Wednesday, November 24, 2004

By Nick Wagoner
Staff Writer

Maybe the Rams should have had practice outside Wednesday afternoon. The snowy, wet conditions in St. Louis might have made for a perfect precursor to the challenge that awaits the Rams on Monday night.

On the NFL’s biggest stage, St. Louis will travel to historic Lambeau Field to take on the Packers. Green Bay in late November is nobody’s idea of a winter getaway and, even if there is no snow or precipitation, it is probably a safe bet that it will, at the least, be frigid.

“Monday night in Green Bay, it doesn’t get any better than that,” coach Mike Martz said.

Quarterback Marc Bulger agrees.

“It should be fun. It will be cold, but playing up there is always something special,” Bulger said. “It’d be like playing at a Notre Dame or Michigan, so it should be a fun experience.”

Armed with an extra day of practice this week because of the Monday night matchup, the Rams will have more time to bounce back from their 37-17 loss to Buffalo last week. St. Louis will make use of all of that time.

The Rams will hold a Thanksgiving Day practice in preparation for Monday night as well as Wednesday’s workout and a practice on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

All of that work will be imperative for a 5-5 Rams team that desperately needs to find some sort of consistency for their playoff run. St. Louis gets a prime opportunity Monday night to make a statement about its playoff future.

The Packers are 6-4 and holding a lead in the NFC North Division. If the Rams can beat them on the road, the Packers will have the same record as St. Louis, which could come in handy if playoff seeding of division winners or a wild card spot comes down to the two teams.

Because of the glut of teams lumped together in the NFC, any win against any team in the conference would be important, but the Rams still have designs on another NFC West Division championship.

St. Louis holds all of the tiebreakers in the division and another win would equal another tiebreaker were the playoff race to come down to it. There are 10 teams in the conference with a record between 4-6 and 6-4, leaving a wide-open race where anyone could end up in the chase.

The recent Rams-Packers matchups would seem to point to another possible St. Louis victory. The Rams earned their first win in their first game as a St. Louis team in 1995 at Lambeau Field. In the past two meetings (2003 and 2001 NFC Divisional Playoff game), St. Louis has outscored Green Bay 79-41 and forced 12 turnovers.

Those performances no doubt give the Rams confidence heading in to Monday night, but those games were also at the Edward Jones Dome. Martz has always said he would hope that his teams would not approach a Monday night game any different than any other game.

Defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said Green Bay will probably have a long memory about those losses, but his team must worry about itself first and foremost.

"I’m sure they have got some added motivation, but we aren’t worried about that,” Jackson said. “We have too much to worry about this week. We just have to take care of what we do.”

LINEUP ALTERATIONS: Martz said Wednesday there will likely be a pair of alterations to the lineup.

Robert Thomas will start at middle linebacker, allowing Trev Faulk to return his focus to special teams, where he excelled at the beginning of the season. Thomas took most of the repetitions with the starting unit Wednesday.

Right tackle Grant Williams will be back at his starting position after he missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury. He was replaced by Blaine Saipaia.

ROSTER SHUFFLE: In their search for help on special teams and the secondary, the Rams released defensive back Tod McBride on Monday. St. Louis signed McBride on Oct. 27, but he wasn’t active until the Buffalo game. He struggled on special teams in that game.

Offensive lineman Terry Wagner was put on the practice squad injured reserve list because of a knee injury he suffered on his first day of practice with the Rams.

Tim Stuber was added to the practice squad to take Wagner’s place. That leaves an opening on the active roster that will probably be filled this week.

INJURY REPORT: Guard Chris Dishman is out once again with a torn MCL. Cornerback DeJuan Groce is doubtful with a sprained left knee.

Receiver Torry Holt, who was the victim of a helmet shot to the knee, is questionable. He didn’t practice Wednesday because of the injury.

The probables are safety Antuan Edwards (groin), defensive end Leonard Little (neck) cornerbacks Travis Fisher (knee) and Kevin Garrett (concussion), defensive end Anthony Hargrove (neck) and tackle Grant Williams (shoulder).

Little didn’t practice Wednesday, either. Martz said he expects Edwards to be active this weekend. Fisher sprained his left knee also against Buffalo, but it was less severe than Groce’s sprain.