By Bill Coats

Since he was cut by the Rams on Sept. 3, quarterback Jeff Smoker had tryouts in Indianapolis, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Miami and Buffalo. But he kept his home in St. Louis.

"I lived here with my girlfriend. We had an apartment and we had all our stuff here," Smoker explained. "So we figured until something else was shaking, we'd just kind of hang here."

Prudent decision, as it turned out. On Wednesday, the Rams rehired Smoker, a sixth-round draft pick last year, after starting quarterback Marc Bulger suffered a shoulder injury Monday night that will keep him out of the Rams' home game vs. New Orleans on Sunday, and probably longer.

Jamie Martin takes over with the first team, and rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick - whose strong showing during training camp cost Smoker his job with the Rams - will be the backup. Smoker, signed to the practice squad, returns to the third-quarterback role that he filled throughout the 2004 season.

"I just want to kind of get back in the swing of things, get back to throwing the football again, get back with the guys and ... basically, just get back into football," said Smoker, who practiced Thursday at Rams Park. "I miss the competition, I miss the guys and the camaraderie."

Smoker knows that his time here will be based on the length of Bulger's absence. But he said he's optimistic about finding work elsewhere in 2006.

"I've been having great workouts," he said. "A lot of the teams said they really liked me and that they really wanted me for next year, that they had their three spots filled this year."

Smoker said it was difficult to keep his arm in shape. "I haven't had much of a chance to throw," he said. "I don't have anybody to throw to, really."

Not even his girlfriend?

"Oh, I'd break her nose," he said, laughing.

Holt nurses bruise

Wide receiver Torry Holt said his bruised right knee slowed him in the latter stages of the Rams' 45-28 loss Monday at Indianapolis. Holt was the Rams' leading receiver, with six receptions for 70 yards, but he didn't have a catch in the second half.

"When I first started out, it felt good," he said. "Then as the game went on ... the soreness started to kick in. But I was able to fight through it. I didn't have a whole lot to give late in the fourth quarter."

Hurt Oct. 9 vs. Seattle, Holt said he expected that continued treatment would get him close to full speed. "Hopefully this week, with more rehab and more work on it, I'll be able to sustain four quarters," he said.

The Rams' other first-team wideout, Isaac Bruce, "gets better every day," interim head coach Joe Vitt said. Bruce has missed three games since suffering a "turf toe" injury in the first half against Tennessee on Sept. 25.

Incognito impresses

Rookie offensive lineman Richie Incognito practiced for the first time with the team Thursday. Incognito, a third-round draftee who worked at center and guard Thursday, had been recovering from a knee injury that he suffered last spring. He signed a four-year contract Sept. 29 and was placed on the reserve/non-foot- ball injury list.

Under NFL rules, the Rams have three weeks from Thursday to decide whether to activate Incognito or put him on injured reserve.

Practice absences

First-team defensive ends Leonard Little and Anthony Hargrove missed practice. Little is with his family after the shooting death Monday of his 24-year-old brother, Jermaine, in Harriman, Tenn. Hargrove was sick Thursday.