Rookie Greco anticipates first career start in finale

Friday, December 26, 2008

ST. LOUIS -- One would think the season finale for a 2-13 team on a nine-game losing streak might be a dreary occasion. That's definitely not the case for St. Louis Rams rookie offensive lineman John Greco, who's anticipating his first career start.

The third-round pick out of Toledo would get the nod at left guard if Jacob Bell is unable to recover from a hamstring injury that has kept him out of practice the last two days. It's the reward for a season of hard work, prompting a proud call home to his father in Youngstown, Ohio.

"Being a rookie, you come in and your head's spinning," Greco said Wednesday. "I just try to keep my head on straight and stay focused and when I've got the chance to play, I've got to take advantage.

"Now the time is coming, it's the last game, and I've got to play hard."

Greco got his first significant playing time in a loss to the Dolphins on Nov. 30, filling in at right guard in the second half after Richie Incognito was sidelined following a blow to the head. He began filling in for Bell at left guard in the second quarter of last week's 17-16 loss to the 49ers.

There's extra incentive to make a good impression at Atlanta (10-5) on Sunday, given his struggles at the end of the San Francisco game. Rams coach Jim Haslett said he gave up a sack and a quarterback hit, and perhaps worst of all, missed a block on a draw play in the final minute that could have put the Rams closer to a game-winning field goal attempt.

Steven Jackson ended up losing 3 yards on the play, and Marc Bulger was intercepted on the next play to ensure the Rams' ninth straight loss.

"If he'd have picked up his man, it probably would have been a pretty good play," Haslett said Monday.

Haslett gave Greco a pep talk later in the week.

"He's a young kid and he has a ways to go," Haslett said. "With his mass and size and athleticism, once he understands what you want out of him in the game, I think he'll be a pretty good player."

Even if Haslett hadn't mentioned it, Greco said he was disappointed in himself.

"I'm going to make mistakes, and I've just got to try to get better," Greco said. "I was upset about it. Getting toward the end, it was crunch time and I just didn't get it done."

Bell reinjured a hamstring injury that sidelined him for Games 2 and 3, although he was feeling better Wednesday.

"I've been through it before, and I know what to look for," Bell said. "I've just got to let things settle down."

Greco was a three-time Mid American all-conference selection at Toledo, learned to play guard this year and by next season, he may be well versed at all line positions given the Rams have toyed with trying him at center in the offseason.

Greco has worked on snapping skills after practices many Fridays.

"I'm ready for whatever," he said. "I've never really had formal training, but if I'm given the chance, I'll work hard and do it."

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