Pace's injury leads to a shuffle on line

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- All-Pro offensive tackle Orlando Pace will be sidelined two to three weeks with a torn right hamstring, necessitating a shakeup of an already thin offensive line.

Pace limped off the field with 5:11 to go in the first quarter of Sunday's 10-3 loss to the Eagles. Pace also missed three games with a partially torn calf muscle earlier in the year.

The Rams (5-7) shifted right tackle John St. Clair to Pace's spot on the left side, as they did earlier in the year, and inserted undrafted rookie Andy King at right tackle the rest of the game. King, who was on the practice squad until late last month, gave up two sacks and coach Mike Martz said he would not start in Sunday's game at Kansas City.

"I don't want to destroy this kid, because I think he's going to be a good player," Martz said. "I'm afraid if we start him there he's just not ready for that kind of pressure yet."

King said: "I wanted to go in and do my best, but I do not think that I did my best. It is tough when it is your quarterback and you are really trying to protect him, and you just get beat on the line."

Instead, Martz will likely juggle personnel to get as many veterans on the field as possible. One possible alternative is starting reserve Frank Garcia, primarily a guard, at center, and moving center Andy McCollum to right tackle.

St. Clair again would start at left tackle next to left guard Heath Irwin, who got his first start of the season on Sunday in place of the injured Tom Nutten. Nutten is out for the season with a broken leg. That would leave right guard Adam Timmerman as the lone player in his regular spot.

"We'll probably move some guys around and I would rather not tell you what we're going to do," Martz said.

Martz said Jerry Wisne, signed last week after being released by the expansion Texans, was not among the options being considered. He said the Rams would be better off with tight end Brandon Manumaleuna starting at tackle, even though he doesn't know any of the calls.

"Absolutely not," Martz said. "A guy comes in as a stranger and we think he's got some ability, but I don't know how good he is."

No matter who plays, Martz said he'll be watching. He put the team on notice that nothing less than full effort will be tolerated, no matter if the Rams' playoffs hopes are hanging by a thread.

"Let me tell you this, and I think I can speak for the organization," Martz said. "If anybody does tank it, they're sending us a real strong message that they don't want to be here."

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