ST. LOUIS -- The winless Rams played without both starting offensive tackles during the second half of last weekend's 35-0 loss at San Francisco.
Both could be back for Sunday's home game against the Minnesota Vikings, although it might be a stretch for quarterback Marc Bulger to be ready in time.
Bulger did some light throwing Wednesday but appeared to be short-arming the ball and didn't take any snaps with the first-string offense. He's still on the mend from a bruised rotator cuff that sidelined him last weekend and said there was some pain.
"I'd hate to put 50-50 or 60-40 on it. It's just because there's too much time between now and the game," Bulger said. "Today, I obviously wouldn't have played because I don't have the juice I need on the ball."
The biggest hurdle will be attempting to judge whether Bulger can take some hits without aggravating the injury. The unbeaten Vikings (4-0) have been punishing opponents, with Jared Allen piling up 4.5 sacks on Monday night against the Green Bay Packers.
Bulger pointed out that he has been banged around no matter who the Rams have played.
The Rams are averaging just six points per game, last in the NFL, and they have been shut out with both Bulger and backup Kyle Boller starting at quarterback. St. Louis mustered 177 yards of total offense behind Boller last week.
Offensive tackle Alex Barron worked with the first string, fully restored from a disciplinary benching. The other tackle, Jason Smith, had limited repetitions with backups and could return, perhaps as a backup, from a bruised left knee that has sidelined him for two weeks.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo had a chat Monday with Barron, a 2005 first-round draft pick who the Rams anticipated would step up as a dominant tackle after the departure of seven-time Pro Bowler Orlando Pace.
"I'm not concerned about messages," Spagnuolo said. "It was men working with men, that's all we do. We just kind of put it behind us and we move on."
Barron was whistled for lining up in the backfield on his last play, late in the first half. He was a few feet behind the line of scrimmage and had checked before the play with the linesman to make sure he was OK.
It's not clear whether that was Spagnuolo's only issue with Barron, with neither party providing details.
"We had a conversation and what we talked about is strictly between us," Barron said. "We're ready to move on to Minnesota. You can't have no hard feelings and carry them over, because that's just going to screw up the game this weekend."
Safety Craig Dahl (concussion) was back after being cleared by the Rams' medical staff and again would start in place of James Butler (knee), who Spagnuolo said would be doubtful. Cornerback Ron Bartell (thigh) didn't run at top speed but expected to return after missing a game.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press