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  • Injuries disrupt offensive line play

    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
    Oakland.

    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
    knee problems and may not play again this season. After limping his way through
    a couple of starts with a sprained knee, Nutten was held out of the Arizona
    game. His status for Monday night's game with Philadelphia uncertain.

    Meanwhile, Timmerman is hanging by thread. Were the Rams not still in playoff
    contention, it's quite possible that Timmerman would be done for the rest of
    the season. He has joint problems in both shoulders.

    "The right one has been worse, and then as of late, the left one has kind of
    caught up with it," Timmerman said. "We'll probably do an X-ray and MRI after
    the season, and see if we need to do surgery on both. If we think we need to do
    them both, we'll probably do 'em both at the same time."

    Since early in his rookie season with Green Bay in 1995, Timmerman has played
    in 155 consecutive regular-season games. The streak is 173 straight contests if
    you include playoffs. That's a lot of collisions, and a lot of wear and tear.
    And that's probably the cause of his current shoulder problems - not a specific
    incident in any one game or practice.

    "Bumping into (defenders) over the years just has slowly caused calcium
    deposits on the end of the bones," Timmerman said.

    The sharpest pain or discomfort doesn't necessarily come with the contact on
    game-day, but with the inflammation that comes in the days after.

    "That's usually when it's the most sore, coming in on Wednesdays," Timmerman
    said.

    Which is usually the first practice day of the week. In large part because of
    the offensive line situation, coach Mike Martz informed the team last week that
    it would spend the rest of the season practicing in shells - or light padding.
    No more full pads and full contact on Wednesdays, which had been the case
    earlier in the season.

    "You have to be careful," Martz said. "You always want to do the right thing by
    these guys. You never want to ask a guy to jeopardize his health."

    Of course, getting Timmerman to miss a game might require heavy sedatives, or
    kidnapping.

    "I feel like I'm a leader on the offensive line," Timmerman said. "I have to be
    out there with my guys, whether it's practice or a game or whatever, if at all
    possible. We've worked together since training camp, and unless you have to
    about haul me off on a cart, then I'm going to be out there with them.
    ...That's how the offensive line works."
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