Exhibition will be his first game as head coach
BY STEVE KORTE
News-Democrat
ST. LOUIS - Though it's a preseason game, it's still a special night in Scott Linehan's coaching career.

Linehan will be making his head coaching debut when the St. Louis Rams play their preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts at 7 p.m. today at the Edward Jones Dome.

"Anything for the first time is always monumental," Linehan said. "My first game as a coordinator coaching for Minnesota, I remember that game pretty well. This will be another one of those days.

"Every time you get a chance to go out and play somebody else, it's a great day."

Linehan won't be walking the sideline for the first time in the NFL. As offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, he moved from the coaches' box to the sideline to call the plays during the team's six-game winning streak that closed the 2005 season.

Linehan said he was confident that he could handle the game management decisions that come with being a head coach.

"There is a certain level of management you did as a coordinator, too," Linehan said. "It's not just one guy doing it. We do it together. The assistant coaches have an input on things. We're going to work on our chemistry and how we work together."

The game will be blacked out on St. Louis television because it's not a sellout.

"I think it's a part of a process that we're trying to undertake to get our program going in the direction that we can attract the sell outs," Linehan said. "It's our job to put a great product on the field and be competitive.

"The bottom line is, if you start playing well and you start doing some pretty fun things out there, they will come, as they say."

After 14 days of banging against each other in training camp, the Rams are anxious to hit somebody else.

"No doubt, we are ready to play somebody else," Linehan said. "Players, coaches, everybody in the whole building is ready to get the team saddled up, putting them in one (uniform) and playing another team."

Linehan said his starters won't play more than a series or two.

Marc Bulger will start at quarterback, and Gus Frerotte will follow him. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is battling Dave Ragone for the job of third-string quarter, could see some snaps in the first half.

"I'm sure the one's will get a certain amount of snaps in the first quarter on both sides and special teams," Linehan said. "Then we'll work our two's and our three's in for the remainder of that.

"How much depends on the play number, sort of like a pitch count in baseball, so to speak."

The Colts' first-team offense is expected to get 12-15 plays, while the Colts' No. 1 defense is expected to be in the game as a unit for 15-25 plays.

"We'd like to go a couple of good series with our offense and get some timing and then start to substitute," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "Defensively, we'll go through the first quarter and see where we are. We don't have quite as many defensive substitutes, so those guys will play a little bit more than the offense."

Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, who has 51 sacks over four seasons, won't play against the Rams because of a strained shoulder.

Other projected defensive starters for the Colts who will sit out the game include cornerback Jason David (strained groin), safeties Mike Doss, Bob Sanders (shoulder) and defensive tackles Montae Reagor (knee) and Corey Simon (knee).

The Colts have lost six straight preseason games. Their last preseason win was a 30-17 decision over the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 28, 2004, at the RCA Dome.

The Colts were 0-5 in the preseason a year ago, but it certainly didn't carry over the regular season as they posted a 14-2 record en route to their third straight AFC South title.

"I don't always worry about the final score, but you do want to play well," Dungy said of his preseason philosophy. "We wouldn't bring the first team back just to try and win the game. We want to see what some of the young guys are going to do in critical situations. And that's part of it too, finding out who you can count on."

The Rams will get their first look at their revamped special teams. Linehan said he was especially interested in seeing how his kickoff and punt return units perform.

Kevin Curtis, Brad Pyatt and Marques Hagans will be returning kickoffs, while Shaun McDonald, Pyatt and Hagans will return punts.