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  • Thursday Notes

    Thursday, December 16, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    While things on the defensive side of the ball for the Rams seem to be settling in, the same can’t be said for the offense.

    If it wasn’t bad enough losing quarterback Marc Bulger to a sprained right shoulder and running backs Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk to bruised knees, the offensive line is as bruised and battered as any unit on the team.

    Injuries and inconsistency have plagued St. Louis’ offensive line for most of the season and that has led to some tense moments. Bulger has taken many hits and that finally caught up to him against San Francisco on Dec. 5. Bulger began throwing again Wednesday and did some more Thursday, but is still questionable for Sunday’s game at Arizona.

    In addition to the injuries behind the offensive line, there is not a single Rams’ lineman who has been completely healthy all season.

    Rams coach Mike Martz said injuries have been the biggest cause of the line’s inconsistency.

    “I think it’s a little bit more complicated than the mindset,” Martz said. “We just have to have them ready. We’ll give some of these other guys some repetitions. It’s not a question of wanting to play good or the effort or anything. That’s never been the issue with these guys. They are just banged up, trying to fight through it and struggling a little bit. We have to do the right thing by these guys and give them the opportunity to get back physically.”

    Specifically, the guard position has been the most depleted this week. Right guard Adam Timmerman has yet to appear on the injury report, but he missed most of Wednesday and Thursday’s practices because of shoulder problems.
    Timmerman, who has joined fellow Doughnut Brother Andy McCollum as the Death and Taxes of the group, is usually impossible to keep out of practice. Martz said he practically has to force Timmerman to sit out.

    “Adam will not come out of practice, he just refuses,” Martz said. “He gets upset with it, and says he can’t leave his guys. It’s a very emotional thing for him; he’s the rock out there. Everything is kind of built around him in that offensive line, and if he leaves that huddle, even in practice for a minute, he has a hard time with that.”

    On the left side, Tom Nütten continues to struggle with foot and knee problems. Earlier this season, he missed time with a severe case of turf toe. He was limited in practice the past couple of days, also.

    Nütten replaced Chris Dishman at left guard when Dishman tore some ligaments in his knee. Dishman returned to practice Wednesday and did little on Thursday, but isn’t likely to return this week and his status for the rest of the season remains in question.

    If Nütten and or Timmerman aren’t able to play, that leaves rookie Larry Turner and Darnell Alford as the backup options. Turner is the more likely of the two to start in case Nütten or Timmerman can’t go.

    Martz said that Turner has earned the chance to play if need be.

    “He deserves the opportunity, he’s absolutely good enough,” Martz said. “I don’t have any problems with he or Darnell (Alford) going into guard at this point. They’ve been in our system long enough and they’ve done very well in practice. They have a certain air about them, a calmness. This isn’t too big for either one of them. I’m not worried about that part of it.”

    The seventh-round choice out of Eastern Kentucky was drafted as a center and has played there for most of his time with the Rams this season. Turner did, however, spend his sophomore and junior seasons as a guard.

    That has made Turner’s adjustment this week easy and he is approaching it like any other week. More than anything, Turner is looking forward to getting his opportunity. He hasn’t played since the preseason and has spent his time in practice alternating between scout team center and first-team guard.

    Offensive line coaches have worked more with Turner in recent weeks, not just with his on the field work, but also his study habits. That has given Turner a chance to watch film and look for tendencies of defenders with Matsko.
    Turner said he is excited about possibly playing and should have no trouble playing guard.

    “It’s been awhile since I’ve been out there being able to come up there and hit somebody,” Turner said. “At guard, you are kind of like on an island…it’s you and him. It’s more physical. It’s more fun. It’s a lot easier to get pancakes when you are at guard.”

    The tackle position has not been injury-free, either. Starting right tackle Grant Williams has an arthritic shoulder and was replaced last week by Blaine Saipaia. Saipaia held his own against Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers last week and is still improving.

    Left tackle Orlando Pace has not even been up to his usual Pro-Bowl standard. Although Pace has been solid, he has had trouble continuing to play at the level everyone has grown accustomed to. He has battled thigh and knee injuries, also.

    “He can play better,” Martz said. “He’s not playing bad, but he can play better. He can be a dominate player, and at times he is.”

    Meanwhile, McCollum continues to be the most consistent performer on the line at center. Every week it seems McCollum is earning praise for his effort.

    McCollum said he is growing frustrated with the overall effort of the group and the team and that needs to change as soon as possible.

    “We just have to get better,” McCollum said. “The whole team has to get better. As a group, as an offensive line, we have to take it upon ourselves to come out this week and perform like we have in the past, like the first time we played these guys. Hopefully we can get the run game going and mix it up and throw the ball a little bit.”

    RUNNING BACK UPDATE: Jackson and Faulk appear likely to be in the lineup this weekend and will probably get plenty of carries, especially if Bulger is unable to play.

    Jackson is still struggling with swelling in his right knee, but he practiced Wednesday and Thursday. He is listed as questionable, but said he expects to play Sunday.

    “I got a practice under my belt and it felt pretty good, but as the week progresses, we are going to see how it reacts,” Jackson said. “I’m preparing (to play).”

    Faulk also practiced Wednesday and appeared to be back to the condition he was in before he bruised the knee, but he was limited Thursday. He has been out since the Green Bay game on Nov. 29.

    INJURY REPORT: Jackson, Bulger and Dishman are questionable. Cornerbacks Jerametrius Butler (knee) and Travis Fisher (knee), linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (shoulder) and tackle Grant Williams (shoulder) are probable.

    Bulger, Butler, Dishman, Fisher, Tinoisamoa and Williams missed parts or all of practice

Related Topics


  • RamDez
    Nütten Returns to Rams
    by RamDez
    Nütten Returns to Rams
    Friday, August 20, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Tom Nütten spent the better part of the past year coaching tight ends for the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe. It came as little surprise, then, when Nütten arrived at Rams Park on Friday afternoon looking like his players.

    After five years with the Rams, where he started at left guard in both of St. Louis’ Super Bowl appearances, Nütten signed with the New York Jets in the 2003 offseason. Nütten battled many injuries during training camp and retired on Aug. 14.

    Nütten, who was born in Toledo, Ohio, but grew up in Quebec, signed on with the Centurions, a new franchise in NFL Europe, in March. Nütten was one of a few former Rams taking part in a new program between NFL Europe and the NFL that allows young coaches to gain valuable experience in the game and get a comprehensive evaluation of their abilities. Former Rams D’Marco Farr and Amp Lee also coaching in NFL Europe in 2004.

    Now two months after the NFL Europe season ended, Nütten signed a one-year deal with the team that gave him his start in the league. Nütten’s signing comes after a series of injuries and uncertainties along the offensive line has created opportunities.

    Nütten, who was living in Tampa, Fla., was preparing to teach at a football camp when he got the call from the Rams on Wednesday night. With Nütten’s recent injury problems, the team ran numerous medical checks, which Nütten passed.

    Nütten made sure to apologize to the kids ready to attend his camp, but he said he had to take advantage of a circumstance that was unique. “Hypothetically, people always ask ‘what would you do if a team calls you and wants you to come out of retirement,” Nütten said. “Obviously, I would say hell no, knowing it was a longshot that a team calls you anyway, especially your old team. If it were any of the other 32 teams, it would have been a real easy answer: no, no thank you, but these are the guys I bled with, the guys I sweated with. It’s an opportunity I didn’t want to let slip away.”

    Nütten comes back to St. Louis with plenty of experience under his belt, having started 56 games as a left guard. The biggest problem facing Nütten right now is the number of notches he is using on his belt.

    While most offensive linemen never lose their voracious appetites, Nütten actually lost between 20 and 25 pounds. His final listed playing weight was 304 pounds, but he estimated he is around 280 now. Nütten said he would attempt to add five to 10 pounds before the regular season begins Sept. 12 against Arizona.

    When it was suggested to Nütten that he could join Adam Timmerman and Andy McCollum, “The Doughnut Brothers,” Nütten wasted no time saying that he wants to add a different kind of weight. “I think they’re kind of jealous of my slim physique,” Nütten said. “I’m sure the jokes are going...
    -08-20-2004, 11:14 PM
  • RamDez
    Bulger Among the Best at Quarterback
    by RamDez
    Bulger Among the Best at Quarterback
    Saturday, October 2, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Lost in all of the worries and warts in St. Louis’ past two games is one extremely encouraging development.

    Quarterback Marc Bulger has emerged as one of the league’s best quarterbacks, ranking third in passing yards (915) and seventh in rating (94.7). After a solid outing against Arizona in the opener, Bulger had a good game against Atlanta. This past weekend against New Orleans his effort showed he could be making the move to the next level.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said Bulger is starting to embrace his role as a leader of the team.

    “He has always had that moniker, if you will, of being a guy that would do whatever it takes to win the game, that’s just part of it,” Martz said. “Making a great throw, moving around, scrambling, whatever it takes to win a game and having the presence of mind to do that is very important. I know he is quiet, and you don’t know him like I do, but he’s very competitive and tough.”

    Bulger threw the ball all over the field against the Saints, hitting passes long and short, racking up 358 passing yards and a touchdown. The yardage total was the third highest of his career, but it was what he did with his legs that made him stand out.

    On a play that could someday be remembered as one of his defining moments, Bulger darted up the seam of the New Orleans’ defense to score from 19 yards out and give the Rams the lead with 28 seconds to play.

    “I think he is playing exceptionally well,” Martz said. “His decisions, his check-downs, taking off at the end of the game and getting the ball in the end zone, he is getting better, better and better. I’m very pleased with him.

    “There has been significant progress over the first few games. I really thought in the first few games, the stress that we talk about wore on him a little and maybe it did. But he has been shaking that off really well, and he’s on his way now. I’m very impressed with how he has played.”

    TER’IN IT UP: Scott Tercero emerged in the preseason as one of the Rams’ most valuable players.

    Tercero was drafted in 2003 as a guard out of California, but since arriving in the NFL, he has become the utility man of the offensive line. He spent time in the preseason at tackle with Orlando Pace gone and Kyle Turley hurt. Then, Adam Timmerman and Chris Dishman battled some injury problems, causing Tercero to move back to guard. He has also spent some time in practice at center.

    All of that paled in comparison to the task he was handed on Sept. 26. Dishman left the New Orleans game with an ankle injury and Tercero stepped in. The Saints’ defensive line came after him with everything it had and Tercero held up.

    “He really did a good job,” Martz said. “I was so pleased with him. He was able to pass things...
    -10-02-2004, 11:40 PM
  • RamWraith
    Saipaia Set for Start
    by RamWraith
    Friday, November 18, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Blaine Saipaia is used to lining up on the right side of the offensive line...and the left side and in the middle and even further out at tight end.

    The Rams’ utility man has earned his reputation as the ultimate team player because of his willingness to bounce from position to position with nary a word or hint of dissension.

    That patience looks like it will be rewarded with a start in place of Adam Timmerman at right guard against the Cardinals on Sunday.

    “Anytime you get in the game and get a chance play, it’s a chance to really prove yourself worthy of being here at this level and here on this team,” Saipaia said. “The level of expectation has been set by the guys here before me. There is a level of intensity you have to bring because they have set the bar so high. You have to be ready to keep it up, match it or improve on it.”

    Most of Saipaia’s work in games has come at right tackle, but this season more than ever he has been all over the place. He played special teams and left guard in the opener in San Francisco and started at right tackle the following week against Arizona and Tennessee. In the first meeting with Seattle, Saipaia started at tight end.

    But during practice all year, Saipaia has played every position on the offensive line, even finding some time to work in on the defensive line in goal line situations. Against Indianapolis, he played defensive line in those packages also.

    “One week I’ll be at tight end, the next week I’ll be at guard, back to tackle, now at guard,” Saipaia said. “I worked in a few D tackle plays on the goal line there. Don’t be surprised if one day I’m split out wide next to Torry (Holt) and running some streaks.”

    At 6’3, 310 pounds, Saipaia probably isn’t as suited to any position more than guard. He simply hasn’t been given the opportunity to settle in there until this week, well for the most part.

    Saipaia is an emergency center and took some snaps there this week, but coach Joe Vitt said guard is really where Saipaia belongs.

    “He’s playing guard right now and he should feel comfortable in there,” Vitt said. “I think that’s really what he is. He’s a bigger body guy with a good short area punch and doesn’t have to move as much in space, moving tackles off the line of scrimmage.”

    With the news that Saipaia will probably start, Timmerman’s streak of 184 consecutive games and 89 straight starts would come to an end. Timmerman watched Friday’s practice just as he did on Wednesday and Thursday and probably won’t be able to go unless his back heals overnight.

    Still, that doesn’t mean Timmerman can’t have an impact on Sunday’s game. Saipaia said he wouldn’t hesitate to take some advice from Timmerman or Tom Nütten, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this...
    -11-19-2005, 05:18 AM
  • RamWraith
    Tuesday Notebook
    by RamWraith
    Tuesday, August 24, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Travis Fisher’s broken right arm wasn’t the only cause for concern Monday night. Quarterback Marc Bulger injured his knee after being sacked in the first half. Bulger had an MRI on his knee Tuesday, which revealed only a bone bruise. His status is day to day.

    Linebacker Tommy Polley and defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson are battling shoulder injuries. Polley has a muscle strain and Jackson has a shoulder strain and are day to day as well. Adam Timmerman’s sore shoulder continues to give him problems. Martz said Timmerman will be held out of practice this week. Tony Newson (hamstring), Robert Cromartie (hamstring), Groce (knee), Jeremy Phillips (neck) and Joey Goodspeed (hamstring) were inactive for Monday’s game.

    FAULK CHECK: Marshall Faulk played 13 snaps against Kansas City, finishing with 16 yards on six carries and made a catch for 9 yards. Faulk, who has battled knee and hand injuries in recent years, said he felt fine after the game. “There’s a conditioning factor that I’m working on,” Faulk said. “I felt pretty good out there. You never know in this offense until your number is called five, six seven times in a row if you are in the conditioning you want to be. That is something that is going to come as I get my carries throughout the preseason and throughout the year.”

    Martz said he was pleased with what he saw from Faulk against the Chiefs and expects him to play against Washington at the Edward Jones Dome on Friday night. “We’ll continue in these last two games to make sure that he gets some work,” Martz said. “He’s further along than he’s ever been at this point in the season. He looked like he had that great burst of speed and all that good stuff.”

    O-LINE MOVING ON: The offensive line had problems with the Chiefs’ continued blitzing Monday night, but there were myriad reasons for that. The starting group consisted of left guard Chris Dishman (signed late, still working on his conditioning), right tackle Scott Tercero (who had played in only one game of any kind in his year in St. Louis), left tackle Grant Williams (playing on a severely sprained right ankle), center Andy McCollum (who moved over from left guard) and right guard Timmerman (shoulder injury).

    The problems along the line made it difficult to stop Kansas City’s relentless pass rush. Martz said he expects the unit to jell as the regular season draws closer and certain players get back to their comfort zones. “Provided that we can keep what we have healthy, we will put out a first unit that will compete and play well,” Martz said.

    ROSTER MOVEMENT: The Rams released seven players Tuesday afternoon moving closer to the limit of 65 that must be reached by Aug. 31. The final cuts to reach the 53-man roster must be made by Sept. 5. Defensive tackle Richard Harris, receivers Derek McCoy and Brian Sump, linebackers...
    -08-25-2004, 05:45 AM
  • RamWraith
    Injuries disrupt offensive line play
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Dec. 21 2004

    When it comes to offensive line continuity, the Rams are finding out how the
    other half lives.

    With rare exceptions since the move to St. Louis in 1995, the Rams have sent
    out their five starting offensive linemen at the start of every regular season
    and watched those five guys perform nearly every Sunday.

    In the first nine seasons of Rams football in St. Louis, the normal starting
    five up front answered the bell 95 percent of the time. In 2003, the Rams
    started the same five blockers in all 17 games, from the season opener against
    the New York Giants to the playoff loss against Carolina.

    And now comes the 2004 season, a trainwreck from the start in terms of
    offensive line injuries.

    "I don't think I've seen a season like this, where we've had that many injuries
    at different positions," right guard Adam Timmerman said. "I've maybe seen one
    position where we've had to use a couple of guys."

    But nothing like this. When rookie Larry Turner started last Sunday in Arizona,
    he became the ninth offensive lineman to start for the Rams this season. That's
    the most line starters in any one season since the franchise moved here. And
    there are still two games to play.

    The only season remotely similar was the '02 campaign, a season in which the
    team finished 7-9. That season, left tackle Orlando Pace missed Games 4-6 with
    a calf injury and Games 13-15 with a hamstring injury. Left guard Tom Nutten
    missed the final five contests of that season with a broken leg. Backup tackle
    Grant Williams suffered season-ending ankle and leg injuries in Game 6 against

    As for 2004:

    Turner, Blaine Saipaia and Scott Tercero have all made their first
    NFL starts.

    Tercero went on the season-ending injured reserve list Nov. 16 because of
    a shoulder injury. Kyle Turley, who was supposed to be the starting right
    tackle, was placed on injured reserve on Aug. 28 after aggravating a back
    injury that had required surgery last spring. Dave Wohlabaugh, who was supposed
    to be the starting center, was released on Aug. 18. He couldn't pass his
    physical at the start of training camp following offseason hip surgery.

    Williams will need cleanup shoulder surgery once this season is
    completed. Timmerman may need surgery on both shoulders. Tercero already
    has undergone surgery.

    Rams offensive linemen have missed 42 games because of injury.

    Almost in desperation, the Rams coaxed guards Nutten and Chris Dishman out of
    retirement in August. But Dishman already has missed seven games because of ...
    -12-22-2004, 04:34 AM