By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Oct. 09 2008
Ricky Manning Jr. asked out in Chicago. Jason Craft was shown the door in New
Orleans.

Both veteran cornerbacks suddenly find themselves very much in the Rams' plans
for Sunday's game at 4-1 Washington.

"You never know when it's going to be your turn," Craft said. "It just happened
to be right when I got here, I was thrown up in the mix."

A Rams secondary that has been unsettled since the start of training camp
underwent its most turbulent week yet at the end of September. On the Wednesday
before the Buffalo game, Fakhir Brown was released by then-coach Scott Linehan
in a move that surprised many. Craft was signed as his replacement later that
day.

Then, midway through the first quarter against Buffalo, starting cornerback Tye
Hill suffered a knee injury that resulted in arthroscopic surgery, sidelining
Hill for at least a month. Suddenly, Craft was the Rams' starting cornerback,
with Manning covering slot receivers as the nickel back.

It seemed like a temporary arrangement once Linehan was fired and replaced by
Jim Haslett. Brown was one of Haslett's "guys" he had played for Haslett in
New Orleans, was brought here at Haslett's urging in free agency in 2006 and
would quickly be re-signed by the Rams and reinstated in the lineup.

At least that was the assumption. But the Rams' bye week has come and gone, and
the Rams are knee-deep in preparations for the Redkins. But still no Brown.
What's the holdup?

"It's got a snag," Haslett said. "I'm not really sure. I really don't
understand it, to be honest with you. I know some other teams are interested.
Hopefully, we can at some point work something out."

As a "vested" veteran in his eighth NFL season, Brown's base salary of $1.95
million for this season became guaranteed when he was cut Sept. 24. He gets
that money even if he doesn't play another down this season.

But what if Brown wants to re-sign with another team? According to the league's
collective bargaining agreement, Brown gets that money plus whatever money he
would get in a new contract as long as he is out of work for a period of time
that would cause him to miss at least one game check.

As a result, there has been some speculation that Brown is sitting out this
week just so he would be entitled to get the money from his old contract plus a
new one. But according to the NFL Players Association, missing the game check
from the bye week (players are paid during the bye) would qualify Brown to
"double dip" receive the $1.95 million from the old contract as well as any
new contract.

The Rams have offered Brown a one-year deal to finish out the rest of this
season, according to team sources. Neither Brown nor Brown's agent, Ted
Marchibroda, have responded to several phone messages from the Post-Dispatch.

It wasn't Haslett's idea to release Brown. He was asked Wednesday if the
current situation made him upset or even more upset that Brown was cut in
the first place.

"No, not necessarily," Haslett said. "That was a decision that was made. It
wasn't my decision. Obviously, you live with it. I think the most important
thing is if we can get him back, that would help our football team because I
would like to have five corners. Right now, we're going to go into the
(Washington) game with four."

Ron Bartell, who had a career-high four pass breakups against Buffalo, will
start at one corner, with Craft at the other, and Manning playing nickel back.
That leaves only Jonathan Wade in reserve.

After playing nickel back for the Saints in the first two games of 2008, Craft
was surprised by his release on Sept. 16.

Manning, meanwhile, asked for his release during training camp with the Bears
after seeing himself plummet on coach Lovie Smith's depth chart. Manning
finally got his wish in late August, and the Rams signed him Sept. 1, or six
days before their season opener.

"What Ricky brings to the table is Ricky's tough," Haslett said. "That's what I
like. He's a hard-nosed guy. He has a good feel for the football. He tackles
well. I don't know what happened in Chicago. ... There's a million reasons why
guys get let go. Money. I'm not really sure. But he brings some good qualities
to the table."

As for Craft, Haslett has been eyeing him for some time. He was head coach of
the Saints when New Orleans traded for Craft before the 2004 season, and he
noticed that the Saints had a logjam of cornerbacks on their roster entering
this season.

"He's very experienced. He knows the system. He's got good speed," Haslett
said. "He's got a great understanding of the game."