By Bill Coats

Rams right guard Adam Timmerman said Thursday that he hadn't "closed the door" on starting Sunday against Arizona. Interim head coach Joe Vitt slammed it shut later, however.

Vitt said after practice Thursday that Timmerman would play only in an emergency. Blaine Saipaia will start in Timmerman's place. "We've got to get him healthy," Vitt explained, "and the only way to do that is to get him some rest and get him some treatment."

Timmerman, who had offseason surgery on both shoulders and a foot, has been battling back pain recently. He hasn't practiced this week, and Vitt said he wouldn't be on the field today, either.

"We've done an MRI, and it's not a disc or anything like that," Timmerman said. "We're just trying to figure out what it's going to take to totally eliminate the pain."

Timmerman, 34, has two long streaks at stake: Counting the regular season and playoffs, he has started 89 games in a row and has appeared in 184 consecutive games, dating to his 1995 rookie season in Green Bay. Timmerman said he'd be sorry - but hardly devastated - to see the streaks end.

"It wasn't an easy decision, definitely not; they kind of had to talk me into it a little bit," he said. "As an offensive lineman it means something, because it's really our only stat. How durable you've been, how many games you've played in and stuff like that. ...

"It's important, but I can't put that ahead of what I think is best for the team, and myself, too."

Utilitiy man

Saipaia, the Rams' man for all positions, previously has started at right tackle and tight end. He can play on both sides at guard and tackle, and also works at center in practice. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Saipaia even has seen game action on defense in goal-line situations.

Vitt said his versatility might be unappreciated by some "but not by us. The more things you can do, the better. I really think he's best-suited for inside, and that's where he is right now."

Oddly, Saipaia was the only active player on the Rams' 45-man roster who didn't play Sunday vs. the Seahawks. Now, he's a starter.

Saipaia, 27, said his ever-changing job "definitely takes a lot of focus. It can get frustrating when you're bouncing around, but it's what the team needs. That's my role right now, and I accept that."

Martz sightings

Though he's still recovering from a bacterial infection of a heart valve, Mike Martz has been busy lately. Last week, he phoned Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who will be facing his former team Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

"It was really just him wishing me luck, getting back in and starting," Warner reported, "and me talking to him about how he's feeling and what the future has in store and whether he thought he would be back to coaching any time soon. We were telling each other we were rooting for each other and that it was good to hear each other's voice. That was it."

Then on Monday, Martz visited Rams Park and addressed the troops. He emphasized that a playoff berth remained a viable goal despite their three-game deficit in the NFC West.

"For him to come in and speak to the team, yeah, I was kind of surprised," wide receiver Isaac Bruce said. "It was good to see him. He looks good, sounds a whole lot better. Whatever he's doing, it's working for him."


Defensive end Tyoka Jackson (back) was added to the Rams' injury report Thursday, listed as "questionable." . . . Safety Mike Furrey has recorded a takeaway four consecutive games (three interceptions and a fumble recovery). If he gets another Sunday, he'll tie the NFL record set by San Francisco safety Tony Parrish in 2003.