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Rams' Furrey makes impact in hurry
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch

Wide recevier Mike Furrey, shown above in a game on Nov. 14, made his presences felt on the Rams' special teams Saturday.
(Gabriel B. Tait/P-D)


When Mike Furrey was handed a game ball by Mike Martz in the visitors' locker room at Qwest Field on Saturday in Seattle, it was a telling statement of the importance of team, and being ready when called upon.

One year ago Furrey was one of the pleasant surprises of the 2003 Rams season. Undrafted out of Northern Iowa, Furrey had stints in the now-defunct XFL and the Arena Football League before latching on with the Rams in April of 2003.

He not only made the Rams' roster but made his presence felt over the second half of that season. Eighteen of his 20 catches were in the final seven games, a period in which he also returned punts.

But with fellow wide receivers Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald healthy this season, Furrey became a forgotten man on the depth chart. In the regular season he was designated as a pregame inactive eight times, including the final seven contests.

Even when he suited up, he was reduced almost exclusively to special-teams duty. His only reception of the season - good for 8 yards - was in the Nov. 14 game against Seattle. That turned out to be the last time he played in the regular season.

"It was frustrating from the beginning," Furrey said. "I was doing the best I could on special teams, and I kind of started getting comfortable in that role. But you've got to understand, injuries start hitting and there's only so many people you can dress. Dressing six receivers is rare."

After he finished the 2003 season as the team's No. 4 wide receiver, the emergence of Curtis and McDonald pushed Furrey down to No. 6 this season.

"So it's been tough," Furrey said. "But on the other hand, I just go to practice every day and try to get better. And if I'm called up, I just go out there and do the best I can."

It was on a practice day, Friday, when Furrey found out he would dress for the playoff game in Seattle. Furrey had just finished watching film in a team meeting when Martz gave him the word.

"I gave him the thumb's up, and I was ready to go," Furrey said. "I wasn't going to let (the team) down. I was going to play my heart out."

In his first game in nearly two months, Furrey didn't have the luxury of easing into action.

"On our very first kickoff, they ran the wedge right at me," Furrey said. "So I just tried to tear up the wedge the best I could."

Furrey did just that, stacking up the Seahawks' blockers, which helped Brandon Chillar tackle return man Maurice Morris after a modest 19-yard return.

Furrey made the tackle on the Rams' second kickoff, dropping Morris for only a 13-yard return. By game's end, Morris had averaged only 18.2 yards on six returns, with no return longer than 21 yards. On only one of those six returns did Seattle begin its possession outside its 29-yard line.

For the Rams' beleaguered kickoff coverage unit, which was torched by the Jets' Jerricho Cotchery the previous week, the day's work was a rare shining moment.

In presenting the game ball to Furrey, Martz was recognizing his contribution to that effort, while also underscoring the fact that it takes all 53 players to win a game. (Well, all 46 who dress on game day.)

Furrey said getting the game ball "was pretty emotional. It was something that I dreamt about since I was a little kid - to be able to come up here and do things like that. I was just blessed to be able to do it (Saturday)."

He's even grown accustomed to busting the wedge, all 185 pounds of him.

"It's something crazy, but it's fun to do," Furrey said. "Who cares what you do? You just want to help the team win."

Furrey wasn't the only Rams player to shake off cobwebs in Saturday's 27-20 first-round victory over Seattle. With defensive captain Tyoka Jackson scratched because of an ankle injury, defensive end Erik Flowers dressed for the first time since Nov. 21 when the Rams lost in Buffalo.

Flowers didn't just play special teams Saturday. He spent quite a bit of time at defensive end - in part because of Jackson's injury, and in part because Leonard Little's work was limited because of a groin injury.

"Erik's been on the shelf, really, for like six or seven weeks," Jackson said. "He comes off (the bench), gets a hit on the quarterback."

According to unofficial press box stats, Flowers was credited with two tackles from scrimmage and one special-teams stop.

Not that Flowers remembered too many of the particulars. Sometime in the second half, he got flattened, suffered a concussion and still was woozy in the locker room.

"It was great getting back out there," Flowers said. "There's not too much I remember. I won't lie to you. Apparently we won, so that's a positive.

"I'm starting to remember Cam (Cleeland)'s touchdown. That was with 2:11 to go, and that's pretty much about it. And then we came into the locker room and everybody was telling me what happened."