Warner still has soreness in finger

Thursday, November 28, 2002

When Kurt Warner showed up in the locker room with his throwing hand wrapped in a plastic bag filled with about a pound of ice Wednesday, it looked like more quarterback woes for the St. Louis Rams.

They already lost the NFL's MVP for five games with a broken pinkie, and backup Marc Bulger, who led the team to a 5-0 record in Warner's absence, was a wounded No. 3 quarterback last week with a sprained right index finger that limited his effective range to about 10 yards. Jamie Martin, who began the year as the backup, injured his knee in his only start in Week 5.

The day after the Rams' 20-17 loss to the Redskins, coach Mike Martz said Warner's hand looked like a "catcher's mitt."

But by Wednesday the swelling had gone down considerably, and the ice was more of a precaution for a player who perhaps paid a physical price after missing close to two months.

Warner threw just fine in practice despite the sore hand, on long balls, short balls and in-between. He didn't take any snaps, though, to minimize any jarring, and he also shared reps with Martin.

Martz said team doctors had expected soreness when Warner resumed throwing.

"They knew this was going to happen," Martz said. "Fortunately, it's not anything that's going to deter him from playing."

Still, Warner will be listed as probable on the injury report. Just in case.

Warner said the surgically-repaired finger didn't bother him a bit on Sunday, when he was 34-for-49 for 301 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. But he constantly rubbed on the hand.

"It got pretty sore and I don't really know what it was," Warner said while fidgeting with the ice bag. "It was tight. I was trying to just work it and keep it loose throughout the game."

Warner doesn't remember the hand taking a hit, but Martz believes he may have fallen on it early in the game.

Losing Warner would have been especially tough now because Bulger still is not able to throw effectively. Martz said Bulger tried to throw a little bit earlier Wednesday, but stopped when it quickly became apparent it was futile. Martin, who started the Rams' loss to the 49ers in Week 5 before injuring his knee, likely will be the backup on Sunday at Philadelphia.

"If Marc had to play he probably could play, but he's awfully tender," Martz said. "Could he practice? He probably could, but it would set him back to where you may lose him for a few more weeks."

Warner appeared to be still kicking himself over fumbling at the Redskins 6 at the end of Sunday's game, with the Rams apparently closing in on a come-from-behind victory. He already appeared to be wearing his game face.

"You want to just walk though life without any injuries, you want to feel good every time you come in, and you want to win every game," Warner said. "It's definitely not the situation I want to be in, but at the same time you've got to enjoy the challenge and you've got to love the opportunity."

"That's what's got to excite you and keep you going, although you would love it to be all roses and all perfect for you."

Martz is standing by his guy, refuting several Internet reports that have suggested the Rams might be interested in trading Warner after the season and handing the job to Bulger. No. 1, the Rams would likely incur a salary cap hit of at least $6.5 million next year from a combination of Warner's salary and bonus, No. 2, Bulger is a exclusive rights free agent who the Rams are obligated only $375,000 next year, and No. 3, Warner has led the Rams to two Super Bowls.

Martz said the Rams have assured Warner and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, that there will be no trade. He's not sure why it's suddenly open season on Warner.

"I don't know where all this stuff gets started, honestly I don't," Martz said. "But there's no truth to it.

"Here's a guy that's a terrific person and a terrific player, and why anybody would take great joy and be enthusiastic about tearing him apart is beyond me."

Rams sign Watson

Justin Watson, a backup running back for three seasons who was not re-signed following the 2001 season, is back with the Rams.

The signing of Watson was one of several roster moves announced by the team Wednesday. The Rams also signed tackle Jerry Wisne and promoted offensive lineman Andy King from the practice squad; released backup quarterback Scott Covington and wide receiver Yo Murphy; and placed guard Tom Nutten on the injured reserve list, meaning he will miss the rest of the season.

The Rams also signed wide receiver Francis St. Paul to the practice squad.

Nutten started all 11 games this season and has started 57 games since coming to St. Louis in 1998. Coach Mike Martz said this was his best season. Nutten broke his left fibula in the third quarter in a 20-17 loss at Washington Sunday.

Watson has not played this season. His best year was 2000 when he gained 249 yards on 54 carries and scored four touchdowns.

Wisne, 6-7 and 324 pounds, was a fifth-round draft pick by the Chicago Bears in 1999. He played in seven games with one start for Chicago that season.

The Rams signed Covington as their No. 3 quarterback after Kurt Warner was injured in a game against Dallas Sept. 29. Warner returned Nov. 18.

Murphy played in all 11 games this season, catching five passes for 47 yards. He signed as a free agent in 2001.

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