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St. Louis Rams' quarterback Marc Bulger ready for first full year as starter

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  • St. Louis Rams' quarterback Marc Bulger ready for first full year as starter

    St. Louis Rams' quarterback Marc Bulger ready for first full year as starter
    R.B. FALLSTROM Canadian Press
    Friday, September 10, 2004
    ST. LOUIS (AP) - Marc Bulger is 18-4 as the St. Louis Rams' quarterback, he has a new four-year contract and he was the Pro Bowl MVP.

    Still, a new experience lies ahead. Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals will be his first opening-day start. Bulger stepped in for Kurt Warner in both 2002 and 2003, and last year he seized the job for good after only one week. And there's been no hint of controversy in the pre-season, not with 38-year-old Chris Chandler a safe choice as the backup.

    So, he doesn't think it's that big of a deal. This has been his team for a while.

    "I play the way I do regardless of whether I played the series before or the season before, and I'm not going to change that," Bulger said. "I never change the way I play."

    Bulger wasn't overworked in the pre-season, throwing only 36 passes in four games - fewer than both Chandler (44) and third-string Jeff Smoker (42). Now, the wraps come off for Bulger and for tailback Marshall Faulk, who totalled 14 carries.

    "Our game plans are pretty minimal in the pre-season," Bulger said. "Now, coach Martz can get real creative, and that's what's really fun about this offence.

    "It's always a lot more exciting once it counts, especially when you know you have a good team."

    The Rams won the NFC West with a 12-4 record and are expected to contend again despite questions on both lines. They're a double-digit favourite to get off to a good start against the Cardinals, 4-12 last year.

    "I'm looking forward to setting the tone for the season," wide receiver Isaac Bruce said. "We want to make sure nobody surprises us."

    The biggest areas of concern for the Rams heading into the opener are integrating tackle Orlando Pace into an offensive line that's been a trouble area all summer, and finding a replacement for departed defensive end Grant Wistrom.

    Pace had only four practices to prepare for the opener after waiting until Sunday to agree to a one-year, $7.02-million contract as the team's franchise player. He's a five-time Pro Bowl player, and reported 18 pounds below last year's playing weight, although in the early going he might have some football conditioning issues.

    "You never worry about Orlando, he's going to do his job," Bulger said. "He obviously came back in good shape and that's why all throughout camp it wasn't really an issue, for the players at least."

    Bryce Fisher, a seventh-round draft pick in 1999 by the Bills, is a low-profile replacement for Wistrom.

    "I've got a lot of work to do, but I really feel like the coaches at least know what they have in me," Fisher said. "They know I'm going to play hard and know my assignments."

    The emergence of first-round pick Steven Jackson, who led the NFL in rushing in the pre-season, eases worries about the durability of Faulk. Faulk missed 11 games due to injuries the last two years and is entering his 11th season.

    "I don't have to show I'm healthy or prove anything, because I cannot be healthy and go through the whole year and have a decent year, and everybody will think everything is fine," Faulk said. "The need I feel is to be here and to play every game to give my team the best opportunity to win."

    New Cardinals coach Dennis Green promises to build a contender quickly, even though Arizona has averaged five wins the last five seasons. He led the Vikings to eight post-season berths in 10 seasons from 1992-2001.

    "I don't like losing, I'll tell you that," Green said. "We're going to do everything we can to have a winning team right from the start."

    It'll be an uphill battle, considering the Cardinals scored the fewest points and allowed the most in the NFL last season.

    Defensive tackle Wendell Bryant is suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

    Emmitt Smith, entering his 15th season, is the feature back due to a season-ending injury to Marcel Shipp.

    Inexperienced Josh McCown, 1-2 as the starting quarterback at the end of last season, is the unquestioned No. 1 now.

    Smith is the NFL's career leading rusher with 17,418 yards, but last year he had only 256, with a 2.8-yard average.

    Green has cleaned house, replacing nearly half the roster from last year. Players have been impressed with the attention to detail.

    "He wants everything done at a high level and he wants everything to be precise," McCown said. "He makes sure everybody is on top of everybody.

    "That alone just tightens the screws around here."

    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • RamWraith
    Underrated doesn't begin to describe Rams' Bulger
    by RamWraith
    January 5, 2005

    You won't hear the St. Louis Rams Marc Bulger mentioned in a discussion of the National Football League's best quarterbacks. Maybe you should.

    Although a bum shoulder hampered him this season, Bulger comes into Saturday's first-round playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks armed with some of the league's top statistics. But more than numbers, what proved Bulger's worth to the St. Louis Rams offense were the two games he didn't play.






    A sack by the San Francisco *****' Bryant Young on Dec. 5 sprained Bulger's right shoulder. The injury sidelined him for the next two games against Carolina and Arizona and forced the Rams to play 39-year-old Chris Chandler.

    Without Bulger, the Rams lost both games - scoring just one offensive touchdown in the process - to put their playoff hopes on life support with a 6-8 record.

    St. Louis needed to beat Philadelphia and the New York Jets in the final two games of the season to have any chance at making the postseason. They did it with Bulger leading the way.

    He completed 20-of-27 passes and threw for 225 yards and a touchdown against the coasting Eagles. On Sunday, in a must-win game, Bulger scorched the Jets for 450 yards and three touchdowns in the overtime victory.

    "I think he's playing really, really well," St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz said Wednesday. "I couldn't imagine he would be at this point at the beginning of the year."

    Bulger was coming off a 2003 season that earned him a Pro Bowl berth and ended with a three-interception performance against eventual NFC champion Carolina in his first playoff start. Then, in this year's first game, Bulger hurt his right shoulder, an injury that continues to nag him.

    "It's still not 100 percent, but who's feeling 100 percent right now?" Bulger said. "I think it's just going to be one of those things until I get some rest in the offseason. But it's definitely good enough to play."

    And when Bulger has played, he's been more than good enough. He set career highs in completion percentage (66.2 percent) and yardage (3,964) this year.

    Both of those numbers rank among the elite in the NFC (third in yardage and completion percentage) and NFL (sixth in both categories). His 93.7 quarterback rating is fourth in the NFC, ahead of his Saturday counterpart, Matt Hasselbeck's 83.1, and eighth in the NFL.

    Bulger has also cut his interceptions from 2003, dropping from 22 to 14.

    Here's the topper. Bulger has done all of this behind a makeshift offensive line. The Rams had to place starting tackle Kyle Turley on injured reserve with a back injury and center Dave Wohlabaugh retired because of a hip injury.

    Four different players start at left guard and two at right tackle....
    -01-07-2005, 02:17 PM
  • Nick
    Underrated doesn't begin to describe Rams' Bulger
    by Nick
    Underrated doesn't begin to describe Rams' Bulger
    By DARRIN BEENE
    January 5, 2005

    You won't hear the St. Louis Rams Marc Bulger mentioned in a discussion of the National Football League's best quarterbacks. Maybe you should.

    Although a bum shoulder hampered him this season, Bulger comes into Saturday's first-round playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks armed with some of the league's top statistics. But more than numbers, what proved Bulger's worth to the St. Louis Rams offense were the two games he didn't play.

    A sack by the San Francisco *****' Bryant Young on Dec. 5 sprained Bulger's right shoulder. The injury sidelined him for the next two games against Carolina and Arizona and forced the Rams to play 39-year-old Chris Chandler.

    Without Bulger, the Rams lost both games - scoring just one offensive touchdown in the process - to put their playoff hopes on life support with a 6-8 record.

    St. Louis needed to beat Philadelphia and the New York Jets in the final two games of the season to have any chance at making the postseason. They did it with Bulger leading the way.

    He completed 20-of-27 passes and threw for 225 yards and a touchdown against the coasting Eagles. On Sunday, in a must-win game, Bulger scorched the Jets for 450 yards and three touchdowns in the overtime victory.

    "I think he's playing really, really well," St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz said Wednesday. "I couldn't imagine he would be at this point at the beginning of the year."

    Bulger was coming off a 2003 season that earned him a Pro Bowl berth and ended with a three-interception performance against eventual NFC champion Carolina in his first playoff start. Then, in this year's first game, Bulger hurt his right shoulder, an injury that continues to nag him.

    "It's still not 100 percent, but who's feeling 100 percent right now?" Bulger said. "I think it's just going to be one of those things until I get some rest in the offseason. But it's definitely good enough to play."

    And when Bulger has played, he's been more than good enough. He set career highs in completion percentage (66.2 percent) and yardage (3,964) this year.

    Both of those numbers rank among the elite in the NFC (third in yardage and completion percentage) and NFL (sixth in both categories). His 93.7 quarterback rating is fourth in the NFC, ahead of his Saturday counterpart, Matt Hasselbeck's 83.1, and eighth in the NFL.

    Bulger has also cut his interceptions from 2003, dropping from 22 to 14.

    Here's the topper. Bulger has done all of this behind a makeshift offensive line. The Rams had to place starting tackle Kyle Turley on injured reserve with a back injury and center Dave Wohlabaugh retired because of a hip injury.

    Four different players start...
    -01-07-2005, 01:25 PM
  • Nick
    Rams aren't flying high behind Bulger
    by Nick
    Rams aren't flying high behind Bulger
    By Roger Phillips, STAFF WRITER

    In recent years, the high-flying St. Louis Rams came to be known as the "Greatest Show on Turf," powered by a flashy offensive arsenal that included quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk and star receiver Isaac Bruce.
    The Rams won the Super Bowl following the 1999 season, and have been an offensive force most of the time since then.

    But Warner now is the New York Giants' backup quarterback, Faulk and Bruce are still productive but reaching the latter stages of their careers, and the Rams are a disappointing 5-6 entering Sunday's home game against the San Francisco ***** (1-10). In fact, Faulk may not play against the ***** because of a bruised left knee.

    Still, despite the Rams' explosive past and the team's sub-.500 record this season, coach Mike Martz is bullish about his offense. In fact, this week, he had remarkably high praise for his starting quarterback, Marc Bulger.


    "The quarterback," Martz said, "right now is playing as well as anybody we have ever had here."

    The statistics do not quite bear out Martz's praise of Bulger.

    In 1999, Warner had a 109.2 passer rating, among the highest in NFL history. He passed for

    4,353 yards, threw 41 touchdown passes, and was intercepted only 13 times. Warner also had a passer rating of 101.4 in 2001, and 98.3 in 2000.

    By contrast, this season Bulger has a passer rating of 90.5, with only 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

    Passing yardage is the only area in which Bulger's statistics compare to those of Warner in his best season. Bulger has thrown for 3,267 yards, including an eye-popping 448 in a 45-17 loss at Green Bay five nights ago.

    At his current pace, Bulger will throw for 4,752 yards this season -- and there is no telling what sort of numbers he might put up Sunday against the *****' battered secondary.

    Bulger, in his second full season as a starter, said his improved understanding of the Rams' offense has made him a better quarterback this year.

    "It is just knowing the difference between being real aggressive and being stupid," said Bulger, who threw an equal number of touchdowns and interceptions last season and had an 81.4 rating.

    "Last year, I would ... try to hit the home runs. This year, it's more of a game management style. If it is not going to be there, I'm willing to take a 3-yard check-down rather than going for the home run every time."

    Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Bulger's performance this season is that it has come with little help from his offensive line. Bulger has been sacked 35 times; only four teams -- including the ***** -- have allowed more sacks. In 1999, Warner was sacked only 29 times the entire...
    -12-04-2004, 01:01 PM
  • RamWraith
    Bulger swaggers in pocket
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Sep. 07 2005

    When last seen against San Francisco, Rams quarterback Marc Bulger was being
    helped off the field of the Edward Jones Dome after getting crumpled by *****
    defensive tackle Bryant Young.

    With 1 1/2 minutes remaining in the opening quarter that day, Young eluded Rams
    offensive tackle Grant Williams, sacking Bulger for a 10-yard loss.

    "Bryant Young just had my hand, held it to my side, and I landed on my right
    shoulder," Bulger recalled Wednesday. "It was in an awkward position (for) the
    AC joint. ... I couldn't really brace my shoulder for the fall, and it just
    kind of slid out, or whatever those joints do."

    Bulger knew right away that his throwing shoulder was messed up.

    "With the shoulder, those ligaments get stretched and it's just nearly
    impossible (to throw)," he said. "You can fight through the pain, but you're
    still flinching, and you won't put the ball where you want."

    Strange as it sounds, that game proved to be a watershed moment in Bulger's
    career. Although Chris Chandler got the Rams through the rest of that Dec. 5
    contest for a 16-6 victory, he was a disaster in losses the following weeks at
    Carolina and Arizona.

    Bulger's importance to the team was painfully underscored in those defeats.
    Just as eye-catching was how he played once he returned. In the Rams' final two
    regular-season games of the 2004, plus their two playoff contests, Bulger
    completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 1,287 yards, with eight touchdowns,
    four interceptions and a stellar passer rating of 106.3.

    According to wide receiver Isaac Bruce, that has led to a greater air of
    confidence in Bulger this training camp and preseason.

    "I think he realizes what he means to this team, and what he means to this
    offense now," Bruce said. "That was very evident when he went down last year
    vs. the ***** here at home, and we missed him for those two games. Things
    didn't go as well as they should have when he was in there. I believe just
    having him in the offense makes everything a whole lot smoother."

    This preseason, Bulger and the entire starting offense looked scraggly in
    limited duty in the opener against Chicago. But against San Diego and Detroit,
    Bulger was on fire. In those two games, he completed 74.2 percent of his passes
    for 348 yards with three TDs, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 110.1.

    No wonder coach Mike Martz, when asked about Bulger's play this preseason,
    said: "I think he's probably pretty close to where he was when last season
    ended, to be honest with...
    -09-08-2005, 06:11 AM
  • RamWraith
    Marked man: Rams' O-line injuries imperiling QB, season
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY
    ST. LOUIS Where does one find the most tender ribs in a Midwest city known for them?
    At a tailgate party hosted by rabid St. Louis Rams fans?

    Not quite.

    Those tender ribs belong to Rams quarterback Marc Bulger. The gritty, two-time Pro Bowler continues to play despite broken ribs and a badly bruised leg courtesy of several wicked hits absorbed during season-opening losses to the Carolina Panthers, San Francisco ***** and Tampa Bay Buccaneers behind an injury-depleted offensive line.

    Like a determined boxer, Bulger keeps pulling himself off the turf in a bid to lift his team -- even when he endured six sacks and at least a dozen hits from the ***** in Week 2. Bulger somehow managed to throw for 368 yards and a touchdown that day only to have Jeff Wilkins' 56-yard, game-winning field-goal attempt bounce off the crossbar in a 17-16 defeat.

    Bulger's ribs were initially bruised thanks to a Week 1 hit from hulking Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. Seven days later, ***** rookie linebacker Patrick Willis delivered a vicious second-quarter shot that required pain-killing medication for Bulger to play on.

    "When the average fan sees a big hit on television, we go, 'Ooh! That had to hurt,' and then we move on," says R.J. Gonser, one of Bulger's CAA Management representatives. "I saw Marc late that evening after the ***** game. He literally could not walk. His entire leg was purple. And his ribs were broken.

    "When you're an NFL quarterback, you're taking shots every week, and there's nothing you can do to rehab (the ribs) until the season's over. Yet Marc doesn't even miss a practice."

    Brian Baldinger worked the Rams-***** game for the Fox network. The NFL analyst might as well have been calling a pay-per-view fight.

    "Marc was gutty really gutty," Baldinger says. "He got hit just about everywhere on his body."

    But Bulger, 30, returned to the practice field last week to get ready for Tampa Bay. He embodies the mentally tough resilience second-year coach Scott Linehan is trying to infuse in the Rams, who have been blindsided by injuries where they could least afford them.

    A campaign that began with bright playoff expectations is suddenly on the ropes, along with a battered quarterback. The season-ending loss of perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace to a shoulder injury in Week 1 was compounded by preseason injuries to two other offensive linemen, veteran reserve tackle Todd Steussie and starting right guard Richie Incognito. Starting left guard Mark Setterstrom is also gone for the year after tearing a knee ligament during the Rams' 24-3 defeat in Tampa last Sunday. The injuries have forced Linehan to continually reconfigure the line.

    When protected and given time, Bulger is as accurate and...
    -09-26-2007, 11:52 AM
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