R.B. FALLSTROM

Associated Press


ST. LOUIS - On a St. Louis Rams defensive line loaded with No. 1 picks, undersized and unheralded Brian Howard has found a way to fit in.

Howard, an undrafted rookie out of Idaho, made his first career start on Monday at Green Bay. He also made the tackle on the second play of the game.

"Just being able to come out and make a play off the bat, it calms your nerves," Howard said. "It just kind of makes you feel like you belong there, so it's nice."

Before that, Howard had been extremely jumpy approaching his big break.

"I'd say that probably the most nervous I've been before a game," Howard said. "What takes away the nerves the most is just getting in and playing."

That was the biggest battle for Howard, considering the Rams have three first-rounders in the interior line. In 2001, St. Louis took Damione Lewis with the 12th pick and Ryan Pickett with the 29th selection, then Jimmy Kennedy came with the 12th pick last year.

Howard stepped in for Lewis against the Packers.

"That's what you do when you play football, you expect to be the guy that's going to be called on to make a play," Howard said. "Yeah, it's surprising, but it's what you're working for ultimately."

Coach Mike Martz said Howard has a lot of promise, although he wouldn't say he'd start again on Sunday against the *****. But he's been impressed with the effort and desire.

"He made some mistakes but he's going to because he's learning," Martz said. "Brian is a terrific find for us. That's the motor and the passion when you watch him play that I'm talking about."

Howard said he tries to bring a blue collar attitude to the game.

"I'd classify myself as that," Howard said. "I try to do as much as I can on each play. I make an effort, at least."

He's a little too blue collar for Martz, who was told Thursday that Howard likes to play without his knee and thigh pads.

"I need to fine him for that," Martz said. "He will have those thigh pads and knee pads on. I didn't realize that and that bothers me."

Howard said now that he's made a dent in the rotation, his draft status doesn't mean nearly as much. He used former Rams standout D'Marco Farr, who made one Pro Bowl, as an example of an undrafted player who developed in the NFL.

"Look at the player he became," Howard said. "Players know the draft doesn't mean a whole lot once you get on the team. You get a lot of money off the first jump, but that's about it."

Notes:@ Antuan Edwards, claimed off waivers from the Dolphins on Nov. 11, will start at FS against the ***** after playing well in reserve last week. Edwards will be the third player to start at FS this year, following Aeneas Williams and Rich Coady. Williams continues to be slowed by a stinger - he had an MRI exam on Tuesday - but could play in nickel and dime situations. ... WR Isaac Bruce (wrist) did some individual work but was held out of team drills. Bruce fumbled twice on Monday and both were returned for touchdowns. ... Backup CB DeJuan Groce is doubtful with a knee injury, although he resumed running Thursday and expects to be healthy next week.