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Rams ready to plug Saipaia in at right tackle
BY STEVE KORTE
ST. LOUIS - As the St. Louis Rams' starting right tackle, Blaine Saipaia isn't exactly shivering in his cleats about the prospect of going against Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers.
"You have to respect the man, but just because you respect him doesn't mean you have to fear him," Saipaia said.
Saipaia (pronounced SY-puh-EE-uh) bounced around the NFL for four seasons before signing with the Rams on Sept. 8. He's been on the practice squads for the New Orleans Saints, the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, waiting and hoping for the opportunity that he's now getting with the Rams.
"I am going to go out there and play like there is no tomorrow because there has been times in my career where there was no tomorrow," Saipaia said. "You have to cherish it every time you get to go out and play."
Saipaia is the Rams' fourth starting right tackle since Kyle Turley aggravated a back injury early in training camp.
Turley was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. Martz said he's unaware of Turley's future plans because he hasn't heard from him.
"I have no idea where he is or whether he wants to play or can play," Martz said. "I have no idea about any of that. I have not seen him."
Martz complained about Turley failing to return his telephone calls a couple of weeks after the seven-year NFL veteran left training camp.
"He wouldn't answer any of my calls," Martz said. "I called him probably 20 times, and he never answered a call. I finally did talk to him, he was very short, very abrupt. He didn't want to talk, and that was it."
Asked if Turley might retire after the season, Martz said, "You're asking the wrong guy. You have to ask Kyle about that one."
Turley's absence has left a void at right tackle that the Rams have had trouble filling.
Grant Williams and Scott Tercero both struggled at times at the position. The two also were hit with injuries as Williams has battled shoulder and elbow problems and Tercero was lost for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
"I'm well-aware of that," Martz said of right tackle being a problem spot. "You look at the situation where everything else is settled and ready to go, and we're unsettled there.
"Hopefully, we can get settled in now with Blaine. He's going to struggle at times, but he is a tough guy who is competitive and he has great feet."
Martz said Saipaia has the kind of athleticism to be able to effectively block Peppers.
"He's a guy we looked at and felt like he was going to be one of our future starters here eventually," Martz said Saipaia. "Just when it was going to happen, I didn't know. He has the athleticism to line up on the edge and block a guy like Peppers.
"With the feet and the strength and all of those things, the experience is going to be a bit of a factor, so we are going to need to help him."
Peppers was the NFC Defensive Player of the Month in November producing an NFL-high seven sacks. He has nine sacks on the season, tying him for fourth in the NFC.
"He's a speed guy, but he can use his speed to set up his power," Saipaia said of Peppers. "If I can stay balanced and just stay with him, I should be OK."
Saipaia said going against Rams defensive end Leonard Little in practice should help prepare him for Peppers.
"I've got Leonard Little to practice against day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out, and there are not very many that are better," Saipaia said.
Saipaia also noted that he played against Green Bay defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila when he was in college at Colorado State and Gbaja-Biamila was at San Diego State.
"I have played against guys like this before," Saipaia said. "Whoever lines up against me, I am going to accept the challenge."
Saipaia said he didn't think he'd be nervous against the Panthers. He got a lot of the butterflies out of his system during his first NFL start three weeks ago against the Buffalo Bills.
"Now I don't have hyperactive energy," Saipaia said. " I'll still have energy out there and I'll still go out there competing, but I think I'll be a little more relaxed and a little more focused this time around."
Martz said he reviewed film of Saipaia's performance against the Bills before declaring him the starter at right tackle earlier this week.
"When we went back and looked at that Buffalo tape, we were very impressed with his first start," Martz said. "I have great confidence in him."
Re: Rams ready to plug Saipaia in at right tackle"I am going to go out there and play like there is no tomorrow because there has been times in my career where there was no tomorrow," Saipaia said. "You have to cherish it every time you get to go out and play."[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
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