Friday, January 4, 2008

By Nick Wagoner

Senior Writer

If it’s possible to benefit from the avalanche of injuries that plagued his team during the 2007 season, coach Scott Linehan has found the only silver lining.

“I was joking with someone the other day that one of the benefits of having as many injuries as we had as early as we did is that a lot of guys have had their surgeries and are well on their way to recovery hopefully,” Linehan said.

Indeed, most of the Rams who found themselves on the injured reserve list well before the end of the season have already had their respective surgeries to repair whatever it was that ailed them.

Left tackle Orlando Pace has long since had surgery on the torn labrum in his shoulder. Defensive end Leonard Little is on his way to recovery from foot surgery. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, cornerback Tye Hill, linebacker Raonall Smith, guard Richie Incognito, guard Mark Setterstrom, tackle Adam Goldberg, tight end Aaron Walker, returner Dante Hall and running back Travis Minor have all either had their procedures done or had plenty of time for rest and recovery from injuries not requiring surgery.

By the time the team comes back for offseason workouts, organized team activities and minicamps, most if not all of those players will be ready to participate.

But, not all injuries suffered have been corrected. The Rams have a few pressing issues to be taken care of in the coming days and weeks.

At the top of the list is defensive tackle Adam Carriker. Carriker suffered a torn labrum similar to Pace’s in the season finale against Arizona on Dec. 30. Carriker injured the shoulder late in the first half and tried to play through it before coming out for good.

Carriker had made a strong impression on coaches and teammates as a rookie, becoming a force in the middle of the defensive line. Carriker earned the team’s Rookie of the Year honors for his efforts.

Now, Carriker will miss about six months after having the surgery on his shoulder and Linehan is hopeful he can return in time for training camp at the end of the summer.

“That will take a while,” Linehan said. “It’s not something he won’t recover from and he’ll be ready to go next year, but it will take a while. He is the one right now that is having something significant done.”

Elsewhere, starting linebacker Brandon Chillar will need surgery on his ankle to have some bone spurs removed. Chillar played through some injury issues toward the end of the season before missing the regular season finale.

Tackle Todd Steussie will have a similar surgery on his ankle after returning to the team late in the season. Steussie was one of the original injuries for the Rams this season, setting off the plague that permeated the team and, especially, the offensive line for most of the season.

All told, four offensive line starters missed at least four games with injury and of the group that was projected to start the bulk of the season, that group missed a combined 44 games. Only tackle Alex Barron missed no time because of injury, though he played all but one game on the left side.

Steussie and Chillar are scheduled for unrestricted free agency.

“That’s our focus right now is to make sure those guys get their surgeries done as soon as possible so they can get themselves rehabbed right away,” Linehan said.

The only other injury unaccounted for by a surgery is that of long snapper Chris Massey. Massey played out the end of the season with what Linehan calls a “sports hernia.”

Massey will need to have surgery on his abdomen to correct the problem.

“That won’t be a problem for him,” Linehan said. “From what I am told, it will be something that will be ready to go as soon as we get back in our offseason program and OTAs so that shouldn’t be a problem either.”