Rams 4-1 without Faulk, but more confident
"Let me think: Former MVP, former offensive player of the year, Hall of Famer, greatest all-around back ever ... Yeah, I'd say that's a big boost for us," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "Whenever he trots on the field, we're a better team."
Quarterback Marc Bulger's comfort level in the pocket just went up, even if the Rams went 4-1 without Faulk. Rookie Arlen Harris, the former third-stringer who became the feature back after Faulk and backup Lamar Gordon (high ankle sprain) were hurt, was responsible for at least two of the five sacks on Bulger in last week's 30-10 loss at San Francisco.
"He sees so many things," Bulger said. "We've rested him enough where he's going to be 100 percent and I think he's anxious to get back out there. When he's anxious and he can play, he's pretty good."
Even if he's not sure what to expect. Faulk broke his left hand Sept. 21 and had surgery on his right knee, which turned out to be the more serious of the two injuries _ although at the time the procedure was portrayed as a mere cleanup operation.
Faulk dressed for the last two games, but did not play behind undrafted rookie Harris, who made his first two career starts after Gordon sustained a high ankle sprain. Harris will be the backup this week with Gordon out indefinitely.
"For the most part they kind of took it out of my hands," Faulk said. "The doc gave me a timeline and he said 'Here's the possibilities of coming back early, here's what's realistic,' and we kind of stuck to the realistic goal."
On Wednesday, Faulk was back with the first-team offense. On Sunday he'll jump into the fire, trying to find holes in the Baltimore Ravens' defense.
"I don't know exactly what the procedure is going to be or how much time I'm going to get or how many carries or whatever," Faulk said. "I'm pretty sure if everything is going good and I'm feeling good, I'm going to play the whole game."
But he tempered that, knowing it's been a while since he last played.
"Game speed and game tempo is a little different than practice and conditioning you do on a treadmill and stuff like that, and there's nothing like getting 10, 15, 18, 20 carries a game," Faulk said. "I'm sure a fatigue factor might be there, but it might not."
Faulk has tested the hand without problems in practice, although he doesn't know how it'll hold up under game conditions. The knee hasn't been a problem either, lately.
Now it's time to work on that paltry rushing total.
Faulk has only 116 yards and a 2.8-yard average. He's not sure if the knee was a factor in his early-season woes and won't use it as an excuse. The Rams' rebuilt offensive line also struggled at the start.
Faulk has seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons, but right now he's third on his own team. Gordon leads with 265 yards, a 4.6-yard average and one touchdown. Harris has 250 yards, a 3-yard average and four touchdowns.
Actually, Faulk hasn't been himself for almost a season. He was hampered much of last year with a high ankle sprain and limped to the finish line, so nobody is expecting too much, too soon.
"I wouldn't expect him to be back at full speed like he's been going at his top, that's going to take some time," Martz said. "But Marshall at less than 100 percent is pretty doggone good, and I think in short order we should see him start to get going again."
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Lions table talks with Suh until after season
- Giants set lofty 70 percent goal for Manning
- Seahawks sign NFLPA president, OT Winston
- NFL VP defends length of Rice suspension
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
- Nike Youth Alternate Game Jersey St. Louis Rams Sam Bradford #8