By Bill Coats

For linebacker Tim McGarigle, it happened on the last play of practice on the opening day of training camp. For wide receiver Dominique Thompson, it happened in the third quarter of the first preseason game.

McGarigle (pulled hamstring) and Thompson (displaced ribs) suffered injuries that would keep them sidelined for extended periods. Both players had started camp as solid contenders for spots on the 53-man roster after spending last season on the Rams' practice squad.

"Injuries are a part of the game," Thompson said. "It's just unfortunate that it happened to me when it did. I'm just a little frustrated and disappointed."

The team already has cut 10 players from its 86-man camp roster. One more has to go by Tuesday, and then 22 more by Saturday, when the final roster must be set. So, Thursday night's last exhibition game — vs. Kansas City at the Edward Jones Dome — looms large.

"Definitely. Everyone's three games up on me," said McGarigle, who practiced Sunday and is expected to get plenty of work against the Chiefs. "Every day in this league you have to prove yourself. I feel like I have everything to gain from this game."

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett used a baseball analogy to describe McGarigle's situation. "This is like the bottom of the ninth for him," Haslett said, "and a lot of guys come up with big hits in the bottom of the ninth."

Thompson, who participated in contact drills Sunday for the first time since he was hurt, reported improvement. But he acknowledged that he's not completely healthy.

"It's better than it was, but it's still sore," he said. "I'm just trying to work through it. ... I felt like I had a decent game (vs. the Vikings) and that I missed a lot of opportunities by not being able to play the last two games. So of course I want to get back to play this game."


Only two players sat out practice: guard Richie Incognito (ankle) and center/guard Dave Pearson (knee). Safety Jerome Carter (foot) returned after missing a week, and defensive tackle Claude Wroten (ankle) and running back Rich Alexis (foot) practiced after sustaining minor injuries Friday night in the 20-10 loss at Oakland.


Guard Mark Setterstrom took snaps at center last week in practice, and Linehan had planned to get him some work there Friday night. But, Linehan explained, "we decided not to because both Brett (Romberg) and Andy (McCollum) were going to play with the first and second quarterback like we did last time (vs. San Diego). He played 33 snaps the first half at left guard, so we decided not to do that."

As for the Romberg-McCollum duel for the starting job, Linehan said he expected to reach a decision "in the next couple of days."


Running back Brian Leonard got in "just a couple of plays" at fullback vs. the Raiders because "we ended up not using the personnel grouping as much," Linehan said. "It's a fairly easy transition for him if he was to play in a game some at fullback, but it would be for packages only, not to be the starting fullback by any means."

Leonard, who bruised both hands in the game, skipped contact drills Sunday.


Second-year linebacker Jon Alston is the NFL's preseason leader in tackles, with 16, according to ... All tickets for Thursday's game must be sold by 7 tonight — 72 hours before kickoff — to avoid a local television blackout.