By Doug Tucker ~ The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Four days past his 44th birthday, Morten Andersen will face a critical moment in his drive to prolong a Hall of Fame career.
Andersen will do most of the place kicking during Kansas City's exhibition game against St. Louis. He's worked hard to get in shape for a 23rd consecutive season.
But lurking on the sidelines, hoping to take his job, will be 26-year-old Lawrence Tynes, a Canadian Football League star who had an impressive training camp.
The competition has been tight. But Tynes, who failed to unseat Andersen in 2001 and 2002, has seemed to hold an edge.
Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil won't say how important tonight's game might be to Andersen. He doesn't have to.
"I think all games are important to Morten Andersen, just like they are for anybody else who has competition for his job," Vermeil said. "Morten is doing well and I feel good about him."
The Rams, in the meantime, are trying to sort out a few positions themselves. Running back Marshall Faulk is unlikely to play this early in the preseason, which is leaving plenty of opportunity for first-round pick Steven Jackson.
Jackson had 73 yards on 15 carries in a 13-10 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears on Aug. 12.
"He'll get a heavy load," coach Mike Martz said. "He needs to play. He's ready to play."
The Rams are playing three preseason games in just 12 days.
Another concern for the Rams has been the offensive line.
Tackle Kyle Turley hasn't practiced since Aug. 1 after reinjuring his surgically repaired back, and center Dave Wohlabaugh's contract was terminated on Thursday after he failed a physical following offseason hip surgery in March.
Progress has been further slowed by the contract holdout of the other tackle, Orlando Pace.
The weakened Rams line might prove good tonic for a Chiefs defense in need of a shot of confidence. As might be expected, there are still snags in Gunther Cunningham's installation of a new defensive scheme.
"I think we're getting a general idea of what we have to do," said Cunningham. "In the Giants game we had 48 or 49 plays where they got two yards or less and then nine plays for about 200 yards. That stems from some of the mistakes we're making. We do the same thing on the practice field. We'll go 10, 12 plays against our offense and we look like we really know what we're doing and then we have a breakdown here or there."
In the kicking battle, Tynes has leg strength going for him.
His kickoffs throughout camp have consistently sailed farther than his older rival's. But experience weighs heavily in this area. Tynes has never kicked in the NFL, and Andersen is the league's all-time No. 2 scorer.
"We all know that Lawrence Tynes kicks off better, so that is an advantage" Vermeil said. "It still comes down to if you can make the 48-yard field goal with no time left on the clock. That is what it comes down to. We might have to make that decision based on judgment, rather than actual experience."
Andersen, Vermeil noted, "has done it often. He has done it a lot. Even if he has done it lot, but cannot do it anymore that is not good enough. I think he is doing a good job right now and maybe he is going to be able to keep doing it."