After hectic rookie season, Turner settles in at center
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
08/20/2005


Rams lineman Larry Turner can't remember the precise moment last year when his head stopped spinning. But he knows it didn't occur until well into his rookie season.

"I was trying to learn the offense, trying to find out who I was and trying to get myself to fit in," said Turner, a seventh-round draft pick from NCAA Division I-AA Eastern Kentucky. "I feel a lot more comfortable now."

Turner played in 14 games in 2004, with one start. That came at left guard at Arizona, while veteran Tom Nutten was nursing toe and knee injuries. The offensive line at that point was badly depleted; this year, despite a few nagging injuries in training camp, the unit is a lot deeper.

As a result, Turner has been working almost exclusively at center. "I think that with his physical stature, that's the best spot for him; he's a little bit undersized," coach Mike Martz said. "I think that his quickness lends itself to that position."

That's fine with Turner, 23, but he plans to continue polishing his guard skills, too. "With us, you never know," he said. "I did a couple of practices where I was at guard, because they wanted me to get some reps in there, just in case. If I have to go play guard, I'm comfortable at guard."

Versatility is an asset, especially for a guy who still concerns himself with making the 53-man roster.

"I go out there, I focus, I make sure that I know my assignments, make sure Coach Martz and the other coaches can trust me, make sure I play my butt off, and basically make it where they have to keep me," Turner said. "I want to make myself play well enough that they have to say, 'Hey, we have to keep this guy.'"

That shouldn't be much of a problem, as Turner continues to tutor under Andy McCollum, who at 35 is beginning his 12th NFL season. Asked whether he felt he is being groomed as successor, Turner laughed and said: "It's whatever they decide. If I fit into their plan, that's great. Andy's a great role model to learn from at center, because he's technically sound and he knows the offense so well, he knows the game of football so well."

After witnessing firsthand the size and strength of NFL linemen, Turner added 10 pounds - up to 300 - to his 6-foot-2 frame in the offseason. "And it's good weight, too," he said. "I feel a lot more solid out there."

And a lot less anxious. "Last year I'd be nervous, trying to make all the calls" for the line, he said. "Now I feel more comfortable in my techniques. I feel better at center. I feel more fluid."

Bulger bulks up

Before evaluating the state of his right shoulder, quarterback Marc Bulger wanted to wait until he absorbed a few shots from opposing defenders. That occurred in last week's preseason opener vs. Chicago, and Bulger reported good results.

"My shoulder feels good," he said. "I didn't take too many hits, but it wasn't sore at all after the game. I've been able to lift (weights) a lot more than I was back in March and April, so hopefully that issue's over with."

Bulger, who missed two games last season because his throwing shoulder was banged up, said he tacked on a few pounds of muscle. Not that he expects it to last.

"I do every year. I put a little on, and it goes off," said the 6-foot-3 West Virginia product. "I fluctuate in a 7-, 8-pound range, so I'm not going to stay bulked up. By the end of the year, I'll be 202, 203."

Ram-blings

The Rams on Friday released offensive guard Zach Bray, an undrafted rookie from TCU. ... A 90-minute practice is scheduled for this morning before the team travels to San Diego for Sunday's game. The Rams have played the Chargers 33 times in the exhibition season, more than any other opponent. The Rams lead the series 17-16.