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    Martz again shuffles Rams' offensive line

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    08/01/2005

    Rams tackles Matt Morgan (left) and Grant Williams work under the instruction of Rams Hall of Famer Jackie Slater.
    (CHRIS LEE/P-D)



    Way back on Saturday, Rex Tucker was the left guard, Darnell Alford was the right guard and Blaine Saipaia the right tackle on the Rams' first unit.

    Just two days later, Claude Terrell was running with the "1s" at left guard and Saipaia was at right guard, with Grant Williams at right tackle. Suffice it to say, the Rams still are seeking answers on the offensive line.

    "My biggest concern in the offensive line is getting the best players in position to play," coach Mike Martz said. "Right now, we've got a rookie starting left guard (Terrell). If he's the best player, then he's going to play.

    "I don't know if Rex Tucker is going to make this team. He started off as the starting left guard. He better get it in gear.

    "We don't have any predetermined vision of what this thing should look like. Right now, Grant Williams is our starting right tackle because he deserves to be."

    That's right, Martz said Grant Williams. At the moment, Williams is pulling off a Lazarus act on the offensive line. After giving up unofficially 11 1/2 sacks in 11 starts a year ago, Williams looked like a forgotten man on the Rams' depth chart. Not necessarily so, Martz said Monday.

    "I've got to get on the soap box with this guy, honest to goodness I do," Martz said following Monday morning's practice at Rams Park. "This guy played with one arm last year. He had no business playing. (He) played 25 pounds lighter than what he is right now. Took a lot of criticism. Played as hard as he could. Never made an excuse. Thank goodness we had him.

    "Right now, this is the best he's felt physically since he's been in the NFL. So he's going to have his opportunity to have that position. And Blaine Saipaia moving into guard is a natural right now."

    During the offseason, Williams underwent right shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and a rotator cuff injury.

    "They fixed those and cleaned out the shoulder," Williams said. "While I was under, they took some chips out of the opposite (left) elbow."

    In an effort to improve his quickness for last season, Williams lost 25-30 pounds. The move backfired.

    "I got down last season to probably 290 at one point, which is way too light for a tall guy, especially," said Williams, who is 6 feet 7. "I tried to gain a lot back this offseason, and probably got back up to 320-325, and will try to keep it at least above 315 for the season.

    "It'll help on the run blocks, and it should help stop some of the bull rush that I was getting a lot last year."

    Even if he was playing hurt, Williams, 31, makes no excuses for his play last year.

    "Well, some of the sacks were me," he said. "I can't help it, per se, if I'm hurting. And they did give me the option of bowing out and getting surgery. And I didn't want to do that. As long as I could play, I wanted to try and play. So I did what I could."

    Eventually, rookie Alex Barron is expected to man the right tackle position in '05. But there are no guarantees, especially because Barron has missed five days and nine practices of training camp.

    Similarly, Saipaia probably is keeping the seat warm for Adam Timmerman at right guard. The Rams are easing Timmerman back into action after offseason surgeries.

    As for Saipaia, he just wants to play. Whether it's tackle or guard is inconsequential. His favorite position is a starting position.

    "I'll play wherever they put me," Saipaia said. "As long as I get on the field, that's fine with me. I thought I was doing all right (at tackle). I still had a lot of things I needed to work on there. But I know I need to be versatile."

    Saipaia bounced from guard to tackle a year ago, starting five regular-season games and both Rams playoff contests at right tackle. He found out Sunday he was moving back to guard. For how long - who knows?

    "I guess they just wanted to change it up a little bit," he said. "Try and get the right fit, and get the right five guys out there. ... It keeps you on your toes."


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    Re: Martz again shuffles Rams' offensive line

    I hope Terrell makes the starting team, he can run block. If he can pick up the system
    (and the blitz) he's an earthmover in the running game, something the Rams have been sorely lacking.

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