Tucker brings a familiar presence back to Rams
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Jun. 05 2005
At first glance, the resemblance is startling. Rex Tucker looks like his older
brother Ryan, and has the west Texas drawl to match.
"He's like the same guy," center Andy McCollum said. "In fact, I called him
Ryan the other day. ... He has some of the same mannerisms and what not."
Then, McCollum, paused and deadpanned, "Yeah, it's good to have Ryan back."
A fourth-round draft pick by the Rams in 1997, Ryan Tucker spent five seasons
in St. Louis, including two years as the starting right tackle (2000, 2001),
before signing with Cleveland. Now along comes younger brother Rex, a
third-round draft choice by Chicago in 1999, who became a Bears salary cap
casualty shortly before this year's draft.
Rex was born a mere 18 months after Ryan in Midland, Texas, and the two were
inseparable growing up.
"We talk daily," Rex said. "We spend as much time as we can together when we're
not working. ... He's my favorite guy in the world."
Those daily conversations usually are about anything but football.
"Other stuff, man. Life stuff," said Rex, who's 28. "We're married with kids,
But the conversation couldn't help but be about football on April 20, when Rex
signed with the Rams just two days after his release in Chicago.
"He just told me, 'You'll love it there,'" Rex said. "So far, he's right."
Tucker has been installed immediately as the Rams' starting left guard, a
position that was a problem area all last season. What turned out to be a
career-ending hip injury to center Dave Wohlabaugh left the Rams scrambling to
find a left guard last August.
McCollum was switched back to center from left guard, where he had started in
2003. Chris Dishman and Tom Nutten were coaxed out of retirement to play left
guard. Before all was said and done, Dishman, Nutten, Scott Tercero and Larry
Turner all started at least one game at the position last season.
The Rams believe Tucker can fill the void this season, assuming he stays
"He's an experienced veteran who's played at a high level - start there," coach
Mike Martz said. "He's 335 pounds. He's a guy that can stand on the line of
scrimmage and slug it out with those big tackles on defense.
"Those are hard guys to find. Plus, he's got the athleticism to be a good pass
blocker. ... He's just got to physically hold up."
Which was easier said than done in Chicago.
In 2001, Tucker started every game at left guard for the Bears and was a Pro
Bowl alternate. He cashed in that offseason, signing a seven-year, $20 million
contract. Then, the injuries struck. Ankle, elbow and hamstring injuries
limited Tucker to 11 games total in the 2002, '03 and '04 seasons in Chicago.
He missed the entire '03 campaign with a torn tendon in his right ankle. Last
season, he missed the first six contests with a dislocated left elbow, returned
to start five games at right guard and finished the season on injured reserve
with a hamstring injury.
Tucker was due to make $2 million in base salary and offseason workout bonus
money in 2005, so the Bears released him on April 18.
"Hey, if I were in their shoes, I'd have done the same thing," Tucker said.
"Here's a guy that you invest a certain (amount) into, and all of a sudden, he
just starts getting injured. I just couldn't avoid it. I figured I'd get hit by
lightning next time. It was crazy."
The injury woes seemed more a case of bad luck than any chronic problems.
"Exactly," Tucker said. "But I mean, what's next? Check the ceiling?"
Laughing, Tucker looked up from his locker stall at Rams Park. No plaster fell
on his head. (At least not on this day.)
"I just stayed way too injured (in Chicago)," Tucker said. "That's all there is
to it. At a certain point, you feel like maybe I shouldn't play any more. Maybe
I shouldn't keep doing this to myself."
It looked as if the Bears were making that decision for him on April 18. Then,
the Rams came calling.
"I couldn't be happier," Tucker said. "I just hope I'm what they want me to
The 2004 season in Chicago wasn't a total waste, because Tucker played for new
Bears coach Lovie Smith, the former Rams defensive coordinator. Smith installed
a Rams-style offense, with Rams-style terminology.
"He's familiar with the system," Martz said. "So it's kind of an easy fit,
really, you just put him in and go with him."
Contract-wise, Tucker must prove himself all over again. His one-year deal with
the Rams is for a modest $590,000, which includes a $50,000 signing bonus. But
a healthy, productive season could earn Tucker another long-term contract.
"I try not to think about it like that," he said. "But at a certain point, you
have to have goals for yourself. Or why would you show up? This is a team
that's capable of winning a lot of games, and that's exciting. All the
individual stuff takes care of itself if you build a good team."
Re: Tucker brings a familiar presence back to Rams
It's about time we got a big mean Texan on the line. This is by far the most underrated acquisition the Rams made this offseason. Tucker's going to be a stud if healthy.
Re: Tucker brings a familiar presence back to Rams
It sure will be nice to have a healthy line for a change.