Injury situation is better than usual
By Bill Coats

When the Rams hit the practice fields Monday afternoon to kick off the first game week of the regular season, only one member of the 53-man roster was unable to suit up.

Rookie wide receiver Donnie Avery, who sprained his right knee Thursday night in the preseason finale at Kansas City, was limited to light work and running Monday. So was Darius Vinnett (knee), a cornerback on the practice squad.

Otherwise, everyone was fully padded and participating, at least to some degree. That included safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (hamstring) and tackle Orlando Pace (shoulder), who took part in all drills. Cornerback Fakhir Brown (shoulder), running back Brian Leonard (shoulder), center Brett Romberg (hand) and wide receivers Drew Bennett (groin) and Dante Hall (ankle) were limited, but all got in some 11-on-11 work.

Overall, the team hasn't been so healthy in some time. "I feel real good about it," coach Scott Linehan said. "The core of our team has had a lot of work this preseason."

After the players had the weekend off, Linehan conducted a two-hour practice in 90-plus-degree heat Monday. "I sound like a masochist, but I was really glad it was hot, because we need to get work in this kind of weather," he said. "It could be like this Sunday (in Philadelphia), and it could be like this three weeks from now. ...

"Hopefully it'll be a benefit to have worked out here in this."


Five captains for the season were elected by their teammates: offense, quarterback Marc Bulger and wide receiver Torry Holt; defense, safety Corey Chavous and linebacker Will Witherspoon; and on special teams, safety Todd Johnson.


It was a rough Saturday for former Illinois fullback Russ Weil. First, he was among the Rams' final cuts. Then, he watched from the sideline as the Illini fell to Missouri 52-42 at the Edward Jones Dome.

But Weil's holiday weekend improved dramatically when he was invited to join the Rams' eight-man practice squad. If he stays there all season, he'll receive about $80,000.

"I was relieved," Weil said. "I didn't really know what I expected. I just hoped for the best."

As for the fireworks at the Dome, Weil said, "Different game than I'm used to. But it was fun watching it."

Others signed to the practice squad were defensive end C.J. Ah You, running back Lance Ball, offensive lineman Dustin Fry, linebacker Marc Magro, wide receiver Derek Stanley and Vinnett.

The eighth and final spot is expected to go to safety Eric Bassey if he clears waivers today. Bassey was cut Monday so that newly signed cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. could be added to the roster.


The competition for the No. 3 quarterback job was expected to be a tight race. But it turned out to be a landslide victory for Brock Berlin. "The hard work I put in throughout the offseason and (training camp), it just feels good to know that it pays off," he said.

In the four preseason games, Berlin completed 35 of 49 passes for 354 yards and a touchdown, without an interception. His passer rating was 98.5. His challenger, Bruce Gradkowski, was 22 of 37 for 177 yards, with no TDs and two interceptions. His rating was 49.0.


Wide receiver Dane Looker is appealing a $5,000 fine levied by the league for a personal foul Aug. 16 vs. San Diego. ... Defensive lineman Victor Adeyanju has swapped the heavily padded club that was protecting his surgically repaired right index finger for a smaller, less restrictive wrap. ... Five of Vinnett's relatives from Destrehan, La., are in St. Louis waiting out Hurricane Gustav. ... Tackle Julius Wilson, cut Saturday by the Rams, was signed to Tampa Bay's practice squad. | 314-340-8189