Rams need healthy Faulk now

Updated: November 3, 2003, 6:55 PM ET
ESPN

ST. LOUIS -- At the end of St. Louis Rams' four-game winning streak, Marshall Faulk was encouraged to recuperate from injuries at his own pace.

The team sure needs him now after third-stringer Arlen Harris was held to 9 yards rushing and, perhaps worse, struggled on blitz pickup in Sunday's 20-point loss to the 49ers. Harris was responsible for two of the five sacks on Marc Bulger, and blocking blitzers always been one of Faulk's fortes.

Faulk hasn't played in six weeks, five games plus the bye week, because of a broken left hand and injured right knee that required arthroscopic surgery. He's dressed the last two weeks without taking off the warmup jacket.

On Monday, coach Mike Martz said Faulk would be working with the first unit. The last two weeks he's worked much of the time with the scout team to allow him to get his timing back.

"This is the week the doctors had always projected for Marshall," Martz said. "They said six weeks and we've tried to stay to that and avoid the temptation to play him before that, although he's wanted to play."

The Rams (5-3) got close in Sunday's 30-10 loss because Harris was the only healthy back once backup Joffrey Reynolds left with a sprained ankle in the first quarter. Lamar Gordon, the backup at the start of the season, has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain and could miss at least a few more games.

If Faulk was lobbying to play, Martz didn't hear it. And didn't want to hear it.

"Yeah, he probably could have played," Martz said. "Would he be at risk? Yeah, he'd be a little bit more at risk.

"We have a better chance of having him for the rest of the year if we play him right now than a week or two weeks ago."

Faulk has rushed for only 116 yards and a 2.8-yard average, but was perhaps hampered by the knee in the early season. The knee was supposed to be the first injury to heal, well ahead of the hand, but leg strength was the issue the last few weeks in his inactivity on game day.

The rushing total is the second lowest in franchise history. The Rams were forced to pass in the second half after falling behind 24-3.

The return of Faulk, the MVP in 2000, could help take some heat off a thin defense that struggled against first-time starter Tim Rattay. Minus end Leonard Little (pectoral muscle) and tackle Damione Lewis (tackle), the line got pushed around.

Little, who's among the league leaders with seven sacks, is aiming to return on Nov. 16 against the Bears.

"It does not look like we'll have either one of them for probably several weeks," Martz said of Little and Lewis.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index