Sunday, August 28, 2005

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

No matter how hard the Rams search, they just can’t seem to find the problem with defensive tackle Ryan “Big Grease” Pickett’s ailing back.

“We had him in the pool,” coach Mike Martz said. “We have MRI’d him, we have atomic bombed him, atomic scanned him, twisted him, we have looked at every inch of him and we can’t find anything so I’m at a loss to be honest with you I don’t know what the problem is. Hopefully we get him back soon.”

Well, maybe St. Louis didn’t exactly drop an atomic bomb on the back (Pickett didn’t glow in the dark and there was no mushroom cloud over Rams Park on Saturday), but its doctors have apparently done just about everything else to it. Pickett’s back has gotten bad enough that he has not been practicing much with the team in the past couple weeks and is likely to miss the final two preseason games.

“They have done everything possible to test it so they are really trying to find the problem,” Pickett said. “Everything came back negative so that’s a positive.”

Pickett himself isn’t sure what the problem is, but he knows whatever it is causes him a large amount of pain. Pickett said it’s possible that the problem is strained or pulled muscles in the lower back.

The 330-pound defensive tackle injured the back during the evening practice at Washington University on Aug. 6. Pickett said he injured the back while trying to lift and “toss” center Andy McCollum.

Of course, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Pickett to strain his back while trying to toss a belly, err, man the size of the conservatively listed 300-pound McCollum. After he suffered the injury, though, Pickett was told it wouldn’t take long for him to get back, but he thought otherwise.

“That’s what they initially thought, (but) I didn’t ever think that,” Pickett said. “Not with the kind of pain I was in. It was supposed to be a couple of days, but now they keep finding out more information about it.”

Pickett’s quest for that information has taken him to a variety of places. After an MRI revealed nothing, Pickett spent his Friday having what is called an atomic scan.

So, Dr. Grease, what exactly is an atomic scan?

“They inject me (and) these colors, you can see it on X ray and bones turn into colors and stuff,” Pickett said. “It’s funny. I could tell you about everything. They can see what’s wrong with it by the colors and pictures of stuff I have never even heard of.”

Although that isn’t the exact definition, it isn’t too far off. The procedure involves injecting pigmented colors into the body that will show up and differentiate what is wrong in problem areas.

The doctors found nothing wrong with Pickett during his atomic scan, but Pickett still wakes up each day with pain. He attempted to return to practice a few times, but each time he did, he ended up aggravating the injury and setting himself back further.

Pickett has set a time frame for himself that he would like to meet, but also has a more realistic look at what might be a reasonable return date.

“I wanted to play some of the Kansas City game, but I don’t know if that will happen,” Pickett said. “If I’m not 100 percent by then, I won’t (play). Even if I am 90 percent, I don’t think I can take the chance of hurting it.

“I would go out, my back would be feeling pretty good but not 100 percent and I would re aggravate it and take a step back. This time I am just going to rest it and do rehab and just try to get ready to play the *****.”

Pickett’s absence in the middle of the defense has already had a negative impact as evidenced by the way San Diego ran through it last weekend. Pickett has been one of the team’s top run-stuffers since his 2001 arrival and is one of the more underrated tackles in the NFC.

Pickett had 81 tackles and two sacks last season while drawing most of the blocking attention in the middle. Like Pickett, Martz is confident that the injury won’t keep him out much longer.

“Something is creating pain, it’s real pain,” Martz said. “It just is so we just have to be patient. I don’t believe this is going to be anything that keeps him out for a very long period of time.”

O-LINE SETTLING: Martz said Saturday that the offensive line is starting to come together with the addition of veteran Tom Nütten at left guard.

As it stands, the line features four members of the 2001 Super Bowl team, a thought that only sort of makes Martz nostalgic.

“Only if they are playing good,” Martz said. “It gives you a great feeling because all of the things we have been through together, all the different situations, we have been able to adjust to over the years, with a certain level of confidence also will help Rex (Tucker) out.”

The starting offensive line has seemingly changed every day during camp, but it appears that Martz and his coaching staff has settled on a group of (from left to right): Orlando Pace, Nütten, McCollum, Adam Timmerman and Tucker.

“Knock on wood if there are no injuries, that’s our offensive line guys,” Martz said. “That’s it.”

INJURY CHECK: Cornerback Travis Fisher missed Saturday’s workout because of what Martz is calling a tight back caused by conditioning drills that Martz implemented this week.

“His back just tightened up from all the running the other day,” Martz said. “He’s just so out of shape from when he was injured that his back just tightened up. We are just trying to loosen him up a little bit.”

Martz said he expects Fisher to be fine to play against Detroit on Monday night.

Tight end Roland Williams (knee) and linebacker Louis Ayeni (calf) joined Fisher and Pickett on the sidelines. Williams and Ayeni probably won’t play against the Lions, but Williams could be ready for the preseason finale against the Chiefs.