Thursday, September 23, 2004

By Nick Wagoner
Staff Writer

Ryan Pickett and the Rams’ defense are positive that it isn’t as bad against the run as it might have appeared last week.

After all, the group had, perhaps, the most difficult challenge in the league. Quick and shifty running back Warrick Dunn and bruiser T.J. Duckett provide enough of a challenge, but it was No. 7 in red that gave the Rams fits. Quarterback Michael Vick doesn’t discriminate, though, giving every team and every defender an equal opportunity to look foolish.

Pickett said playing against Vick helps against any running quarterback, but he doesn’t know of any like Vick.
“Nobody is faster than Vick,” Pickett said. “I haven’t really seen a human being that is faster than Vick. Anything fits our style except Vick.”

The challenge won’t be as daunting Sunday when New Orleans comes to town. The Saints will likely be without running back Deuce McAllister, who has an ankle injury. His replacement is a combination of RB Aaron Stecker and former top choice Ki-Jana Carter. That pair doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of defenders, but another mobile quarterback backs those two.

Aaron Brooks is that mobile quarterback and his success against the Rams in years past make him dangerous through the air or on the ground. He has run for nearly 1,000 yards in his four-year career. On the other side, St. Louis is allowing an average of 172.5 yards, 29th in the league.

Pickett said that kind of number could give other teams the idea that the run defense isn’t where it needs to be yet.

“I would think that would give them that impression,” Pickett said. “Why wouldn’t you with the kind of success they have had running against us? We definitely feel like we are much better than what we were last week.”

NÜTTEN RETURNS: Offensive guard Tom Nütten returned to practice Wednesday and is getting closer to contributing. Nütten has missed every practice and game since he injured his toe against Washington in the third preseason game. Nütten said the injury was a “severe” case of turf toe, in which he actually dislocated it.

He said the injury might have been a blessing in disguise, though. When Nütten reported to the Rams on August 20, he was well under his playing weight. His excitement about being back in the NFL was ruined by the injury.

“It wasn’t the Cinderella story that I had in mind,” Nütten said. “I try to find the positive in it. If I’m here, I’m going to give it 100 percent and if I can’t go in the field, then I can do it in the weight room, the meeting room and get up to snuff on that. I was able to do that in the last three weeks.”

The injury allowed him to use the time off to lift weights and workout. He has added pounds through the workouts and a little help from center Andy McCollum and guard Adam Timmerman, also known as the “Doughnut Brothers.”
He said the time away from playing has paid off physically.

“It’s pretty much right where I want to be right now,” Nütten said. “My strength went up pretty quick. Thanks to Adam and Andy bringing me one or two (doughnuts) once in awhile. It helped.”

INJURY UPDATE: LB Brandon Chillar was added to the Rams’ injury report Thursday with a foot injury. His status is probable. There were no other changes to the Rams’ injury report from Wednesday, which listed cornerback Travis Fisher (broken forearm) and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (foot) as out; linebacker Trev Faulk (torn hamstring) as doubtful; cornerback DeJuan Groce (sprained knee) and Nütten as questionable; and quarterback Marc Bulger (right elbow), guard Chris Dishman (toe), defensive end Erik Flowers (back), cornerback Kevin Garrett (foot), defensive end Leonard Little (knee) and linebacker Tommy Polley (ribs) as probable.

Fisher, Kennedy, Faulk, Groce and Chillar all missed practice Thursday