By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
12/22/2005

Unless the soreness in Steven Jackson's hip eases in the next 24 hours or so, Marshall Faulk figures to have another busy afternoon when the Rams complete their home schedule Saturday against the San Francisco *****.

"I'm feeling a little better, taking it day to day," Jackson said Thursday. "I'm not a doctor. I'm not a miracle worker. I do intend on trying to help my team in pursuing another win. But I've got to make sure everything's OK."

Jackson took a helmet to his left hip in the second quarter of Sunday's 17-16 loss to Philadelphia. He had several carries afterward, but Faulk got most of the work the rest of the way. Faulk wound up with season highs for carries (16) and rushing yards (87). He also caught three passes for 21 yards.

"You play through pain all the time in this game," Jackson said. "It's just one of those things where I really feel like I can't get my burst like I normally can."

Jackson didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday, but interim head coach Joe Vitt indicated he was willing to be patient with his top back, who has 1,018 rushing yards for the season. "I think he'll be OK. We'll have to wait and see," Vitt said. "If he tells me at game time he's ready to go, I trust him."

Martz drops in

Mike Martz visited Rams Park again Thursday, watching part of practice at the indoor facility. Vitt said the two talked briefly.

"For about three minutes," Vitt reported. "He looks good. I was going to ask him how I looked." The Rams are 3-6 since Vitt took over for Martz, including five losses in their last six games.

Looker appreciatesexpanded role

After trying Shaun McDonald, Terry Fair and David Allen, the Rams have turned to Dane Looker as their primary punt returner. He averaged 6.5 yards on four attempts vs. the Eagles in his first such duty since 2003.

"Anything I can do to get on the field a little more, I like," Looker said. "It's an opportunity to make some more plays. I'm glad to be out there."

A wide receiver by trade, Looker has 23 catches for 237 yards this season. He also holds for kicker Jeff Wilkins.

Looker acknowledged that waiting for a punt to arrive while 10 angry foes are bearing down takes some getting used to. "You take one peek when he kicks the ball. You kind of look outside at the gunners and see what kind of release they get," he said. "And then from there, just trust that your guys are going to block for you."

The Rams' 4.7-yard average on punt returns is the lowest in the NFL.

Vitt guarded in remarkson offensive line

Vitt roasted the offensive linemen for their play vs. the Eagles, calling them "soft" and vowing to work them extra hard this week. Eight of the Rams' season-high 15 penalties were called against the offensive line, including a whopping six false-start flags.

Asked Thursday whether the unit had responded in practice, Vitt said: "I like the way we're finishing, I like the way we're coming out of the huddle, I like the way that we're assigning technique. We'll see what happens on Sunday ...

"Because that's what we're getting paid for. We're not getting paid to run around here and do all this stuff. This helps you, but it's a results-oriented business."

Williams to fans:

Hang in there

More than two months after undergoing season-ending knee surgery, tight end Roland Williams was back at Rams Park. He brought with him his usual bubbly, upbeat attitude, plus a plea to disappointed Rams backers.

"You fans that know the St. Louis Rams very well, you know how you can have a horrible season - a la 4-12 (in 1998) - and come back and have a great one," he said, referring to the Super Bowl championship the following season. "So I would recommend to all the real St. Louis fans, don't jump off the bandwagon yet, put away the .45, hold on and wait for things to change."

Ram-blings

Guard Claude Terrell was added to the injury list because of illness. He was listed as probable, as were Jackson, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (ankle), wide receiver Isaac Bruce (toe), safety Jerome Carter (illness), defensive end Leonard Little (ankle) and tackle Rex Tucker (illness). All practiced except for Jackson, Terrell and Tucker. ... The Rams have nine players on injured reserve, including six who were starters at the beginning of the season: quarterback Marc Bulger, cornerbacks Jerametrius Butler and Travis Fisher, linebackers Dexter Coakley and Chris Claiborne, and guard Tom Nutten.