Inside Slant

—It was a strange sight as the Rams opened their mandatory minicamp last Friday (June 3). That large sight was No. 76, the team's left tackle, Orlando Pace.

Because of being unsigned the last two years as the team's franchise player, Pace missed all of the offseason work each year as well as training camp. This is his first minicamp appearance since 2002 after signing a long-term contract in March.

"It's fun to get out there and just get the football part of it down," Pace said.

His presence wasn't lost on his teammates.

"I'm sure a lot more comfortable with Orlando there," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "Having him around in the offseason is also better for the entire team."

Coach Mike Martz agreed on all accounts.

"No. 1, physically and mentally, it gets him up to speed in a hurry," Martz said. "So in the fall, he'll start at the top of his game. No. 2, the leadership issue, particularly within the offensive line and what he can do for young players as a role model, in terms of his work ethic and skill-wise."

Rookie tackle Alex Barron, who has struggled recently with his adjustment to the NFL, said Pace has been helping him, and that's a benefit in his development.

"I know it's going to be a struggle, but having someone like him there to lean on is a big positive," Barron said.

NOTES, QUOTES

—WR Isaac Bruce did not practice at the start of the team's minicamp because of an abnormality in his heart discovered during a pre-camp physical. Coach Mike Martz explained it as an issue with the rhythm of the heart. Further tests might not be done until Tuesday because the team's cardiac specialist is on vacation.

"His physical showed just a slight abnormality," Martz said. "He had a little glitch."

—Rookie OT Alex Barron was demoted off the first team and Darnell Alford took reps with the first unit at the start of the team's minicamp. Coach Mike Martz said Barron "hit a wall a few days ago and went backward. He got so overwhelmed he could hardly function. We'll let him regroup and catch his breath then throw him back in there."

Martz said because there were only a couple of tackles for OTAs (organized team activities), Barron "got on overload. Whenever he's ready, he's ready."

Barron was the team's first-round pick in April's draft, and had been immediately inserted as the starter at right tackle, after playing mostly left tackle at Florida State.

"It's totally different, playing right tackle," Barron said. "I just have to get adjusted to it. Right now, I'm just taking it one day at a tome."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was shocked. I'm thinking there's a problem with the machine, not me." — WR Isaac Bruce, on being held out of minicamp because an EKG showed an abnormality in his heart.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S Zack Bronson; TE Cam Cleeland; OG Chris Dishman; S Antuan Edwards; DE Erik Flowers; OG Tom Nutten; S Aeneas Williams.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED: S Jerome Carter (4/117).

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: OG Darnell Alford; CB Dwight Anderson; LB Trev Faulk; WR Mike Furrey; FB Joey Goodspeed; RB Arlen Harris; WR Dane Looker; LB Jeremy Loyd; QB Jamie Martin; LS Chris Massey; OT Orlando Pace; OT Blaine Saipaia; P Kevin Stemke; OG Scott Tercero; LB Drew Wahlroos.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: LB Chris Claiborne; LB Dexter Coakley; CB Terry Fair; DE Brandon Green; S Michael Hawthorne; CB Corey Ivy; S Michael Stone; OG Rex Tucker; DE Jay Williams; TE Roland Williams.

PLAYERS LOST: QB Chris Chandler; S Rich Coady; DE Bryce Fisher; OG Matt Lehr; LB Tommy Polley; P Kevin Stemke.