Bulger to sit, Frerotte to start for Rams on Sunday

Updated: October 4, 2007, 1:33 AM ET
By John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Those who watched the St. Louis Rams open the season 0-4 and give up 11 sacks sensed quarterback Marc Bulger couldn't survive long under the number of hits he took.

They were right.

Marc Bulger

Bulger

Gus Frerotte

Frerotte

Concerned about the punishment absorbed by Bulger, who has played at least the last two games with two cracked ribs, Rams coach Scott Linehan has decided to rest his two-time Pro Bowl quarterback for at least one week and possibly more.

Fourteen-year veteran Gus Frerotte, regarded as one of the NFL's top backups, will replace Bulger in the lineup for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Frerotte, 36, started 15 games for the Miami Dolphins in 2005 when Linehan was offensive coordinator there. Linehan and Frerotte have a close relationship and the presence of the coach in St. Louis prompted Frerotte to sign with the Rams as a free agent in 2006.

Clayton: Tough Move

The Rams probably had to sit Marc Bulger, but it puts the team in a perilous position, writes John Clayton.
Quick Hits Insider

The switch to Frerotte, team officials indicated to ESPN.com on Wednesday morning, is not permanent. Instead, it is aimed at providing Bulger some time to recover and to perhaps gain some new insights from the sideline on the Rams' offensive struggles. St. Louis is one of only three winless franchises in the league, and Bulger and a sputtering offense that has scored only 39 points have been major disappointments.

"Any theories or anything said out there are absolutely not true," Linehan said. "I look forward to a healthy Marc Bulger getting back in the lineup as soon as possible.

"It's obvious to me there is something genuinely wrong, and I knew there was."

The quarterback change came after Linehan publicly endorsed Bulger on Monday and said he would remain the team's starter in the short and long term. But after deliberating over the condition of Bulger's injury, and reviewing videotape of last Sunday's loss to Dallas, the Rams' staff opted to make a temporary switch and give the starter a chance to heal.

Linehan informed the quarterbacks of the change on Tuesday and then apprised the rest of the team at a Wednesday morning meeting. He was expected to discuss the move at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

A source close to Bulger said that the quarterback was "strongly assured" by Linehan that the move to Frerotte is viewed as a temporary one. It is possible that several other injured starters could be replaced this week as well.

"I was never going to pull myself out, I know that much," Bulger said. "It's real easy to play hurt when you're winning, but it's just not in me to pull myself out when we're 0-4.

"It was going to have to be the coaches pulling me out, and that's what happened."

Bulger had not been aware of Linehan's endorsement on Monday. He did not argue his coach's about-face.

"I've tried for a couple of weeks," Bulger said. "He had enough of me telling him I was OK."

It is also expected that Linehan, who has received solid endorsements from Rams' ownership despite the poor start to the season, will take over the play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Greg Olson.

A seven-year veteran, Bulger, 30, in July signed a six-year contract extension worth $65 million, so the Rams aren't about to abandon him now. The former West Virginia star is coming off a career season in 2006, one in which he threw for over 4,000 yards and had a career-best 24 touchdown passes. For his career, he has completed 1,431 of 2,239 passes for 16,998 yards, with 97 touchdown passes and 63 interceptions, for an 89.7 passer rating.

But this season, Bulger has only two touchdown passes and four interceptions, and he has been sacked 11 times. St. Louis is playing without perennial Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Orlando Pace, who is on injured reserve for the season. The Rams have lost five linemen to injuries and have yet to finish a game with the same blocking unit that started it.

The much-traveled Frerotte has appeared in 130 games in his career. He has completed 1,430 of 2,644 passes for 18,149 yards, with 95 touchdown passes and 79 interceptions. Sunday will mark his first start since December 2005.

The Rams will become the 10th team in the league to start a backup quarterback since the beginning of the season.

Senior writers John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli cover the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer