Thursday, September 15, 2005

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

For any offensive player in the NFL, 89 plays would be enough to wear down even the best athletes. For an offensive lineman returning from injury it is an even more difficult test.

For right guard Adam Timmerman, that was the task he faced against the ***** after a preseason spent recovering from a slew of offseason surgeries.

“That’s about a game and a half,” Timmerman said. “It was a long game and it really said a lot for our conditioning. I think we were in pretty good condition for the game, especially running that many plays.”

Timmerman came back to practice at the beginning of training camp, but was limited to shells only practices because he was still in the healing process for his shoulder and leg injuries.

The right guard with the impressive streak of 158 consecutive games played spent most of training camp participating in one practice and sitting out the other, never suiting up in pads.

Timmerman sat out the first pair of preseason games before suiting up against Detroit. He played a good portion of that game and the final preseason game against Kansas City, doing his best to work himself into shape.

But while Timmerman says he believes the team proved its conditioning against the *****, he says he still has work to do to be in top football shape.
“I wouldn’t say I am back to where I want to be,” Timmerman said. “My body is still getting used to playing football. Really I have only been playing probably four weeks now so still trying to get where I want to be. I’m not there yet.”

And it might take Timmerman a little bit of time to get where he wants to be. He is doing his best to get in the best shape possible, but it can be quite difficult to put in extra effort once the season gets started.

“You spend more (time) in the regular season trying to recover for the next week rather than trying to address forward in getting where you need to be,” Timmerman said. “It’s tough because my body hasn’t really allowed me to do the extra stuff to get me to where I want to be conditioning wise.”

BARRON IMPROVES: First-round pick Alex Barron was inactive for the first game against San Francisco, but with a right calf injury to right tackle Rex Tucker and a rapidly improving Barron, that probably won’t continue in the coming weeks.

“I’m a little shocked at his progress just over the last few weeks or so,” Martz said. “I’m very happy with him. The big issue now for Alex is to put it together with all of the things that we do.”

For now, Barron continues to work as the backup to Orlando Pace on the left side, but if he continues his ascent, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for him to move to the right side. Of course, it took Pace six games as a rookie to be ready to start.

It probably will take longer for Barron because he would have to go through a position switch to get comfortable on the right side before he would be a candidate to start. But Barron’s improvement has been encouraging for a team that once expected him to start.

Last week, Barron was inactive while the Rams kept Matt Willig and Blaine Saipaia as the only two active linemen who weren’t starters. With Tucker out and Saipaia or Willig filling that role on the outside, it is unknown whether Barron or fellow rookie Claude Terrell will fill the other active spot for the linemen.

Martz said he wouldn’t make that decision until Friday, but said he is pleased with the way his rookie tackle has responded after missing valuable time in the preseason.

“Like I said, to come in as late as he did has really affected him,” Martz said. “If he hadn’t come in so late, who knows where he’d be? That’s obviously history. I am very pleased with how he handled the situation, been very mature. He’s a tough guy, he’s working hard and doing all the things we asked him to do. He’s making great progress.”

JOHNSON RETURNS TO RETURN: To say that Chris Johnson had a rough start to his career as an NFL kick returner might be quite an understatement.

But for the young man who had never appeared in an NFL regular season game, it was easy to understand why he fielded the ball and stepped out of bounds at his 1-yard line on the opening kickoff against the *****.

“I was so nervous,” Johnson said. “You see on the first play I should have let that ball go out of bounds, but my instincts said I wanted to pick it up and try to run it. I kind of messed up a little bit. But after I got feeling a little bit, I started feeling the returns and getting comfortable back there.”

Johnson did get more comfortable as the game went on; adding a return of 25 yards later in the game and showing a small glimpse of the type of home run speed that goes with the 4.18 40-yard dash he ran during a Pro Day when he was at Louisville.

Those nerves, though, made it difficult for Johnson to adjust, especially considering he had never played in a game and he has never before put on a Rams’ uniform for a game. He was traded for linebacker Robert Thomas soon after the final preseason game and spent some time in practice at kick returner.

When Johnson got word Saturday that he would be the starter, he was left with little time to think about it, but enough time to get nervous.

“I have been doing it,” Johnson said. “It’s just like a natural instinct. I have to get comfortable in the scheme and stuff and I think everything else will speak for itself. Like coach always says, you let mistakes go because if you hold on to them you are going to keep making mistakes. My best thing after that first one was that’s over with and done with and all I can do now is just look forward and make everything else positive.”

INJURY REPORT: The Rams’ injury report remained the same Thursday with the same names in the same places.
Right tackle Rex Tucker is, of course, out for Sunday’s game with a right calf injury. Cornerback Terry Fair (neck) is doubtful. Tucker and Fair missed part or all of Thursday’s practice.

Receiver Kevin Curtis (ankle) is probable and participated in Thursday’s practice.

There was a change in Arizona’s injury report with defensive tackle Darnell Dockett moving off the list after being listed as probable Wednesday.

Running back J.J. Arrington was added to the list as probable with an illness. Other probables are centers Nick Leckey (ankle) and Alex Stepanovich (hand). Tight end John Bronson (knee) and linebacker James Darling (knee) are doubtful.

Linebacker Gerald Hayes (knee) is out for this week.