Ragone, Fitzpatrick battle for No. 3 quarterback spot

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams' quarterback situation leaves little wiggle room. Marc Bulger firmly holds the starting job, and Gus Frerotte appears tucked tightly into the backup spot.

That leaves two players going after one slot -- Dave Ragone, who spent his first three years in the NFL behind David Carr in Houston; and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who completed 76 of 135 attempts as a Rams rookie last year as both a starter and backup.

Ragone is a known quantity to new Rams coach Scott Linehan, who was offensive coordinator at Louisville during Ragone's first three years there.

But Linehan waves off suggestions that Ragone has an inside track for the final backup job with St. Louis.

"That's totally unfair," Linehan said Tuesday. "I wouldn't call it an advantage. It's a good thing, because I'm familiar with what Dave can do, and Dave will get better and better. But it would be unfair to say that for Ryan's sake, because Ryan is playing very well.

"It's very healthy battle, two great, great kids who are competing," Linehan added. "But it's way too early to say what's going to happen there."

Ragone hasn't attempted a pass in a regular-season game since 2003, when he completed 20 of 40 attempts as a rookie with Houston. He signed with Cincinnati as a free agent after last season, then was traded to St. Louis in June and reunited with Linehan.

"Everything is new. It's not what [Linehan] ran in Louisville," Ragone said.

Fitzpatrick was deemed a long-shot to make the Rams last year and feels he's in somewhat the same spot this year. His chances improved slightly when Jeff Smoker was cut before the start of training camp.

"I'm glad it got narrowed down to four [quarterbacks] because now we'll get more reps," Fitzpatrick said.

Frerotte, a veteran of 13 years in the NFL, has an extensive relationship with Linehan. They were together last year at Miami -- Linehan as the offensive coordinator and Frerotte as the starter in 15 of the Dolphins' 16 games. The duo also spent time with Minnesota before their one-year stint in Florida.

Their time together and Frerotte's experience has given him a large head start in Linehan's system with St. Louis. In 16 games total last season, Frerotte completed 257 of his 494 attempts for 2,996 yards. He also three just five more touchdowns (18) than had passes intercepted (13) and finished with a pedestrian 71.9 quarterback rating.

While Linehan likes Frerotte's experience and ability to serve as a backup, he wants something different from his No. 3 quarterback.

"You like a guy who is going to be the next Marc Bulger. You're not necessarily looking for the old journeyman," Linehan said.

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