Pace close to returning from injury, but will start camp on PUP list

Updated: July 22, 2008, 7:13 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Seven-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Pace is close to returning from a shoulder injury, but will not be cleared for full contact at the start of training camp.

Rams coach Scott Linehan said Tuesday the team would be conservative with Pace, who tore the labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder in the second quarter of the 2007 season-opener against Carolina.

Linehan spoke to media as the team prepares to open training camp at Concordia University in Wisconsin. The first workout is Friday afternoon.

Pace missed the remainder of the season, and his injury was among several that left the offensive line in shambles, a big reason for the Rams' dismal 3-13 record.

It was the second straight season with a significant injury for the first overall pick of the 1997 draft. Pace suffered a season-ending left triceps tear in Seattle during Week 10 of 2006.

In all, Pace has missed 23 games in the last two years.

Linehan said Pace will be on the 80-man training camp roster, but will be brought along slowly.

"He'll be close, but I think we have to be a little conservative with our approach just because of what has happened," Linehan said. "He's in pretty good shape right now. His weight is right where we want it and it's just a matter of when we decide."

Trainer Jim Anderson and strength and conditioning coach Dana LeDuc have been working with Pace in his recovery.

Linehan said he hoped that Pace would be declared fit for contact by Aug. 5 when the team leaves for Nashville for a few days of joint practice sessions against the Titans prior to the two squads meeting in their preseason opener Aug. 9.

Also Tuesday, the Rams announced they have agreed to terms with linebacker David Vobora, the "Mr. Irrelevant" as the last player chosen in the 2008 draft. Terms of the three-year contract were not disclosed.

Vobora, from the University of Idaho, had 148 tackles and was All-Western Athletic Conference his senior season.

The Rams signed first-round pick (No. 2 overall) defensive end Chris Long on Sunday.

Only two of the team's draft picks remain unsigned -- second-round selection Donnie Avery, a wide receiver from Houston, and fourth-round pick Justin King, a cornerback from Penn State.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press