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Rams Notebook: Turk looks past punt numbers
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
When it comes to punting, numbers do lie. Take the Rams' Matt Turk, for example.
Turk's punts have traveled an average of 42.8 yards, a distance exceeded by 25 others in the NFL. But Turk's net average is 38.5 yards, No. 9 in the league, and the Rams rank third in punt coverage, permitting just 6.2 yards per return.
"That's why you can't always go by the numbers," Turk said. "A lot of guys look at the gross (average). I've always tried to take pride in my hang time and give my cover team a chance to get down the field and make a play."
Turk, 6 feet, 5 inches and 240 pounds, also has dropped 39.4 percent of his 33 punts inside the 20-yard line, the second-best percentage in the league.
"We've got a great long-snapper (Chris Massey), who makes it easy on me, and we've got some great cover guys," Turk said. "So, my job is just to give them a chance, not out-kick my coverage. If we do that, we'll help win the field-position battle."
Turk, in his 12th pro season, has solidified an area that has been deficient since the late 1990s. The Rams tried a host of punters — they even drafted one, Ball State's Reggie Hodges, in 2005 — with little success.
Last year, with Bryan Barker doing much of the punting, the Rams yielded 10.5 yards a return. Only three teams had a poorer average.
"Matt's done exactly what we wanted," coach Scott Linehan said. "Our punt coverage team has been one of our strong points, and you've got to have a punter to do that. The punter's got to hang it up there, and he's done a great job of that."
Turk, 36, was a Pro Bowl selection in 1997, 1998 and 1999, when he was with the Washington Redskins. Since then, he spent five years in two stints with Miami, and one with the New York Jets.
Last year in Miami, he was enjoying what he termed "the best training camp I've ever had" when he tore a groin muscle. He was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. A month later, he was released.
When Linehan was hired by the Rams, he remembered Turk's strong preseason showing and signed him April 4. Turk, who beat out Andy Groom in camp, said he hasn't had further groin problems.
"Thank God, no; I feel great," he said. "I'm still not 100 percent as far as my endurance and my strength, but I'm getting there. I think it's going to continue to get a little bit better every week."
Curtis appears ready
The right side of wide receiver Kevin Curtis' chest and abdomen is bruised and tender after Kansas City safety Sammy Knight laid him out on a 23-yard reception on the last play Sunday. Still, Curtis practiced Wednesday and will be ready for this week's NFC West showdown at Seattle.
"I actually feel pretty good, a lot better than I thought I would," Curtis said. "Once I started going full speed, it was a little sore. But nothing that will hold me back too much."
Asked whether he considered the hit, which occurred with the Chiefs' victory assured, a cheap shot, Curtis said, "I don't know how necessary it was, but it definitely was a clean hit. So, I have no complaints."
Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (hand) was listed as questionable on the week's first injury report. Defensive end Leonard Little (knee), safety Jerome Carter (elbow) and linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski (hip) were probable.
Three key members of the Seahawks' offense were listed as doubtful: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (knee), running back Shaun Alexander (foot) and tackle Sean Locklear (ankle).
After a three-game exile, J.R. Reed is back as the Rams' primary kick returner. Reed averaged 20.2 yards on 14 attempts in the first five games, then was inactive for the next three as injuries in the secondary forced Linehan to juggle his game-day rosters.
Curtis returned kicks for one game, and then Tony Fisher took over for the last two. Fisher suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday, and Linehan has decided that Curtis isn't the answer.
"I just needed to be patient and wait my turn," Reed said. "I've gotten a lot of rest. That's a positive."
Mascoutah's Terry Moeller is the Rams' high school coach of the week after the Indians ousted Mount Zion 35-20 in the Illinois Class 4A playoffs. The Rams Foundation and NFL Charities will make a $1,000 donation to the school's football program. ... Six of the last eight Rams-Seahawks meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer. On Nov. 6, Seattle prevailed 30-28 at the Edward Jones Dome on Josh Brown's 54-yard field goal on the final snap.
Re: Rams Notebook: Turk looks past punt numbers
Turk has been terrific in my view. THe special teams are the single biggest area of improvement on the entire team.
ramming speed to all