Bulger to watch Rams' final tuneup

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams plan to sit quarterback Marc Bulger in the preseason finale to lessen the chance of him aggravating a broken right pinkie.

Bulger got his arm warmed up for the second straight day Monday, throwing 25 to 30 passes with the pinkie and right ring finger taped together for stability. That's more throws than Sunday, and the plan calls for even more today in a gradual buildup.

But he's yet to take a snap from center since being injured Aug. 17, routine for a healthy quarterback but potentially jarring for one with Bulger's injury. So backup Kyle Boller will get his third consecutive start Thursday night against the Kansas City Chiefs in the annual Governor's Cup game in St. Louis.

"Right now we're planning on him not going," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "He'd have to come in here tomorrow begging to play and say that it's OK."

Spagnuolo said Bulger likely would have played in a regular-season game, along with other players nursing injuries. Defensive end Leonard Little (knee), guard Richie Incognito (knee) and fullback Mike Karney (ankle) also will be held out.

Bulger knows missing the last three games of the preseason is far from ideal, especially for a franchise rebuilding after going 5-27 the previous two seasons. But he reiterated he'd be ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 13 at Seattle, and promised not to blame inactivity if he struggled in the early season.

"You want to get as many reps as you can on the field, but I think I'll be ready," Bulger said. "That won't be an excuse once the season starts."

Spagnuolo said he constantly weighs the benefits of playing in the preseason vs. the downside of aggravating injuries, and consistently has erred on the side of caution.

"If we were playing a regular season game, my guess is probably all those guys would be pushed to play," Spagnuolo said. "They'd probably want to play. But at this point, I don't know if it's a smart thing to do."

If the game against the Chiefs counted, Bulger said he'd be in the lineup with the help of an injection that would numb the effected area.

"When it's a pain thing, guys find ways," Bulger said. "There's ways to get around that. But you don't want to do it too much. So when the time comes and if there's still a pain issue, it won't be an issue."

Bulger uses the pinkie mostly for gripping the ball and joked a week ago that if he had to amputate one finger, the pinkie would be the one. He said the swelling is gone and he's able to bend the finger with just "a little pain" when he grips the ball.

The most recent X-rays show there's still a break. Bulger expects more X-rays this weekend but said they'd be more for his "peace of mind."

Boller is 26 of 45 for 212 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in the preseason. The former Ravens starter signed with St. Louis after missing last season with a shoulder injury and has been getting more comfortable running a low-risk West Coast offense in Bulger's absence.

"This has been a great opportunity for me," Boller said. "You never know during the year when you're going to get called upon, so to have this to pull back from during the year, it's great."

Guard Jacob Bell is expected back after missing two games with a concussion, and defensive lineman Adam Carriker figures to make his preseason debut after recovering from an ankle injury.

Generally, starters don't play much in the preseason finale. But Carriker, the Rams' first-round pick in 2007, is eager to get on the field.

"The ankle is better than last week, better than the week before," Carriker said. "I'm tired of watching. I'm looking forward to playing, however much it is."

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