Rams' McCollum back after missing last season

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Romberg is offering the former starter a stiff challenge for the job.

ST. LOUIS -- Veteran center Andy McCollum returns for his 14th NFL season and he is looking to regain the form that allowed him to play all 1,025 offensive snaps in 2005.

McCollum missed the 2006 season. In the season opener against Denver, he started at left guard and suffered torn ACL and MCL ligaments in his left knee in the second quarter. That sidelined him for the rest of the year. The injury snapped a string of 156 consecutive regular season starts that dated back to 1996.

At 37, he decided to come back. McCollum, in his ninth season with St. Louis, is the oldest player on the roster.

"That's what I do," McCollum said after practice Wednesday at Rams Park. "I love to play football. I had to rehab the knee anyway so I could use it for the rest of my life. I never considered not coming back. My knee's fine. I'm good to go."

McCollum is battling Brett Romberg for the starting center position. Romberg, 27, emerged from the practice squad and started the final three games of the 2006 season. They were the first starts in his NFL career.

Rams coach Scott Linehan started Romberg in the preseason opener, a 13-10 victory over Minnesota. For the second game Saturday at home against San Diego, Linehan said McCollum gets the start. He explained how he arrived at those decisions.

"Andy was coming off an injury and Brett had finished the year [as the starter]," Linehan said. "We didn't do the coin flip. We didn't do anything. We just said you're going to play one and you're going to play the other. They understand the deal."

The two welcome the competition.

"He pushes me, I push him," Romberg said. "But it's very civil. It's a very professional, competitive area right now. We're both working our butts off every day doing what we can do. It keeps you definitely from taking a day off. It's a huge dream of mine to be a starter in the NFL and I'm trying to achieve it."

McCollum agreed.

"We're both working hard," McCollum said. "We both want the job and only one can get it. So, we're trying to win it."

Linehan said the issue has yet to be decided.

"It's too early still to tell," Linehan said. "Our plan was to go through two games. I think we'll have a better idea when these two games are complete to really give you a fair assessment. It's still very close."

McCollum offers experience. At 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, he has the size and athletic ability along with the knowledge to get the job done.

The 6-2 Romberg is younger. He added 20 pounds in the offseason and now weighs 298.

Noteworthy

* Wednesday was the last day of two-a-day practices for the Rams, who officially end training camp Friday. "I've been really happy with this camp," Linehan said. "I sleep good at night."

* For Saturday's game, Linehan said the No. 1 unit will play more, as will the second string, than it did in the first game.

* Rookie WR Derek Stanley, a seventh-round draft pick, had the catch of the morning workout when he stretched and was parallel to the ground and hauled in the ball between defenders. "He's really shown up making a lot of plays," Linehan said. "That's what training camp is all about."

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