Veteran has made move to right tackle
BY STEVE KORTE
News-Democrat

ST. LOUIS - Rex Tucker doesn't get upset when people around Rams Park mistakenly call him by his older brother's first name.

Ryan Tucker played for the St. Louis Rams from 1997-2001 before signing with the Cleveland Browns.

Even Rams coach Mike Martz had a slip of the tongue, referring to Rex as Ryan during a recent press conference.

"My parents call us by our opposite names, so I have no problem with it," Rex Tucker said. "I'm used to it."

Ryan Tucker was the Rams' starting right tackle in 2000 and 2001. Now Rex Tucker is the team's starting right tackle after playing guard for his previous six seasons in the NFL with Chicago Bears.

"Looking at him out there, he's just like a duck to water," Rams coach Mike Martz said of Rex Tucker at right tackle. "That's where he belongs."

Rex Tucker, who was selected as an alternate to the Pro Bowl as a guard in 2001, came on strong at right tackle in the Rams' final two preseason games.

"The more time you play it, the more comfortable you'll be," Tucker said. "It's just the way it works."

Rex Tucker's learning curve at right tackle was accelerated by going against defensive end Leonard Little during practice and being tutored by former Rams right tackle Jackie Slater after practice.

Little, one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL, would make most right tackles look bad during one-on-one pass rushing drills.

"It's a blessing to have to practice against a guy like that," Tucker said. "That's the way you get better quickly. You have to, you have no choice."

Slater, who was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001, was one of the best right tackles in NFL history.

"Who else is better to talk to about playing the right tackle position?" Martz said. "Who else is better than Jackie Slater? He has really helped him with his pass sets, just the technical aspect of his footwork and his hands and the punch and all those things."

It was Martz who after watching the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Rex Tucker in practice decided to move him to right tackle in an attempt to solidify a troublesome position.

"I can't tell you what a significant impact he has made on this offensive football team," Martz said. "That position, I don't worry about it. I really don't. Where he has come from a pass protection standpoint ... and with Tucker, his toughness in run blocking is a foregone conclusion. I'm just amazed at his performance. I'm excited about what he is going to do for our team.

"He's going to make some mistakes, but all he is going to do get better and better and better."

Rex Tucker said he played some tackle at Texas A&M, but he worked exclusively at guard after being taken in the third round of the 1999 NFL draft by the Bears.

Rex Tucker said he's had to purge the memory of playing guard in order to learn to play tackle.

"You have to let all the previous stuff go, and work at what you are doing," Tucker said. "That's all that matters. To even think about where you were and what you did do doesn't do you any good."

Rex Tucker has gotten some tips on playing right tackle from his older brother.

"We talked about it pretty often," Rex Tucker said. "Playing the same position gives you a chance to talk about those things. This time of the year, if we play the same teams, we'll talk more about opponents than what we are doing."

All in all, Rex Tucker said he has enjoyed the challenge of playing right tackle.

"It's a little different, but I like it," Tucker said. "I just show up and do what I'm asked to do it.