By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
12/14/2005



First Jeremy Calahan got a deer. Then he got a promotion.

"It was a great day," said Calahan, a defensive lineman who learned when he returned from his successful hunting foray Tuesday that he'd been moved from the Rams' practice squad to the 53-man active roster.

"I'm very excited. I called everybody in the family and let them know," said Calahan, an undrafted rookie from Rice who was among nine free agents signed April 25, the day after the draft. Another member of that group, defensive end Clifford Dukes of Michigan State, also was elevated from the practice squad, as was tight end Jerome Collins, a fifth-round draft choice out of Notre Dame.

"When I found out, I was jumping up and down," Collins said. "I couldn't wait to get (to Rams Park) and start meeting with the tight ends coach to get a jump-start on this weekend. I'm ready to go."

To create room on the roster, the Rams placed cornerback Travis Fisher (groin) on injured reserve and released tight end Cam Cleeland and return specialist David Allen.

Running back Derrick Knight and offensive lineman Drew Strojny were signed to the practice squad. Coincidentally, they were teammates at Xaverian Brothers High in Westwood, Mass.

The roster shuffling appeared to be made with an eye toward the future, but interim head coach Joe Vitt insisted that wasn't necessarily the case. "All the moves that we've made we think are going to give us the best chance to win our next football game," he said. "We brought some of the young kids up that have worked hard all year. They deserved a chance."

Calahan said he was "very surprised. I didn't have any idea at all. I got a couple of reps (in practice) last week because Brian Howard was out with a concussion, and that was the first time all year. That was nice, but I didn't really expect anything." Collins said: "This is definitely an audition for next year and the years coming, if not here, somewhere else. I want to make sure that when they see me on the field, I can contribute."

Morgan's debut

Calahan, Collins and Dukes hope to follow the same path as offensive tackle Matt Morgan. He spent nearly two full years on the practice squad before getting his shot at regular-season action.

Morgan suited up for the first time Nov. 27 at Houston, but didn't play. On Sunday in Minnesota, though, he got in for five plays at left tackle while Orlando Pace rested a groin injury. Morgan held his own until Pace returned.

"I wasn't nervous," Morgan said. "A couple of guys came up to me before I went out there and told me to take a couple of breaths, you'll be fine, it's nothing different than practice. That helped me out a lot."

Playing in an NFL game is "pretty much your dream when you started out playing football," he said. "It's great to actually to fulfill that dream. Hopefully, I can continue it." Faulk steps up

With Allen gone, several players are trying out for return jobs. The group comprises Dane Looker, Aveion Cason and Chris Johnson, plus future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk.

"Marshall volunteered," Vitt said. Asked if that surprised him, Vitt said, "No, not with him. He wants to contribute."

Ram-blings

With his right hand and wrist heavily taped, Alex Barron returned to practice Wednesday. Vitt said he expected Barron, who missed two games after undergoing surgery for ligament damage in his thumb, to start at at right tackle Sunday vs. Philadelphia. ... Although he was listed as "questionable" on the week's first injury report, cornerback Ron Bartell (ankle) said, "I'll definitely be ready to play on Sunday."