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Bulger skips meeting to open camp
The Rams quarterback wants a new contract and could be a holdout when training camp opens today.
ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, who is seeking a new contract, was a no-show for a mandatory team meeting the day before the start of training camp.
Coach Scott Linehan said team officials were meeting with Bulger's representatives and was hopeful that Bulger would be on the field for the first practice this morning.
"I'd be surprised if he wasn't," Linehan said. "I think it'll be resolved. I'd be really surprised if it got that far, personally."
Linehan said at least for now, the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback's no show was an excused absence and there would be no fine. The two spoke by telephone Thursday morning and Linehan believed that Bulger was in St. Louis.
"Certainly I'd be a lot more comfortable if it was resolved before the meeting, but I'll be fine if it's resolved in this meeting," Linehan said.
Bulger is in the final year of a four-year, $19.1 million contract, putting him somewhere in the middle of the NFL in terms of salary for his position. The team has said signing him to a new deal is a priority and has been formulating an offer that could make him the highest-paid player in franchise history.
Earlier this month, Bulger said in an interview with Sirius Radio that he would consider a holdout. Last year he threw for 4,301 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions, a 62.9 percent completion rate and ranked fourth in the NFL in passer rating.
"I don't think it's going to happen, but you never know," Bulger said then. "I don't want to rule anything out."
A spokesman for Bulger's agent, Tom Condon of Kansas City, said Condon was out of town and negotiating contracts. Linehan said the meeting was delayed until now because Condon has been busy dealing with other clients, and didn't regard Bulger's no-show status as sending a message.
Linehan said he's staying out of the talks and concentrating on his area of expertise. The Rams were 8-8 in his first season.
"Having the team in the right state starting camp is critical to me," he said. "The only hard part is it's not perfect right now.
"But let's get to tomorrow before there's any over-reaction of any kind."
Teammates who arrived before the early afternoon meeting appeared confident, too.
"I don't know if he's going to be here or not," running back Steven Jackson said. "But I believe for him that everything will work out.
"Without him, I don't know how we're going to run the offense."
Center Andy McCollum said he expected Bulger to show up for the first practice "regardless of what happens."
"He's been around a long time and he knows what he's doing," McCollum said. "I expect to see Marc today, but if not, then I trust that he'll handle it."
Wide receiver Torry Holt has caught 38 touchdown passes from Bulger, second-most among active duos in the NFL. Holt had also expected to see Bulger at the team meeting.
"Hopefully they can get this situation nipped in the bud and give him what he deserves," Holt said. "And we can move on as a team, as an organization, and make good out of this thing."
The other major absence was first-round pick Adam Carriker, a defensive lineman, who remained unsigned. Linehan said the Rams also were in serious negotiations with Carriker's agent, Vann McElroy.
Linebacker Kevin McLee, an undrafted free agent from West Virginia, was an excused absence attending to the death of his father.