Tucker hopes for good health

Monday, June 6, 2005

ST. LOUIS -- After a couple of injury-plagued seasons, the St. Louis Rams' new starting left guard is happy to just be on the field.

Rex Tucker hasn't played an entire year since 2001.

"I'm just happy to be here," Tucker said at the team's three-day minicamp. "I'd be lying if I told you I'd assumed I'd always keep playing.

"At a certain point you feel like maybe you shouldn't play anymore. Maybe I shouldn't keep doing this to myself."

Tucker started all 16 games for the Chicago Bears in 2001, two years after he was drafted in the third round, and was named a Pro Bowl alternate. He's played only 11 games since then, and finished each of the last three seasons on injured reserve.

In 2002 he dislocated his left ankle and broke a bone in his leg. He missed the entire 2003 season with a torn tendon in his right ankle. Last year, he missed the first six games with a dislocated left elbow, then injured his hamstring in December.

"I just couldn't avoid it," Tucker said. "I figured I'd get hit by lightning the next time. It was crazy."

If Tucker can avoid the injury bug, he'll fill one of the team's bigger holes from last season. Four players started at left guard last year -- Tom Nutten, Chris Dishman, Scott Tercero and Larry Turner -- and the first two were lured out of retirement.

That revolving door at that position and at right tackle made for an unsettling foundation last year during the Rams' 8-8 season.

"He's a guy who'll stay on the line of scrimmage and slug it out with those big tackles on defense," coach Mike Martz said Sunday. "Those guys are hard to find.

"Before he got injured, he was playing at a very high level, and those injuries were weird things that happened. It's an instant high-level addition at the guard."

Tucker is a younger brother of Ryan Tucker, who played offensive tackle on two Super Bowl teams for the Rams from 1997 to 2001 and now plays for the Cleveland Browns.

The Rams pounced on Tucker, signing him only a few days after the Bears released him in April. Tucker has no hard feelings for his former team.

"Hey, if I was in their shoes I'd have done the same thing," Tucker said. "I just stayed way too injured, that's all there is to it. I love the Bears, and I love the guys there, and I hope they win all of their games, unless they play us."

Tucker, who has a one-year deal, could re-establish his career with a nice season. Considering his recent history, he's not looking that far into the future.

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