By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
10/07/2004


Two decades ago, the Cardinals had a "secret weapon" in Jose Oquendo, so dubbed by broadcaster Mike Shannon for his ability to fill in effectively at several positions. Now the Rams have their own version.

Utilityman Rich Coady will make his third start in a row Sunday when the Rams (2-2) travel to Seattle to face the NFC West-leading Seahawks (3-0). For the second week in succession, he'll replace ailing Adam Archuleta (back) at strong safety. Two weeks ago, Coady filled in at free safety for Aeneas Williams, who made a one-week return to cornerback.

"We're fortunate to have" Coady, coach Mike Martz said. "This is a message to all the other players. It's like Marc Bulger: He's the third quarterback (in 2002), and all of a sudden by midseason he's starting. Those guys, when they weren't playing, they weren't wasting time."

Coady, a Texas A&M product who had a total of six starts in his five previous NFL seasons, gets most of his playing time with the Rams as an extra defensive back in the nickel and dime alignments. But he said he's learned to gear his readiness for all possibilities.

"Every week I go in and I prepare like I'm going to start. I go through the film like I'm going to start," he explained. "So whether the coach tells me that I'm going to start on Monday for the following Sunday's game or five minutes before the game, it's not going to change how I prepare."

Whatever system he uses, it seems to work: Coady was named the Rams' defensive player of the week after collecting 10 tackles, two pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a quarterback hit in Sunday's 24-14 victory in San Francisco.

"I think everyone on defense played well. And when you get all 11 guys playing well, it makes it easier," Coady said. "A lot of the stuff that I did well was a direct result of everyone else being in their gap and doing what they were supposed to do."

The task looming for the Rams this week should be considerably stiffer. Whereas the winless ***** are near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories, Seattle is hovering near the top, particularly on defense. The Seahawks are No. 1 in total defense (242.3 yards a game) and scoring defense (4.3 points). Plus, they're rested after a bye week.

"When you watch them on film, they really play mistake-free football," Coady said. "They don't turn the ball over, they don't have assignment gaps, they're not giving up free sacks, they're not running the wrong routes. ... You don't go 3-0 in this league unless you're doing something right, and they're doing everything right."

Groce is ready

With the Rams short of defensive backs Sunday, the temptation to rush cornerback DeJuan Groce back into action was strong, Martz conceded. "We wanted to play him, but it just wouldn't have been right," Martz said. "You want to err on the side of caution, because generally you end up regretting it."

So Groce's right knee, sprained in the opening minutes Sept. 19 in Atlanta, was afforded another week of recuperation. And now, Martz said, Groce is "healthy and ready to go 100 percent, and that makes all the difference in the world."

Groce earned kudos from Martz for an "outstanding day" at practice Wednesday and will start at right cornerback in Seattle. Kevin Garrett filled that spot vs. the *****.

Tinoisamoa is hurting

Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, the Rams' leading tackler, was added to the injury report Wednesday because of an elbow infection. He's listed as probable.

"He came in (Wednesday) morning, and it was very painful and he was running a fever," Martz said. "So I think they're going to keep him in the hospital overnight just to put IVs in and to watch him. He should be fine, but we're being very cautious with him."

Chris Dishman (knee) again was sidelined, but fellow guard Scott Tercero returned to practice with his fractured left hand in a removable cast. Archuleta and linebacker Robert Thomas (ankle) suited up, but their participation was limite