Bartell plans to pounce on Brown's mistake

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Rams cornerback Ron Bartell ran after Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Bobby Wade during the first half of their preseason football game Friday in Minneapolis. Bartell should start the first four games for the Rams because of Fakhir Brown's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's drug policy. (Paul Battaglia ~ Associated Press)

A four-game suspension opened the door at cornerback.

ST. LOUIS -- Ron Bartell figures to get four starts at cornerback for the St. Louis Rams while Fakhir Brown serves his suspension for violating the NFL's drug policy. At least.

Bartell's objective is to make the arrangement permanent.

"I'm definitely looking to keep it," Bartell said Monday. "I'm not trying to give it back. I just want to go in and play my best and just let the chips fall where they may."

Bartell, a second-round pick in 2005, tied for the team lead with three interceptions last year. Because of injuries he was able to start seven games his rookie season, but he got only one start last year playing behind Brown.

Rams coach Scott Linehan has said he plans on giving Brown plenty of playing time in the preseason, although Bartell started the opening 13-10 victory at Minnesota on Friday night. Brown is appealing the suspension, which he said is because of a missed test and not a failed test.

Linehan had no complaints with Bartell's play against the Vikings, noting he rebounded well after early struggles in coverage. Bartell was part of a unit that held Minnesota to 215 yards total and three points on offense.

"I don't think the game was one of his better games, but it wasn't awful," Linehan said. "He recovered and played very good when he played the last couple of drives, made a couple of nice plays and a couple of real nice tackles.

"I think that's what you've got to go through with a young corner."

Two of Bartell's interceptions last year came in the season finale against the Vikings, returning one for a touchdown. He's hoping to build on that momentum while Brown, whose suspension is scheduled to begin Aug. 31, watches in street clothes.

"I don't think I look at it like it's an audition," Bartell said. "I just look at it like it's an opportunity. I just need to step my game up along with some other guys."

Bartell also has experience at safety, increasing his value to the team.

"I've got to put in a lot more studying time than some people," Bartell said. "I'm up for the challenge. The more you can do, the more important you are, that's how I look at it."

Linehan also has been happy with the play of rookie Jonathan Wade, a third-round pick, and free agent pickup Lenny Walls, helping him deal with Brown's absence.

"It's unfortunate that it's happened, but it's happened," Bartell said. "So we all just need to step up and see what happens."

Noteworthy

* The Rams reopened training camp to fans Monday and got a huge break from a heat wave that had temperatures at or near triple digits for about a week. It was down to the upper 70s after an overnight storm, and Linehan expects practices to be outside all week.

* DT La'Roi Glover (hip flexor) was held out of practice but could return on a limited basis as early as today.

* The competition at center continues this week with Andy McCollum, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in last year's opener, starting ahead of Brett Romberg. Romberg started in the preseason opener.

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