By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
10/06/2004



Grant Wistrom plays right defensive end; Orlando Pace plays left offensive tackle. So over the years, they lined up against each other countless times in one-on-one pass rush drills during training camp. To a lesser extent, they did the same thing once the regular season started.

On Sunday, the long-time teammates will line up against each other for the first time in an NFL game when the Rams travel to Seattle.

"It's going to be a nice battle," Pace said. "Grant knows me well, and I know him well, just from going against him for the past six years or so. So it'll be a good matchup on Sunday."

After six seasons with the Rams, the past five as a starter, Wistrom signed a six-year, $33 million contract last March with the Seahawks as a free agent. He will renew acquaintances twice a year with Pace and the Rams in their NFC West matchups.

"During the season, I really didn't see that much of him (in practice)," Pace recalled Wednesday. "We went a couple times in 'pass pro' during the season, other than that it was against the scout team. And I haven't been in camp for the past couple years, so I didn't see him."

The NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick in 1997, Pace has missed training camp because of contract squabbles in three of his eight NFL seasons. But he was present in Macomb for five of Wistrom's six training camps with the Rams.

So how did he fare in those drills against Wistrom, the No. 6 overall pick in the '98 draft?

"Well, you guys were out there, so you saw how it went," Pace said, with a laugh. "Grant was young in this league, and he really came into his own and started playing well the past couple years. But the first couple years, he was a work in progress."

So in other words, you smacked him around?

"No, I'm not saying that," Pace said, laughing. "I'm not saying that."

Truth be told, Pace had his way with Wistrom on the practice field in the early years. Pace can be that dominant a pass blocker. But over the past two or three seasons, Wistrom at least kept Pace honest. Wistrom won every once in a while, right?

"Zero!" shouted a voice in the background of the Rams Park locker room - a voice that sounded mysteriously like Tyoka Jackson.

"I don't know," Pace said to a reporter. "You were right there. You saw all the battles. ... I think we both got better, that was the good thing about practicing against Grant every day. He's going to give you his all."

And that's why Pace, who has yielded two sacks this season - both against Atlanta - knows he can't relax Sunday at Qwest Field.

"Grant's one of those guys that's a high-energy guy," Pace said. "I know that going in, and you just have to stay on him the whole game. He's hard-nosed. He's going to go to the whistle, and he's going to play hard."