Injuries leave roster thin behind Bruce, Holt

Friday, September 12, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Together, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt have been to six Pro Bowls. Behind those two heading into Sunday's game against San Francisco, the Rams have almost no experience at its injury-thinned position of wide receiver.

The third and fourth receivers will be Dane Looker and Mike Furrey, a pair of former NFL Europe stars. But coach Mike Martz said he's not worried about the shortage, noting that the third wide receiver in the season opener, Shaun McDonald, was a fourth-round draft pick this year.

McDonald, who caught six passes for 46 yards that game, is out four to six weeks with ligament damage to his thumb.

The third wide receiver before McDonald was Kevin Curtis, also a rookie. Curtis, a third-round pick, is expected back from a broken leg in the next week or two.

Among the last cuts was Troy Edwards, who played for the Rams last season and was a No. 1 draft pick of Pittsburgh in 1999.

"Certainly, Dane and Mike know what they're doing," Martz said. "Once we get Shaun and Kevin back it'll be a lot easier, but those guys have enough experience."

That said, the Rams undoubtedly will try to have better run-pass balance than in the opener, when Kurt Warner went 34-for-54 and Marshall Faulk got only nine carries in a 23-13 loss to the New York Giants.

"Nobody likes to pass block 54 times a game," Rams offensive tackle Kyle Turley said. "Definitely, we want to have a running game because that keeps the defense honest and keeps the pass rush to a minimum."

Looker, 27, was the top receiver in NFL Europe in 2002 and was named the World Bowl MVP that year, after catching 11 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns for Berlin in the title game. He's bounced around the fringes of the NFL since 2000, finally making his debut with the Rams last season, when he played in three games on offense and special teams.

It was a positive sign in training camp when Looker won the job as holder for place kicker Jeff Wilkins. Against the Giants, Looker caught two passes for 13 yards and completed a pass to Brandon Manumaleuna on a fake field goal that went for a first down.

Looker says he's ready for this shot.

"You never like to see a fellow receiver get hurt and go down," Looker said. "It's a tough situation, but a guy like me has to be ready.

"I've just got to go in and make plays like I'm expected to do."

Furrey is a product of Northern Iowa University -- as is Warner -- and traveled the back roads to the NFL.

He starred for the Arena Football League's New York Dragons, leading the league in receptions (108), receiving yards (1,574) and receiving touchdowns (46) before signing with the Rams in April. He also spent a portion of the 2002 training camp with the New York Jets.

Furrey figured prominently in the Rams' plans from the start of training camp, but was held back much of the summer by a high ankle sprain.

"He came back probably two weeks sooner than most people do on that high ankle sprain for a receiver, which is impressive," Martz said. "At this point, he's darned near 100 percent. It's a question now of really kind of knowing what's going on."

Furrey sounded confident earlier this week.

"We know our stuff," he said. "Now we can just go out and play instead of worrying about when we're going to get in there."

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