By Jim Thomas
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

SAN FRANCISCO -- There's a chance Rex Tucker's first career start at right tackle could be his last for a while. Tucker, new to the Rams after spending his first six NFL seasons playing guard for Chicago, left Sunday's season opener late in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.

"I'm really not going to talk about it till I find out exactly what it is, if you don't mind," Tucker said. "I just don't know what to say about it."

After being replaced by Matt Willig against San Francisco, Tucker watched the rest of the game with his lower right leg in ice. Rams trainers wrapped the leg before Tucker and the team flew to St. Louis.

After performing well in the final two preseason games, Tucker struggled at times with his pass blocking against the *****' 3-4 defense. On the first of San Francisco's seven sacks, Tucker blocked down - or to his inside - with blitzing ***** defensive back Mike Adams swooping in from the outside for the sack.

On two other occasions, ***** defensive end Bryant Young got by Tucker for sacks. It appeared they both were coverage sacks, with quarterback Marc Bulger holding the ball too long. But Tucker would have none of it.

"As far as I'm concerned, I didn't play well enough for us to win this game," Tucker said. "That's the way it is. I've got to get better - period."

Barron sits

First-round draft pick Alex Barron, whom coach Mike Martz announced as his starting right tackle on draft day, didn't even suit up. Barron, of course, fell behind and fell into disfavor with Martz when he missed the first 2 1/2 weeks of training camp in a contract dispute. He has been working as the backup left tackle behind Orlando Pace since signing with the team.

Barron was among seven pre-game inactives designated by the Rams. The inactive list also included CB Ron Bartell, RB Aveion Cason, DT Brian Howard, CB Terry Fair, OG Claude Terrell and LB Drew Walhroos. In addition, Ryan Fitzpatrick was the designated third quarterback and did not play.

Fair was sidelined with a sprained neck.

With Barron, Bartell, Terrell and Fitzpatrick sitting, only four of the Rams' 11 draft picks suited up: Punter Reggie Hodges, FB-TE Madison Hedgecock and safeties Oshiomogho Atogwe and Jerome Carter.

Johnson's debut

Not only did Chris Johnson finally make his NFL debut, but he touched the ball on the very first play of the Rams' 2005 season. In something of a surprise, Johnson was the team's kickoff returner instead of normal returners Cason and Arlen Harris.

Johnson, a cornerback, was acquired Sept. 3 in a trade with the Green Bay Packers for linebacker Robert Thomas. He was told during the week - his first week with the club - that he would be returning kicks and practiced there during the week.

When asked about his kickoff return experience, Johnson replied: "Really, this is my first time since college. When I first got hurt when I came to Green Bay, I was supposed to be the return man."

Trouble was, Johnson never played in a regular-season game in two seasons with Green Bay because of knee and leg injuries. Johnson, who played in college at Louisville, did return kicks in Green Bay's exhibition game against Tennessee this preseason.

Johnson said he was a little surprised to learn of his kickoff return assignment.

"They were just trying to get me on the field," Johnson said. "They knew I had some kind of return ability."

It was not a stellar debut. Johnson averaged only 13.8 yards on four returns. He committed a major faux pas on that opening kickoff, stepping out of bounds at the 1.