By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Sep. 14 2006
In terms of distance, moving from guard to center is a matter of a few feet.
But take it from Rams offensive lineman Richie Incognito, actually playing the
two positions is "two totally different worlds."
"It's the difference between chess and backgammon," Incognito said. "Center's a
thinking man's sport. You've got to react to what they're giving you. And
you've got to let everybody know what's going on."
So center would be the chess game?
"Center definitely would be chess," Incognito said.
And that makes the guard position backgammon.
"Just let it roll," Incognito said. "Roll those dice. Roll it and go."
Although there has been no official announcement, it looks as if Incognito will
be switching from backgammon to chess Sunday in San Francisco. After starting
at left guard in the season opener against Denver, Incognito got a substantial
amount of work at center in Wednesday's practice at Rams Park.
With Incognito at center, veteran Todd Steussie comes off the bench to play
left guard. That puts Larry Turner, who replaced injured Andy McCollum at
center against the Broncos, back on the bench.
The fact that Turner was not around during the open locker room session with
the media Wednesday was telling, perhaps indicating that a decision has all but
"I'm sure Larry probably feels like we don't have confidence in him," coach
Scott Linehan said. "I explained to him (that) it has nothing to do with that.
What's going to happen now is we've got to give ourselves depth at the
position. ... And we've got to do our best as coaches to try to get what we
feel, or think, is our best five" on the field. As in, the best five offensive
Other than some work last spring in minicamps, Incognito hasn't played center
since his redshirt freshman season at the University of Nebraska, when he
started a couple of games at the position. As Incognito sees it, there isn't
much similarity between playing center in college and doing so in the NFL.
"In college, it was, 'OK, I've got the guy over me, I'm just going to maul
him,'" Incognito said. "That was it."
In the NFL, there's more responsibility to the position, because in a sense,
the center is directing traffic by making line calls -- adjustments at the line
just before the snap.
"The center does most of it," Turner said in an interview Monday. "But the
other guys help to alert. The line calls are the difference between Marc
(Bulger) getting up clean, not getting touched, or Marc getting put on his
back. In those few seconds before the snap, you're looking at safeties, how the
linebackers are aligned. If you study the tape and you see what kind of
tendencies they give you, you know what to look for. So if you get that look
... you know exactly what you're going to call."
The line calls can affect the blocking schemes on running plays and pass
protections. But with McCollum out for the season with a knee injury, Linehan
is more concerned with simply getting a clean snap from the center to Bulger
"The important thing is getting that ball up to the quarterback so we can begin
playing," Linehan said. "I'm not as worried about (line calls) as I am making
sure we handle the exchange without any problems."
Except for the 2003 season, when Dave Wohlabaugh was the center and McCollum
played left guard, Bulger has had only McCollum as his center.
"That was nerve-wracking having Larry come in" against Denver, Bulger said.
"Not because I didn't think he could play, but just because it's a different
feel under there. And you just don't know where the ball's going to come. My
main concern when Larry came in was getting the snaps and not turning the ball
Consistency is the thing. With a new center, it's just a matter of Bulger
getting a feel for, uh, where exactly to place his hands.
"I'll eventually find out where the sweet spot is, so to speak," Bulger said.
"Andy would put it in the same place every time, so I knew where to go.
"Sometimes in college more than the pros, we'd get a center that was a little
bit right sometimes. A little bit short. A little bit deep. You've just got to
find a comfort level. ... Hopefully, I can develop that over the next couple of
days with someone else."
For insurance, the Rams signed center Brett Romberg off Jacksonville's practice
squad Tuesday. Guard-tackle Adam Goldberg, acquired in a trade with Minnesota
on Sept. 2 , played two exhibition games at center for the Vikings in the 2005
"The more you can do," Goldberg said. "I can also mop the floor and make a mean