BY JEFF GORDON
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Thursday, Nov. 16 2006

The Rams have suffered mightily through the years when injuries decimated their
offensive line.

Their list of failed fill-ins is long and not-so-glorious: Grant Williams,
Blaine Saipaia, Andy King, Claude Terrell, Scott Tercero, Rex Tucker, “The
Outlaw” Jesse James, Cameron Spikes, Kaulana Noa, Travis Scott, John “The
Beast” St. Clair, big Matt Willig . . . many guys, young and old, have come and
gone without becoming the Next Ron Yary.

In fact, some of these guys were just awful -– to the chagrin of quarterbacks
they failed to protect and running backs they didn’t clear openings for.

But now Adam Goldberg will try to defy that trend. He will attempt to replace
All-Pro Orlando Pace at left tackle and live to tell about it.

“Obviously, it won’t be the same without him,” Goldberg said. “I think the
offense will keep rolling with me in there. It will be kind of a reassuring
thing when they see the Rams offense is still rolling.”

Rams Nation would agree. By now, fans have come to expect the worst when one of
the front-line pillars tumble.

This season, venerable Todd Steussie is filling in capably at left guard.
Claude Terrell was supposed to have grown into that role, but he failed to
recover from wrist surgery. Then Richie Incognito stepped in the breach and
looked promising in that spot -– until center Andy McCollum suffered a
season-ending knee injury.

Incognito, a natural guard, slid into the center spot, where he seems to be
settling in. Steussie, a tackle for most of his career, adjusted well to
playing inside.

Now Goldberg, a natural guard, will attempt to do the same on the outside.

“I really don't think I'll feel nervous at all,” he said. “I played these guys
almost a year ago, last year, at Carolina, when I was at Minnesota. I was the
starter then, too. Given, it was at right guard, but it's the same game, going
to play the same team. I'm really not psyching myself out about anything."

Goldberg played 29 games for the Vikings before the Rams acquired him in
September for a draft pick. He brought with him a good handle on Scott Linehan’
s offense. He counts versatility as one of his strong points, along with a
cerebral approach to the game and a steady playing demeanor.

“I like to think of myself as a smart player,” he said. “I try not to make dumb
mistakes, so I give myself an opportunity to be successful.”

He also has some physical ability, as Scouts Inc. notes: “Goldberg has an
enormous frame, good athleticism for his size and some versatility. He has
decent experience at both tackle and guard. He has good overall quickness and
is very smooth out of his stance. He shows impressive lateral movement and
change-of-direction.”

(As opposed to, say, Grant Williams -– who had the lateral movement of a
tackling dummy.)

When the Rams face the Panthers in Carolina on Sunday, he will line up across
from Mike Rucker. But Goldberg can also expect to see plenty of stunts and
blitzes as the Panthers test his preparedness.

“They are going to put a good rusher on you,” he said. “But this is the NFL.
There are good rushers across the board. I don’t put any extra onus on that.”

If Goldberg is as relaxed Sunday as he was Wednesday while chatting with media
types, he’ll be fine. But P-D reporter Jim Thomas wondered if this low-keyed
approach served him well in combat.

“My wife would agree with you,” Goldberg said, laughing. “And she gets mad at
me about that. She says, 'You know, sometimes, I just want you to get excited
about something. Or worked up.'

"But I try not to get too worked up, because all I can do is go out there and
play the best I can play, and prepare in a manner that will put me in a
position to make good plays for this team. So that's what I'm going to do."

Where did this composure come from?

“I had a really, really good coach tell me once that you never want to ride the
highs and lows of this game,” Goldberg said. “You just want to stay at an even
keel and never get too high and never get too low. That’s the only way to play
the game. I agree with him. I think that’s probably the most optimal level of
excitement, is to just stay the course and maintain an even keel.”

At this point, Rams fans hope that he remains locked in an upright position as
this team attempts to plod on. How Goldberg fares will say a lot about how long
the Rams can stay in the wild-card playoff hunt.