Obscure players making mark on Rams' beat-up line
By R.B. FALLSTROM, AP Sports Writer
November 15, 2007
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- All the injuries on the St. Louis Rams' offensive line double as help-wanted ads for players working out on their own and hoping for tryouts.
A collection of castoffs and unknowns jelled for at least one week, contributing to St. Louis' first win of the season. The Rams (1-8) will probably try for two straight on Sunday at San Francisco behind the same anonymous quintet that features only one opening-game starter, tackle Alex Barron.
"We didn't have an O-lineman scheduled for surgery," coach Scott Linehan said. "That's an improvement."
Reinforcements are on the way for a team that placed its third line starter, guard Richie Incognito, on injured reserve Wednesday. Next week, the Rams expect to sign veteran Todd Steussie, a two-time Pro Bowler who started 15 games last season. Center Brett Romberg could return this week from a high right ankle sprain that has sidelined him for two games, although if he plays he'll probably be a backup at center and guard.
For now, St. Louis is still relying on journeymen in guard Milford Brown and Nick Leckey and tackles Brandon Gorin and Rob Petitti. The center is 37-year-old Andy McCollum, who lost a battle for the starting job to Romberg in the preseason.
Petitti (Oct. 24), Leckey (Oct. 4), Gorin (Sept. 12) and Brown (July 29) are all recent additions to the Rams.
Romberg was a game-day inactive last week after the ankle swelled during the flight to New Orleans. He felt much better after a few extra days of rest.
"I'm trying to get out there as fast as possible," Romberg said. "Hopefully it holds up for me."
But he's been limited in practice the last two days and Linehan said it'll probably again be a game-time decision whether he's active.
"The way the season has gone, my No. 1 goal is to stay with the group that's in there as long as they're playing well," Linehan said. "We'll try to keep some continuity with that group so that they can gain confidence."
The Rams offense produced season bests of 409 yards of total offense and 37 points against the Saints. St. Louis led for the first time all season on the road, and the line provided enough protection that Marc Bulger had time to throw for 302 yards and two touchdowns, earning NFC offensive player of the week honors.
Starting on the line is a week-to-week proposition for the likes of Leckey, who weighs 293 pounds and has 21 career NFL starts but is so unimposing physically that running back Steven Jackson joked, "I'm bigger than him."
"You always know in the back of your head that this is not forever, tomorrow's not guaranteed," Leckey said.
Last week was a success for two tangible reasons.
"I didn't get yelled at too bad," he said, and instead of being fined for negative plays by offensive line coaches who have a reward system, they'll be digging into their pockets.
"I'm owed money this week," Leckey said. "I get a rebate, yeah. A lot of us did well this week because there were no mistakes, no pre-snap penalties."
A couple of weeks ago, Linehan was worried that Leckey wasn't stout enough to make it through an entire game. He noticed that Leckey got overpowered on occasion during a loss to the Browns.
"It's not about what you are physically, it's what you have inside of you," Linehan said. "He gives great effort."
Leckey, who is 6-2, said it wouldn't be wise for him to add much more bulk because he'd lose agility and quickness.
"I can control how fat I get and how skinny I get but I can't control my height so I know I have to play that much better technically," Leckey said. "I can move well and I've still got just a little bit of lead in my butt."