By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Aug. 21 2007

Dominique Thompson never saw the defender coming, so he never braced himself
for the blow.

"He had a clear shot at my ribs," Thompson said. "I don't have any hard
feelings. But I didn't see it all. I didn't see him coming at all."

The collision with Minnesota safety Mike Doss left Thompson with two displaced
ribs on an end-around play in the Rams' exhibition opener Aug. 10.

Undrafted out of William & Mary in 2005, Thompson has toiled for two-plus
seasons to make the Rams' roster at wide receiver. Except for a four-game stint
on the active roster in 2005, in which he appeared in two games and caught one
pass, he has spent the rest of his time on the practice squad.

Practice-squad players participate in practice but cannot play in games. Their
pay: About $80,000 for a full season, or less than one-third of what the
lowest-paid rookie makes on the regular roster.

"I really love playing football," said Thompson, who has an economics degree.
"It's something that I'm going to exhaust until I can't play

anymore, whether it be because of injury or I feel like it's time for me to
step away from it. But I'm going to try to play football as long as I can."

For the first two weeks of training camp, it looked like the hard work would
pay off for Thompson. Despite suffering a dislocated pinky finger on the first
day of camp, Thompson caught nearly everything thrown his way.

"I feel like I am a better receiver, for the simple fact that I have a better
feel for the routes," Thompson said at the time. "I understand the offense a
lot better, so I know where I need to be on certain plays. I understand hot
routes off of blitzes and everything. So I just feel more comfortable with my
receiver play."

With some of the team's established veterans getting lighter workloads in
practice, Thompson even got a decent amount of work with the starting offense.
Before the Minnesota game, coach Scott Linehan called him one of the team's
most improved players.

"He doesn't see himself as a practice-squad player, as a guy that's being
developed," Linehan said. "He sees himself as a guy that's going to make the
active roster and be a guy that can play in this league. Preseason is huge for
him."

But then came the rib injury. Thompson sat out the San Diego game. He was back
on the practice field Monday, but was wearing the red "no-contact" jersey. It's
uncertain whether he will play in Friday's exhibition game in Oakland. The
original prognosis was that it would be a two- or three-week injury.

"I don't think any player wants to know or hear that they're injured, and may
be out for some time," Thompson said. "But I'm just going to try to do what I
can to rehab, and get back as soon as possible."

With Thompson out, second-year man Marques Hagans and rookie Derek Stanley have
made a push for a roster spot. All three players may be fighting for one job,
and based on his production against Minnesota and San Diego, it looks like
Hagans has played his way into the lead.

Hagans has seven receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown in the preseason, and
has returned two punts for 33 yards and one kickoff for 30 yards.

When asked if Hagans has shown enough to earn a roster spot, Linehan said:
"He's making progress towards that. I think he's taking great advantage of the
opportunities he's getting, that he maybe wouldn't have gotten had we not had
an injury to (Thompson)."

A college quarterback at Virginia, Hagans was a fifth-round draft pick in 2006
who spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad. He has improved to
the point where he no longer looks like a project at receiver. Stanley, a
seventh-round pick from Wisconsin-Whitewater, doesn't look out of his element
with five catches for 74 yards in exhibition play.

With cutdown days approaching, no wonder Thompson says he's "got to get back
out there. I'm anxious to get back on the field."

WIDE RECEIVERS: Who's safe, not save


Tuesday, Aug. 21 2007

Wide receivers in camp: 13

Likely to make final roster: 6

Safe & sound: Drew Bennett, Isaac Bruce, Dante Hall, Torry Holt, Dane Looker

On the bubble: Marques Hagans, Derek Stanley, Dominique Thompson

Probably not: Fred Gibson, Rasheed Marshall, Nate Morton, Shaine Smith, Markee
White

Rosters must be trimmed to 75 by Aug. 28 and 53 by Sept. 1.