Rams easing Boller back into action; Null takes most practice snaps

ST. LOUIS -- Three days in bed with flulike symptoms did wonders for Kyle Boller's thigh injury. Now he just has to shake off the rust.

Boller returned to practice with St. Louis Rams on Wednesday, and the team plans to ease him back into the mix. He has missed the last two games, the first because of a bruised left thigh and again last week with an illness that he said wasn't swine flu.

"That sickness helped my thigh recover because I didn't really have to practice," Boller said. "I feel a lot better, night and day from this week and last week, so that's a good sign.

"That was a full week of nothing on it."

Rookie Keith Null took the vast majority of the snaps with the first-team offense, and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said he hasn't decided who will start Sunday at Arizona.

Spagnuolo hinted that the decision might not be made for a few more days. He liked the way that Boller was moving, though.

"It's been a while since he's been out there, so he needs a couple of days to kind of get back in shape," Spagnuolo said. "Kyle kind of needs to get back in the swing."

Null started for the second consecutive week last Sunday and was much improved from his NFL debut, reducing his interception count from five to one in a 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans. He's taking advantage of the practice time to refine his still-raw game.

"I think it's the same things I was working on last week," Null said. "We haven't heard anything yet, so we're both just preparing."

Boller has had enough of playing the mentor role for a young quarterback, even if the Rams (1-13) are limping to the finish and are front-runners for the No. 1 overall draft pick. He wants to play.

"Oh, you'd better believe it," Boller said. "That's the tough part about this business. Anytime you get off the field, it allows a chance for somebody else to step in there.

"I really hope I can play this week. I'm hoping I get to go."

Actually, Boller said he could have played in an emergency against the Texans.

"I probably would have needed to get some oxygen on the sideline," he said. "That was the hardest part warming up, just loss of breath."

Running back Steven Jackson didn't practice, once again managing a lower back injury so he'll be able to play Sunday. He was restricted to riding a stationary bicycle.

Defensive end Leonard Little (infected right knee) also didn't practice, and cornerback Quincy Butler (left knee sprain, high ankle sprain) was in a walking boot. Cornerback Ron Bartell (hip) was limited. Guard John Greco was able to practice while wearing a cast on an injured thumb.

Practice was shorter than usual to help a team ravaged by injuries all year and by illness last week to make it to game day. The Rams have 12 players on injured reserve, plus three others -- quarterback Marc Bulger (fractured shin bone), offensive tackle Jason Smith (concussion) and Butler -- who might as well be on IR.

"Really, the goal this week is to be as fresh and as ready as we can," Spagnuolo said. "Last week, we fought through a tough week, guys had low energy, so we did kind of try to make it a focus, cut some things back and get them mentally and physically fresh."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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