hamstring again. He was on the practice field Monday at
Rams Park doing individual work but sitting out team drills.

"He feels a lot better," coach Scott Linehan said. "I think he's made as much
improvement as anybody as far as getting back on the field."

With the preseason quickly winding down, Becht is still targeting the season
opener Sept. 7 in Philadelphia for his return.

"I'd like to get some work in before that," Becht said. "I'm going to push it
as far as it'll let me push it. And when it's ready to go, I'll be out there
ready to play."

The addition of Becht was one of the Rams' more underrated signings in the
offseason. At 6 feet 5, 280 pounds, he has the potential to give the Rams the
blocking tight end lacking since the trade of Brandon Manumaleuna to San Diego
after the 2005 season.

In theory, Becht and Randy McMichael will be the team's "on-line" tight ends,
doing most of the heavy lifting on run blocking. Becht's presence also could
free up McMichael in the passing game. But tight ends coach Jim Chaney says
pigeonholing Becht as a blocking specialist is a bit of a stereotype.

"Anthony's got the mass you're looking for in the blocking game," Chaney said.
"So everybody would say that's synonymous with being a blocking tight end. But
Anthony proved to us in the OTAs (organized team activities) and minicamp what
really reliable hands he does have. We're never going to be scared to put
Anthony out on a route."

Becht caught as many as 40 passes in a season while with the Jets and has 20
career touchdown catches. But in three seasons with Tampa Bay (2005-07), he
caught a total of only 39 balls.

"I know my main (attribute) is the blocking factor," Becht said.
"Short-yardage, goal-line, two tight situations. ... I get a real thrill out of
getting big runs for the running backs. That's something that's important to
me."

The sooner he gets to do that for St. Louis, the better.

"Anthony's real antsy," Chaney said. "He wants to go. ... We've got enough
video validation of what he can get done. We just need to get him healthy and
get him out there so he get can get his timing."