By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
Tuesday, Aug. 16 2005


Finding offensive lineman Blaine Saipaia at Rams Park isn't easy. He could be
at any of several positions on the practice field, creating a niche for himself
as a reliable utility man.


He could be at right guard or left guard, right tackle or left tackle. He's
even been training as a long-snapper, where, coach Mike Martz says, "He's a
natural."


There is no truth to the rumor, however, that the Rams have asked him to
develop himself into an emergency backup punter and kicker.


"But I have been working on my punting skills," Saipaia reported
with a sly smile. "Haven't kicked off the tee yet, though."


Saipaia, a Colorado State product, maintains a simple philosophy about his
versatility: "Whatever I can do, wherever it is, I'm going to go out there and
do the best I can," he said.


Martz maintains that the 6-foot-3, 315-pound native of Oxnard, Calif., is best
suited for an inside spot.


"He's really got great potential as a guard for us," Martz said. "But he does
fine at tackle. He doesn't have the body type, with the big reach, that you're
looking for. But you can play him out there and do fine."


Saipaia, 26, spent four years scuffling for work in the league before the Rams
signed him last September to shore up an injury-ravaged offensive line. He'd
played in just one NFL game - on special teams for Oakland in December 2003 -
and was on the inactive list for the first eight games last year before getting
his chance.


He played in all eight of the remaining regular-season contests, plus both
playoff games. He started seven times, all at right tackle. That's also where
he was when training camp started three weeks ago. Since then, he's been
switching between guard and tackle.


"It's very demanding; it takes a lot of focus. You've really got to concentrate
on your techniques and your assignments," Saipaia said. "Sometimes when you get
tired, it's really hard. Like Coach says, that's where that championship effort
comes in, when you've got to really buckle down and focus on your job. ... I've
been working a lot more at guard lately, so I think the comfort level there is
(building). As far as tackle, going to the left and right, it's definitely a
task."


Saipaia, who took reps at left guard with the first team Tuesday afternoon,
isn't complaining, though.


"It's worth it," he said, "because I love playing."


Good news on Chillar

Martz practically danced a jig upon learning that linebacker Brandon Chillar's
shoulder injury is less serious than feared. It's been diagnosed as rotator
cuff inflammation.


"We were really frightened he might have damaged it somehow. We're very
relieved," Martz said.


Chillar, a fourth-round draft pick last year out of UCLA, probably won't
practice for two to three weeks, though.


"I just want to make sure that his strength in that shoulder is back to what it
needs to be," Martz said.



Thompson practices

On Monday, Martz estimated that the broken hand suffered by cornerback Duvol
Thompson in Friday night's exhibition opener would keep him on the sideline for
two weeks. Yet on Tuesday, Thompson was back at practice, the hand in a splint
and wrapped.


"There's nothing wrong with my legs, so whatever I can do in practice, I'm
willing to do," said Thompson, an undrafted rookie from Penn who acknowledged
that he can ill-afford to miss any time in his long-shot bid to earn a roster
spot.


"It's been an uphill battle, but I'm just trying to do as much as I can,"
Thompson said. "Special teams, learning the defense as well as I can, and just
play with as much intensity as I can, show the coaches that I'm willing to do
what it takes to make the team. ... I'm just going to keep pushing as hard as I
can.



Single practice today will be closed

The team will practice once today, at 8:30 a.m. Because the spectators' parking
lot is muddy, the session will be closed to the public.