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O-line's subs rise to occasion

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  • O-line's subs rise to occasion

    O-line's subs rise to occasion
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Nov. 14 2004

    Orlando Pace had been ejected. Chris Dishman had been injured. And suddenly the
    Rams' offensive line sported a new look.

    Grant Williams moved from right tackle to Pace's spot at left tackle. Blaine
    Saipaia took over at right tackle. Tom Nutten slid into Dishman's left guard
    position. And the Rams' offensive line didn't miss a beat in the last
    quarter-plus in a 23-12 victory Sunday over Seattle at Edward Jones Dome.

    "It's kind of like the worst-case scenario," said Saipaia, who had appeared in
    one game in four previous NFL seasons - on special teams. "But everybody on the
    line all are players. You plug us in anywhere, and we'll all perform and give
    you a good product."

    Good enough to stand tall in a brutish 86-yard drive on the Rams' last
    possession that culminated in a 23-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins and a
    virtually insurmountable two- score spread with 26 seconds remaining.

    Dishman suffered a sprained right knee early in the third quarter and will have
    an MRI today. He returned for one series "but it was just giving out on me. So
    I think Tommy was a better choice," he said.

    Other than a brief goal-line appearance earlier this year in San Francisco,
    Nutten hadn't played in an NFL game since 2002. He retired before the start of
    the 2003 season but was lured back by coach Mike Martz in late August when the
    Rams were severely short-handed on the offensive line.

    "Obviously, there was pressure; I'd be lying if I'd say it was like riding a
    bike," said Nutten, who has been bothered by a toe injury and was inactive for
    six of the first eight games. Nutten was a Rams starter from 1999 through 2002,
    a span that included two Super Bowl appearances.

    "We've won an awful lot of games with Tommy Nutten at the left guard spot,"
    Martz said. "Tommy came in and did just an extraordinary job."

    Pace was tossed with 5 minutes 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter. He
    was involved in a scrum after the Seahawks recovered a fumble by Rams running
    back Marshall Faulk. Referee Bill Leavy said he saw Pace "pull the side judge
    (Don Carlson) down to the ground" during the scuffle, but Pace contended that
    he was "just trying to hold myself up ... I'd never intentionally try to hit a

    Williams manned left tackle for the first time since the preseason. He said
    swapping sides is "not fun. But fortunately you don't have time to think about

    And on came Saipaia, a free-agent pickup on Sept. 8 who hadn't been on the
    45-man roster for any of the first eight games. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound
    Colorado State product asserted himself with a rousing first series that
    included a "pancake" block on his initial snap.

    "The guys really rallied around me, to keep me calm and keep me focused,"
    Saipaia said. "I'm proud of myself, but I'm especially proud of my teammates
    for (supporting) me. I really appreciate them for doing that and not really
    losing hope or focus when I got in there."

    The offensive line had been struggling, and Williams acknowledged that the
    stress was wearing. "You could feel some pressure during the week," he said.
    "We practiced harder, and I think it showed. We weren't necessarily perfect,
    but you could just tell the determination."

    That was especially evident on the Rams' final drive, an 11-play march that
    featured nine running plays and trimmed 5:35 off the clock. "That was
    definitely a good feeling," Williams said. "We had put ourselves in a position
    where we knew we were going to get to run the ball, which is what all linemen
    really want to do. And we knew if we get some first downs here, it's our game."

    When Wilkins' kick went through, "It kind of put the cherry on top of
    everything," Nutten said. "I kind of had to sit on the field for a second and
    savor the moment for a little bit."

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: O-line's subs rise to occasion

    Can I be the first in the Blaine Saipaia fan club? Also, Tom Nutten looked outstanding out there. I wouldn't mind seeing him get the start next week.


    Related Topics


    • RamWraith
      Nutten is ready for his encore
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      Of the Post-Dispatch

      There was a time late in Sunday's game against Seattle when Mike Martz looked out at the Rams' offensive huddle from the sideline and saw the numbers 76, 61, 67, 62. . . .

      "It just brought back old memories," Martz said.

      Suddenly it was 2001 all over again.

      For much of the Greatest Show on Turf period - those three seasons of 500-plus points from 1999 through 2001 - offensive linemen Orlando Pace, Tom Nutten, Andy McCollum and Adam Timmerman did much of the heavy lifting for the Rams' high-wire act.

      Now, a succession of injuries at left guard has brought Nutten all the way back - from retirement to the Rams' starting lineup.

      "It's like old times," said McCollum, the Rams' center. "He's back. I don't know if you watched him much at the (Seattle) game, but he looked really good. Like his old self."

      With Scott Tercero a pregame scratch because of a shoulder injury, Nutten was the Rams' next option when Chris Dishman went down early in the third quarter with a knee injury. Dishman tried to return later in the quarter, but after a couple of plays gave way for good to Nutten.

      For Nutten, 33, it was his first extended playing time in two years.

      "It felt strange, but it felt good at the same time," he said. "It felt natural. There were a lot of emotions that I went through."

      Tercero was put on the injured reserve list Tuesday, ending his season, and he will need surgery on the shoulder. Dishman suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, an injury that won't require surgery but will sideline him for four to six weeks.

      So as the Rams continue their drive for the playoffs, they are counting on Nutten to fill the void at left guard, perhaps for the rest of the regular season.

      "I'm pretty excited," he said Wednesday. "I think somebody said 'anxious' is a good word. We're just starting our work week, so I've got to settle myself down a little bit and make sure I don't peak too early."

      When Nutten takes the field Sunday against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., it will be almost two years to the day since his last NFL start. On Nov. 24, 2002, Nutten suffered a season-ending broken leg against Washington. The last glimpse of Nutten as a Ram that day was doing an interview for a German television crew in the visitors' locker room at FedEx Field. Nutten, who spent much of his youth in Germany, speaks fluent German.

      Unable to offer Nutten much more than a minimum contract in free agency, the Rams could do little but sit and watch him sign with the New York Jets the following offseason.

      "I hated losing him," Martz said. "I really like him. He got out there and got a little disillusioned....
      -11-18-2004, 06:06 AM
    • RamWraith
      Nutten is doubtful, but may play
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      Wednesday, Jan. 05 2005

      Will there be a changing of the (left) guard Saturday in Seattle?

      During his regular Wednesday press conference at Rams Park, coach Mike Martz
      all but declared rookie Larry Turner the starter against Seattle. When the
      official injury report came out in the afternoon, Tom Nutten was listed as
      doubtful with a left knee injury.

      But while Turner took the reps with the starters at left guard in practice,
      Nutten was running on the side. And running surprisingly well, which caused
      Martz to change his tune after practice.

      "Tommy may play this week," Martz said. "He's going to practice (Thursday), so
      we'll see. There's a real chance we'll have him up. I was very, very

      According to Martz, Nutten has a torn medial collateral ligament in the knee.
      He played with the injury for a few weeks but, after aggravating it in
      mid-December, did not play against Arizona.

      Nutten was back in the lineup against Philadelphia on Dec. 27 and played well.
      But he suffered another setback late in the third quarter against the New York
      Jets on Sunday and didn't return.

      "I think half the pile came down on the outside of my knee," Nutten said. "I
      felt something in there and right away knew that was it for the day."

      He was still walking with a limp Monday but said the knee felt a lot better. By
      Wednesday, it felt well enough to test the knee with some running.

      Normally, if a Rams player doesn't practice during the week, he doesn't play on
      the weekend. But with the playoffs at hand, Martz sounds willing to take things
      down to the wire if necessary with Nutten.

      "If he goes out in pregame and practices well, he'll play," Martz said. "He's
      just got too much experience and is too good a player."

      Despite having rust to knock off after being out of football last season,
      Nutten, 33, remains a savvy pass blocker and an effective run blocker. He has
      started seven playoff games as a Ram, including two Super Bowls, and that kind
      of experience is invaluable this time of year.

      Nutten was talked out of retirement by the Rams in late August and had to get
      his weight back up to the 300-pound level. Then he battled a turf toe problem
      after just a week with the club. Just when it seemed he was over the nagging
      turf toe injury, along came the knee problem.

      But there aren't many players on the squad who don't have some kind of ailment
      this far into the season.

      "It seems like the season is gruelingly long," Nutten said. "And I was
      -01-06-2005, 05:27 AM
    • RamWraith
      Nutten probably out for playoff game
      by RamWraith
      Rams offensive guard Tom Nutten, who sprained his left knee in Sunday's
      season finale, likely will not play in Saturday's playoff game against Seattle.

      Nutten, who has started six of the past seven games at left guard, was
      injured in the second half of Sunday's 32-29 overtime victory over the New York

      "I think Tom probably will not be available this week," coach Mike Martz
      said Wednesday.

      Rookie Larry Turner, who started at Arizona on Dec. 19, is the likely
      replacement at that position. Turner was a seventh-round pick this year and is
      one of four players to start at left guard this season.

      "He's had some experience and started for us and we're pleased with his
      progress," Martz said.

      Martz considered moving right tackle Blaine Saipaia to guard and reinserting
      Grant Williams, who lost his starting tackle job after 12 games due to injuries
      and ineffectiveness, at tackle. But he said it was less disruptive to use
      Turner at guard.

      Nutten, 33, came out of retirement in mid-August to rejoin the team and was
      inactive for six of the first eight games. He started for the Rams' Super Bowl
      teams in 1999 and 2001.
      -01-05-2005, 03:40 PM
    • RamWraith
      'Just like old times' on Rams line? We'll find out
      by RamWraith
      Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist

      Guard Tom Nutten assumed his old position at left guard Sunday afternoon at the Edward Jones Dome.

      Orlando Pace was to his left, Andy McCollum and Adam Timmerman to his right -– just like during the glory days of the Rams offense.

      “It’s like old times out there,” McCollum said. “It was good to have him there. He did a good job. I think he can be even better this week.”

      Nutten experienced some flashbacks during that victory over the Seattle Seahawks. “It felt strange, but it felt good at the same time,” he said. “It felt natural. There are a lot of emotions out there . . . it felt good.”

      The Rams are glad to hear it, because Nutten is suddenly critical to this team’s quest for another division title.

      Rams quarterback Marc Bulger is clicking these days. Running back Marshall Faulk has the old spring in his step and rookie Steven Jackson adds the power-running component the team has lacked for years.

      Receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce are playing brilliantly this season. Youngsters Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald are developing into significant threats and tight ends Brandon Manumaleuna and Cam Cleeland are factors, too.

      The offense is poised for a big finish this season . . . if the offensive line can somehow hold up. And that’s the big if.

      Who could have foreseen all the calamities that have befallen this unit?

      Would-be starters Dave Wohlabaugh and Kyle Turley are distant memories now, having failed to fully recover from offseason surgery. Promising youngster Scott Tercero just got wiped out by shoulder surgery.

      Poor Chris Dishman just injured his good knee, sidelining him for an indefinite period of time. “I tore my MCL, so we’ll see how long that will take,” Dishman said Wednesday, slowly removing a bulky brace from his left knee.

      He tried to play hurt against the Seahawks, but couldn’t.

      “I braced it up,” Dishman said. “I thought I could do it and I went out and tried to make an adjustment on a linebacker and at that point I knew something was wrong. My knee kind of flopped out to the side and I thought something was not right. It was better for Tommy to go in.”

      Nutten came out of retirement to assist the Rams this season after injuries depleted the offensive line. While he was trying to scrape off his rust and regain his playing strength, he suffered a “turf injury” that hobbled him for a couple of months.

      Now his strength is up and his toe feels great. The chronic elbow injury that prompted his retirement has cleared up and so have his chronic ankle woes.

      “Tom, it was a big key for us to have him there,” Dishman said. “He went in and did a great job. He’s a seven-year guy. He hasn’t been away from the game that long....
      -11-17-2004, 06:36 PM
    • RamWraith
      Martz turns to Nutten to hold down left guard
      by RamWraith
      By Bill Coats
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      Friday, Aug. 26 2005

      The Rams' merry-go-round at left guard continued Friday, when veteran Tom
      Nutten took the snaps with the first team. On Wednesday, Blaine Saipaia was
      with the "ones." On Thursday, it was rookie Claude Terrell.

      Coach Mike Martz said Nutten would start Monday night in Detroit, meaning that
      four of the five starters from the Super Bowl championship team of 2000 -
      Nutten, left tackle Orlando Pace, center Andy McCollum and right guard Adam
      Timmerman - will be lining up together.

      "We're trying to settle in on some guys. It's been awhile since we've been able
      to do that," Martz said. "We're starting to jell a little bit on offense,
      starting to get some things going."

      Nutten opened at right guard in the preseason opener versus Chicago, as
      Timmerman continued his recovery from three offseason operatons. On Sunday in
      San Diego, Saipaia took over that role and Nutten played sparingly. Timmerman
      is expected to see his first game action of the exhibition season versus the

      "I think they're still playing with a couple of things," said Nutten, who
      missed Thursday's practice because he was ill. "I told them, 'I'll do my best
      wherever you put me.' And it seems like this week, they're moving me back to
      left guard."

      Nutten is rounding back into playing shape after undergoing reconstructive
      surgery on his right big toe in the offseason. Nutten said the toe "lets me
      know that it's there, but it seems like it's getting a little bit better.
      Considering what I've been through, I'm actually kind of happy.

      "Of course, I'll always wish to be back to how it was before, but it never will
      be. But it's coming around." Nutten, 34, was a four-year starter at left guard
      for Rams before signing with the New York Jets as a free agent in 2003. A
      nagging elbow injury prompted him to retire five months later, and he was off
      to NFL Europe, where he served as an assistant coach with the Cologne
      Centurions. Martz lured him back last October, and he played in eight games,
      starting six at left guard despite the toe injury and a banged-up knee.

      One person who would welcome some stability on the line is quarterback Marc
      Bulger. "It's been a little difficult in camp, with a couple of injuries and
      ... Alex (Barron) coming in late," Bulger said. "But that's what's good about
      having two weeks left. You want to get into the regular season, but I think
      they need that work together. We're still moving guys around, but I think in
      the next two weeks, it'll come together."

      -08-27-2005, 05:18 AM