Rams cornerback Ron Bartell fights thigh injury

ST. LOUIS -- Thanks to the recent bye week, St. Louis Rams cornerback Ron Bartell is feeling the best he has all season after a nagging thigh injury hampered his play.

"Everything's fine, no complaints," Bartell said Thursday. "I got to get away from football a little bit and get healthy and refocus."

He'll need to focus on Sunday when the Rams (1-7) face quarterback Drew Brees and the high-flying New Orleans Saints (8-0).

The injury prevented Bartell from playing to the standards he set during a career year in 2008, when he led the Rams with 20 pass breakups and three interceptions.

After Bartell flirted with New Orleans during free agency last winter, St. Louis rewarded him with a four-year contract that could earn him $28 million if he reaches certain incentives. This season, the fifth-year cornerback has started seven games and leads the Rams with four passes defended. He also has 41 tackles (28 solo).

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Bartell, however, has been picked on this season. In the most recent home loss to Indianapolis, Reggie Wayne caught five passes for 70 years against him.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo said he knows Bartell, a second-round pick in 2005, has been playing hurt.

"He wants to be out here," Spagnuolo said. "I talked with him yesterday and I said, 'If we have to shut you down, we've got to shut you down.' That's not what he wants to do. He wants to fight through, so that is a good thing."

Bartell is doing just that, and he even turned to remedies including acupuncture, ice, massage, stretching to help.

"I'm not all the way there, but this is the best I've felt in some weeks now," Bartell said. "The thigh is fine. It's just something I just have to bear with until it goes away. It's not an issue for me."

The Saints are ranked No. 1 in points with 37.9 per game and in total offense with 426.9 yards. The Rams' defense is 28th in yards allowed (373.4) and is giving up 27.6 points per game, ranked 29th.

Still, Bartell said he is looking forward to the challenge presented by Brees and the rest of the Saints.

"The Saints look pretty good at 8-0," Bartell said. "They have a pretty good offense. It's going to be a challenge but we'll be ready."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.