By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
12/30/2005


As third in the line of succession at running back for the Rams, Arlen Harris could find himself plopped into the glare of the national-television spotlight.

First-teamer Steven Jackson is nursing a hip pointer that, according to interim head coach Joe Vitt, has grown worse this week. Jackson's backup, Marshall Faulk, is battling the flulike illness that has struck many of the players in recent weeks.

Vitt said the availability of Jackson and Faulk would be determined Sunday, when the Rams (5-10) close their season against the Dallas Cowboys (9-6) at Texas Stadium.

It also marks the conclusion of the NFL regular season and, after 19 years, is the final Sunday night game to be televised by ESPN. Those telecasts move to NBC next season.

Jackson, who has rushed for 1,046 yards in his second season, was injured two weeks ago against Philadelphia. He gained just 28 yards in 16 carries last week vs. San Francisco and didn't practice this week.

"I thought he'd go today, but he just can't," Vitt said Friday.

Faulk stayed away from Rams Park on Thursday. He returned Friday but did only limited work at practice.

Harris, who has had only six carries for 6 yards all season, has been working with the first unit. He said he's been trying to keep his anticipation level in check.

"I don't want to get too excited," said the 5-foot-10, 212-pound Harris, a three-year veteran. "I'll just wait and see what happens. Whether they go or not, I'll be prepared to go out there and give it my best shot."

Injury report

Jackson was downgraded to questionable on Friday's injury report. Faulk remained probable.

Also listed as questionable were defensive tackles Damione Lewis (knee) and Jimmy Kennedy (groin), wide receiver Dane Looker (knee) and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (hamstring and shoulder). Quarterback Jamie Martin (illness), defensive tackle Brian Howard (illness) and defensive end Tyoka Jackson (groin) were probable.

Award time

When the annual team awards are announced today, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is expected to be a repeat winner of the Carl Ekern Spirit of the Game Award. It goes to the player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, work ethic and commitment to his teammates.

Wide receiver Torry Holt (most valuable player) and tackle Alex Barron (rookie of the year) also are expected to be honored. The awards are determined by a vote of the players.

Rams re-sign two

Linebacker Trev Faulk and offensive lineman Ben Noll have signed contract extensions through the 2006 season. Financial terms were not announced.

Faulk, a fourth-year pro from Louisiana State, has played in all 15 games this season, with starts in the last four. He's collected a career-high 37 tackles on defense plus 13 special-teams stops.

Last year, he was the team leader in special-teams tackles, with 24.

Noll, a St. Louis native (Priory), is in his second NFL season out of Pennsylvania. He was with Dallas before the Rams claimed him off waivers Dec. 2.

He's been inactive for his four games with the club.

Ram-blings

Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer was an assistant coach at Mizzou in 1979 and '80.

The Rams have won their last four Sunday night games.