By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
10/05/2006


Fullback Paul Smith is definitely out, but left tackle Orlando Pace might be in for Sunday's game at Green Bay.

Pace practiced Wednesday for the first time in a week and a half, although he was held out of some drills.

"I got some work in and now I just want to see how I react," Pace said. "But everything looked fine."

The seven-time Pro Bowler suffered a concussion Sept. 17 at San Francisco. He sat out the second half and didn't practice until Friday the following week.
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Pace played the whole game Sept. 24 at Arizona, but he suffered headaches for several days afterward. He was unable to practice last week and didn't play Sunday in the 41-34 victory over Detroit, the first game he had missed since the 2003 season.

"I feel a hundred times better this week," said Pace, who was listed as questionable on Wednesday's injury report. "No headaches, no pain. My head's pretty clear."

The key, Pace said, is how he responds as he gradually steps up his activity.

"We'll see how I feel and then we'll go from there," he said. "Hopefully I'll participate in everything" at practice today.

Eventually he'll have to demonstrate that he can withstand contact. "The doctors really want to see how that is," Pace said. "If that's fine, then I'll be ready to play."

Veteran Todd Steussie started in Pace's usual spot Sunday, with Adam Goldberg at left guard. Steussie will move back to left guard when Pace returns.

Meanwhile, Smith, in addition to suffering a concussion, has what coach Scott Linehan described as "a couple of small fractures around the orbital area" near his left eye when he slammed into the wedge on a kickoff return.

Smith and Detroit's Frank Davis, who sustained a neck injury on the play, spent Sunday night in Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Linehan said Smith, who won't need surgery, probably will remain on the sideline Oct. 15, when the Rams meet NFC West rival Seattle at the Edward Jones Dome. The team's bye week follows, and "it looks like a good chance that he should be ready to at least have a shot" to play Oct. 29 in San Diego, Linehan said.

Cornerback Fakhir Brown (ankle) also was limited at practice Wednesday and was "probable" on the injury list.

Rookie ready to play

Madison Hedgecock will take over for Smith as the first-team fullback, and Linehan hinted that rookie tight end Dominique Byrd might suit up vs. the Packers as a reserve option. Byrd, a third-round draft choice, was inactive the first four games.

"Dominique got some reps" Wednesday, Linehan said. "Assuming he has a good week of practice, he would certainly be someone that could fill that void. Not as a fullback, but maybe an H-back type of a guy. If we needed to have someone in the backfield or out wide, he could do that. ...

"He's been kind of inching his way back into getting a chance to get active on Sundays. Hopefully he takes advantage of this opportunity this week."

Byrd has been left off the 45-man game roster mainly because of blocking deficiencies. He acknowledged being frustrated, but added: "I take it in stride and try to learn everything that I can. I have to be patient. If my number is called, I just want to be ready."

Bad kick, good result

What appeared to be a perfect squib kick for a key touchback in the last 2 minutes Sunday "was actually more of a mis-hit," kicker Jeff Wilkins said.

The Rams had just taken a 41-34 lead when Wilkins sent the ensuing kickoff bouncing into the end zone and, most important, out of the hands of the Lions' Eddie Drummond, who already had returns of 65 and 41 yards.

"I tried to come up on (the ball) to drive it a little deeper and I just hit it a little fat," Wilkins said. "It really worked out."

Ram-blings

The Rams' top tacklers are free-agent signees: linebacker Will Witherspoon (39 tackles), strong safety Corey Chavous (28) and Brown (22). ... The Packers (1-3) are 0-2 at Lambeau Field, with losses to Chicago (26-0) and New Orleans (34-27). ... Former Rams reserve Arlen Harris was one of six free-agent running backs who had tryouts with Seattle on Tuesday. Harris, released after the 2005 season, signed with Detroit but was cut Sept. 8.