Week 1 Extra: 'We're not going to be 3-13'
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
09/06/2008

Exclusively on STLtoday.com: Notes, quotes and anecdotes as the Rams prepare for their season opener at Philadelphia.


For many fans and observers, it’s hard to get a feel for the 2008 Rams. No one seems to know what to expect entering Sunday’s season opener at Philadelphia. But here’s a message from veteran defensive end Leonard Little:

"Don’t expect us to be 3-13 -- I’ll tell you that," he said. "We’re not going to be 3-13. So if people think we’re going to be 3-13 and have a horrible season this year, they’re totally wrong on that. Because this team is a talented team. Last year we were (crushed) by injuries. Hopefully, this year we can come in and stay healthy, and do the things we need to do on the field."

One of the keys to success is to have the Rams’ "name" players return to form. Mainly because of injuries, past Pro Bowlers such as Orlando Pace, Marc Bulger, Little -- and to a lesser extent, Steven Jackson -- either had off years or missed a ton of games.

"We’ll be fine, because the guys that got hurt last year, played in the preseason and went through training camp without any problems," Little said. "It’s a matter of staying healthy and being smart out there on the field."

OK. So this will not be a 3-13 team -- Little was clear on that. Will this be more than a one-sack year for him? (That was his total during a 2007 season shortened by a toe injury.)

"I hope so," Little said. "I know if I get one sack this year, I won’t be around here next year."


The Fakhir factor

After just missing five weeks of practice and all four preseason games, cornerback Fakhir Brown will attempt to play against Philadelphia. Brown suffered a fairly significant shoulder injury on the first day of training camp July 25: a partially torn rotator cuff, a bad bruise, and a hole in his tendon.

Brown says he is playing in nickel packages only Sunday. Ron Bartell and Tye Hill will start at corner, but when the Eagles go to three-receiver sets, Brown will come in off the bench to play corner, with Bartell sliding inside to cover the slot receiver.

Brown practiced four times this week -- his first practices since the injury. Just nine days ago, fearing he might need surgery, he sought a second opinion from nationally-known orthopedic surgeon James Andrews.

Brown said the hole in his tendon is just about closed up, and the shoulder is feeling much better. But he plans to wear a gel pad on the shoulder to help ease his discomfort.

"Hopefully, I won’t have to make too much contact on it," Brown said, "I’m going to go out there and see how it goes. If I don’t feel confident I’m going to probably back off. That’s all I can do."

If Brown is unable to finish the game, either Jonathan Wade or Ricky Manning Jr. will have to fill his role. If it’s Wade, who had some rough moments in the preseason, look for the Eagles to go right at him.


Burton’s jersey motivation

Rams rookie wide receiver Keenan Burton doesn’t wear jersey No. 14 out of admiration for former Rams place-kicker Jeff Wilkins.

"I do like this number," Burton said. "It has a special meaning to me. It’s what I picked out."

Why No. 14?

"I went in the fourth round," Burton said. "So every time I look down (at the ‘4’) it’s a constant reminder of how much I have to prove to myself, and how much I have to do to stay here."

And what about the "1" part of 14?

"Everybody thinks they should be a first-rounder," Burton said. "My dream was to go in the first-round."


Avery over Jackson

Because of injuries to Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown, DeSean Jackson will become the first rookie wide receiver to start a season opener for Philadelphia since 1980.

The Rams brought in Jackson for a pre-draft visit to Rams Park in April and strongly considered taking him in the draft last April. They opted instead for Donnie Avery, who is sitting out Sunday’s game with a sprained right knee. Jackson would like nothing better than to show the Rams they took the wrong wide receiver in the second round.

"They told me that they wanted me and all this stuff, but (knowing) how the process goes, I kind of understand now," Johnson told Philadelphia reporters. "I definitely have that in the back of my mind."


DV in the house

Dick Vermeil’s Pennsylvania ranch isn’t all that far from downtown Philadelphia, but he has stayed away from Eagles games since his retirement from coaching.

"It’s a 90-mile round trip to drive into Philadelphia," Vermeil said. "I don’t have season tickets or anything. Andy Reid invites me to come all the time. I haven’t done it. He’s a wonderful guy, and a fine coach. I’d just rather stay home and watch it."

But Vermeil, who once coached the Eagles and the Rams, is scheduled to attend Sunday’s game as part of Eagles alumni day festivities.


Patches and more patches

The Rams are wearing a "Georgia" patch on the front left part of their jerseys this season in memory of their late owner, Georgia Frontiere. Like all NFL teams, they will wear a "GU" patch (on the front right of the jersey) in memory of Hall of Fame player and longtime NFL Players Association head Gene Upshaw. Upshaw recently died of cancer.

And the team’s five captains -- Marc Bulger, Corey Chavous, Torry Holt, Todd Johnson, and Will Witherspoon -- will also have a "C" on their jerseys.

All in all, that’s a lot of stuff on one jersey, particularly for the captains.

"We’ll look like Ricky Bobby," quipped Rams equipment manager Todd Hewitt, pulling out the "Talledega Nights" movie reference.