Paul Smith may emerge as team's No. 3 tailback
BY STEVE KORTE
News-Democrat
ST. LOUIS - For a guy that has made his mark in the NFL as a special teams player, Paul Smith isn't going to complain about being handed the football.

Smith, 28, has gotten some work at tailback during the Rams' training camp.

Smith spent the last five years -- three with the San Francisco ***** and two with the Detroit Lions -- playing under coach Steve Mariucci and his West Coast offense.

"I've mainly played special teams," Smith said. "That's mainly been my niche in the league. I have filled in at fullback, I have filled in at halfback."

Smith has rushed for 210 yards on 46 carries -- an average of 3.8 yards per carry -- and one touchdown in his career.

"I'm confident that I can at least get three yards a carry," Smith said. "If anything happens to those guys, I'll be able to step in and fill the role."

Don't expect anything fancy out of the 5-foot-11, 237-pound Smith as a ballcarrier.

"I'm a downhill runner," Smith said. "You're not going to see many moves out of me."

Rams coach Scott Linehan said he'd like to bring in another running back, but he's willing to go with Tony Fisher as the backup to starter Steven Jackson.

"I think Fish has done an excellent job," Linehan said. "He can be a No. 2 back. The only concern I have is that he has such a big role, he's such a core (special) teams player.

"I'm not donning him as special teams captain yet. But, he's one of them, one of the best leaders we've got there. The guy does whatever we ask. (He was) very consistent at Green Bay. He's exactly what we're looking for as that (No. 3 back) that could be a (No. 2 back) if we had an injury. Right now, we have no choice but to have him there."

Linehan said Smith also could be an option at tailback in a pinch.

"I think if we were playing a game tomorrow, Steven, Fish, and Paul would be the guys who would carry the majority of the load at tailback spot," Linehan said. "Madison Hedgecock is certainly going to show more as we work the running game and short yardage, and he's an excellent special teams player, so it's a great battle."

Who's the No. 3 quarterback?

Another interesting battle could be the fight for the job of No. 3 quarterback between Dave Ragone and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"Obviously, Ryan has an edge because he's been here with the terminology we're using and had reps with the centers," Linehan said. "Dave has had a couple of quarterback exchange issues, but that happens when a guy hasn't been taking snaps from somebody, especially competitive snaps."

Ragone was acquired in a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals on June 21. He spent the previous three seasons with the Houston Texans.

Ragone does have an edge over Fitzpatrick when it comes to past history with Linehan.

Ragone played for Linehan, then the offensive coordinator at the University of Louisville, from 1999-2001.

"I know what kind of a competitor he is, and his talent will continue to show more and more as he gets more comfortable with what we're doing," Linehan said.

Ragone said Linehan's offense has evolved a lot since the two were together in college.

"It's a lot different," Ragone said. "Coach has added a lot of things depending on the places he has been. I can write it on the chalk board, but it's a lot different when you have to go out there and execute it. I'm curious to see how I perform out there."

Quick hits

Defensive tackle La'Roi Glover was held out of practice Saturday morning after sweating out too much water weight Friday.

"He dropped too much weight last practice," Linehan said. "He got it back to where he was probably medically cleared, but it just didn't make sense. You've got to manage the guys that have extreme weight loss."

Cornerback Tye Hill, the 15th overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, is still unsigned.

"I think it will get done," Linehan said. "Again, my focus hasn't been on that. I'm not letting it affect my energy. I'm putting all of my energy and time into the guys that are here. When Tye does get done, he'll be out here and we'll be accelerating his progress."

Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, who had to leave practice Friday because of leg cramps, was back at work Saturday.