By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
09/16/2006

FILE PHOTO: Rams offensive linemen Adam Timmerman (left) and Andy McCollum take a break during Rams training camp.
(CHRIS LEE/P-D)

For 113 consecutive games spanning seven seasons, Andy McCollum and Adam Timmerman toiled together within a few of feet of each other on the Rams' offensive line.

Off the field, they were just as close: locker room neighbors, roommates on the road, fellow Doughnut Brothers. Their families vacationed together in the offseason.

That seemingly inseparable tandem was ripped apart last Sunday, when McCollum suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of the 18-10 win over Denver. Suddenly, Timmerman was without his sidekick.

"Not having him there, it's just kind of weird," Timmerman said. "Even the week of practice without him, it's definitely been different."


As usual, Timmerman will be at right guard Sunday when the Rams square off against the ***** in San Francisco. Richie Incognito, formerly the first-team left guard, will line up in McCollum's spot at center. Coach Scott Linehan made that official Friday, while also announcing that veteran Todd Steussie would start at left guard.

Incognito, who hasn't played center in a regular-season game since his freshman year at Nebraska, pronounced himself "confident and ready to go. I feel real comfortable with everything. I got three solid days of practice in, and I'm feeling good."

Still, Timmerman said adapting to new linemates is a challenge. "It's just getting used to whoever's next to me and how those different blocks feel and everything," he said. "Blitz pickups, stunts, linebackers coming, things like that. There's a lot of things where you work together that just feel different. It's been a big adjustment this week. ...

"It's going to be kind of learning on the fly. (Incognito) hasn't had a lot of time to adjust to that position, and not a lot of technique work either, as far as footwork and which way to step and when to back up. It takes time."

And time will tell whether McCollum wants to attempt a 14th NFL season after he has surgery to repair torn ligaments. He'll turn 37 in the offseason.

"We've talked a little bit about it, and I think he will," Timmerman said. "But there's going to be a lot of rehab and a lot of ice between here and there. It's going to be a tough road back."

Versatility rewarded

Sometimes Ron Bartell has to remind himself what position he's playing these days. "Pretty much," he said, laughing. "But it's not a big deal. I welcome it with open arms."

Bartell, a second-round draft choice out of NCAA Division I-AA Howard, saw action in 10 games last year as a rookie, with seven starts: six at right cornerback and one at left corner. The new coaching staff switched him to safety in the spring. At training camp, he moved back to cornerback.

He was activated last Sunday instead of veteran and former starter Jerametrius Butler partly because of his ability to line up at all the secondary spots.

"You never know what could happen," Linehan explained. "You could go through a rash of injuries in the secondary, and you've go to have a guy that has versatility there. Plus, Ronnie has done a great job on our special teams."

Special teams, Bartell conceded, "is my role now. We were pretty bad last year, but we had a pretty good performance (in the opener), especially on the coverage teams. I think you see a totally different mind-set.

"It's a big part of the game. A lot of people overlook special teams, but I think they really helped us win last week. And last year, you definitely saw how they can hurt."

Mark for Bulger

When Marc Bulger connected with wide receiver Torry Holt for a 17-yard gain in the third quarter vs. the Broncos, he reached 1,000 completions faster than any quarterback in NFL history. Bulger got there in 45 games, two games sooner than ex-Rams QB Kurt Warner.

Drew Bledsoe and Peyton Manning needed 48 games, and it took Dan Marino 49.