Rams OT Orlando Pace optimistic he'll start Sunday

ST. LOUIS -- Orlando Pace was optimistic on Thursday that he'd shake off a thigh injury and start Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

"It's cool, it's better," the offensive tackle said after running and doing some leg extensions. "I haven't done any pushing or anything on anybody, but I think it'll be fine."

Pace, who has been limited in practice, planned on a more extensive test on Friday.

If the seven-time Pro Bowler can't make it back, journeyman Adam Goldberg would get the task of corralling Cowboys pass rusher DeMarcus Ware. Ware has one sack in each game this season and his nine-game sack streak is one shy of the NFL record set by Denver's Simon Fletcher in 1992.

Pace's last two seasons have been cut short by injury, and he was hurt again in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 19-17 upset over the Redskins -- the Rams' first victory after an 0-4 start.

He declined to reveal which leg was injured, saying it was "one of the two."

Coach Jim Haslett said Pace would be a game-day decision, even if he wasn't a full participant in practice on Friday.

"If he feels he's ready to go, he'll play," Haslett said.

Running back Steven Jackson was expecting Goldberg, a versatile backup since coming from the Vikings for a seventh-round pick in September 2006, to get the nod. Goldberg made two starts at left guard earlier this season when Jacob Bell was sidelined with a foot injury and started twice at right tackle last season before ending the year on injured reserve with a knee injury.

"I'm of the mind-set that Goldberg is going to start at left tackle for us," Jackson said. "I have all the confidence in the world he's going to do his job."

The Rams will likely help Goldberg by placing the tight end on his side of the line. They expect Ware to oppose the left side the majority of the game, although Goldberg noted that Ware has occasionally been flipped to the other side and that "on third down, he could be anywhere."

Though a sack of Marc Bulger on Sunday would tie the NFL record, it would still leave Ware one game shy of the franchise record. The Cowboys recognize Harvey Martin's 11-game streak in 1976-77, a run that ended five years before the sack became an official statistic, as their number to beat.

Ware is tied with Bruce Smith and Kevin Greene for the second-best sacks streak since 1982, while Martin also had a nine-game streak for the Cowboys in 1977. Ware is a half-sack off the NFL lead shared by Pittsburgh's James Harrison and Miami's Joey Porter.

Goldberg said Ware is much more than just a speed rusher.

"I think that would be selling him short," Goldberg said. "He's really good at taking what the offensive line will give him. He's the total package."

Notes:Rams QB Marc Bulger has a finger injury that's getting a lot less attention than that of the Cowboys' Tony Romo, who may try to play with a broken pinkie. Bulger has thrown the ball well in practice despite a jammed right index finger. "It's black and blue and puffed up, but he's a tough guy," Haslett said. ... Haslett on the Cowboys' bruising RB Marion Barber: "The guy runs to hurt people." ... S O.J. Atogwe was NFC defensive player of the week after returning a fumble 75 yards for the Rams' only touchdown last week. "It's definitely a great honor that I'm definitely thankful for," Atogwe said. "It's an honor for all of us because it takes a team effort."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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