By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Friday, Feb. 24 2006

INDIANAPOLIS While still committed to Steven Jackson as his
feature back, Rams coach Scott Linehan wants Marshall Faulk to have a slightly
expanded role next season.

"I would think he would," Linehan said.

Linehan emerged from a meeting with Faulk last week with no definitive answer
on the running back's plans for 2006. Privately, however, team officials fully
expect Faulk back in '06 for his 13th NFL season overall and his eighth with
the Rams.

"It was a great meeting (with Faulk)," Linehan said Friday, following his
formal news conference at the NFL scouting combine. "It was very positive."

Faulk, who turns 33 on Sunday, finished the '05 season with 65 carries for 292
yards, and 44 catches for 291 yards. Those are career-low totals for carries,
catches, rushing yards and receiving yards.

"Up to the day he shuts it down, he's way too valuable a player to not have the
ball in his hands," Linehan said. "For whatever reason, last year was not his
best year statistically. But I would certainly like to utilize the abilities he
still has, if he's willing to put a few more years in."

Faulk can't get to the corner like he once did, and has lost some of his
ability to make tacklers miss. But he still has talents beyond merely the
veteran leadership he brings to the team, according to Linehan.

"He still has some good 'juice' left in him in my opinion," Linehan said. "So
you might as well use him. Don't let him take any (unused) carries with him to
the Hall of Fame."

Faulk signed a four-year, $11.8 million contract extension last February,
indicating strongly at the time that he wanted to play only two more seasons.
(If so, the final two years of the contract would provide cap relief by
spreading out the amortization of past signing bonus money from prior
contracts.)

Faulk is due $2 million in base salary and workout bonus money this season,
counting a relatively modest $4 million against the cap.

At the end of the '05 season, some at Rams Park - from the prior coaching staff
- felt it would be best for Jackson if Faulk retired. They cited Faulk's
diminishing skills, and the fact that Jackson no longer would have Faulk's Hall
of Fame shadow looming over him.

But with Linehan seemingly committed to a more balanced offense, there should
be plenty of work for Jackson even if Faulk gets a few more carries than the
four per game he averaged in 2005. The Rams had only 380 rushing attempts last
year, the fourth-lowest total in the NFL.

Linehan also stated emphatically Friday that he would like to see a contract
extension for wide receiver Isaac Bruce.

"I'd love to have him as long as we can keep him," Linehan said. "Some of those
things are out of your control. In this case, I don't think that's the case.
He's still got some life left in him. And we've had very good meetings with
him."

Rams President Jay Zygmunt and Bruce's agent were scheduled for talks this
weekend in Indianapolis about a new contract. Bruce, who like Faulk came into
the NFL in 1994, has one year left on his contract. He counts $10.04 million
against the cap in 2006, but a restructured deal could knock a few million
dollars off that count.

Something should happen quickly, because Bruce is due a $1.5 million roster
bonus by Friday. He's also due $6.5 million in base salary, plus a $100,000
workout bonus under the current contract.

"The veteran leadership that we have on this team is critical, and you can't
replace it," Linehan said. "And a guy like Isaac, who's been such a big part of
this franchise ... he really represents what we're trying to promote, and
that's a guy who does it consistently over time. "He still has a lot of
'juice.' You watch him, even before he hurt his toe (last) year, he still runs
every bit as good in my opinion as he ever did. He's got a couple really good
years left in him. I think it's real critical that we do everything we can" to
keep him in St. Louis.

On other matters, Linehan said he wanted to improve the pass-catching
production from the tight end position. He's not displeased with Brandon
Manumaleuna, but wants to add another tight end to the mix.

"We've got to address that, and make it a stronger position for us on offense,"
Linehan said.

Defensively, Linehan said several players in the draft could help the team
incorporate some 3-4 concepts into a current personnel group that is more
suited to running the 4-3.

"From an offensive perspective, that's the hardest thing to prepare for - a
team that can line up in 3-4 one down and then turn around and line up in a 4-3
the next down," Linehan said. "That's a very effective scheme, and that's
hopefully something we can present to our team to be able to utilize."