As usual, Looker faces many challengers
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
NASHVILLE, TENN. — The names, faces and even the sites change. But the challenge at Rams training camp remains the same for Dane Looker. He always seems to find himself scuffling for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Never mind that over six seasons with the Rams he has been an effective wide receiver, with 89 catches for 953 yards and three touchdowns. Or that he has returned punts, kickoffs and served as a holder for extra points and field goals.
Every summer, he has to re-apply for his job. It's no different this year, especially after the Rams spent two draft picks on wideouts — Donnie Avery in the second round and Keenan Burton in the fourth.
They're almost sure to stick, along with starters Torry Holt and Drew Bennett and return specialist Dante Hall. That could leave only one spot open between Looker, Reche Caldwell, Marques Hagans, Derek Stanley and Brandon Williams.
"That's been the situation pretty much ever since I've been here, new guys coming in," said Looker, 32. "And I think that's what the league's all about, competition. It breeds intense play."
Looker's play in camp has been as solid as any of the wideouts, including seven-time Pro Bowler Holt.
"I feel real good about camp ... real good," Looker said. "I try to go out there every day and work hard, like I've always done, and be smart, learn the offense, make the right decisions and make plays when I can."
As far as decisions go, determining the final corps of wide receivers figures to be as tough as any for Scott Linehan. Looker doesn't plan to make it easy.
"Dane's Dane; I don't know any other way to describe him," said Linehan, an assistant coach at the University of Washington when Looker played there. "The guy knows every position; he could kick or punt if we had to. He's doing a great job in the receiver spot, handling all the positions and basically being ready to step in wherever needed.
"The guy's value, really there's no limit to it. ... I just think he's a really, really good football player."
And if he's not good enough, Looker vows to step aside gracefully.
"I used to watch the draft real close, and I used to check the guys out when they came in," he said. "But you know what? I've always felt that if someone's going to come in and take my spot, if someone's going to outwork me and outplay me, then all the best to him."
Left tackle Orlando Pace, who is being brought along carefully after last season's major shoulder injury, took more reps with the first team Tuesday than any day previously.
"We're going to start pushing that," Linehan said. "He's going to get some good work in Tennessee too. As we go through it, he's going to be working with the first unit for the most part."
Avery (pelvis), defensive lineman Victor Adeyanju (finger), tight end Anthony Becht (hamstring) and cornerback Fakhir Brown (shoulder) remained on the sideline for Tuesday morning's practice.
Several other players, including safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (hamstring) and guard Mark Setterstrom (knee), are getting only limited work.
STEVEN JACKSON WATCH
— Days out: 12.
— Practices missed: 16.
— Fine total: $181,392 ($15,116 per day).
The Rams and Tennessee Titans will practice together twice today (at 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.), and Thursday (8:15 a.m. — special teams only — and 3:30 p.m.), at Baptist Sports Park in Nashville.
All practices are free and open to the public.