Rams QB Bulger takes direct snaps for first time since breaking pinkie

ST. LOUIS -- Four days away from the season opener, Marc Bulger took direct snaps for the first time since breaking his right pinkie. The St. Louis Rams quarterback said Wednesday he's not pain-free, but it's good enough, barring a setback in the next two days, to play at Seattle.

"I wouldn't say no discomfort," Bulger said. "But it was bearable. If it goes like today, I'd say I'm starting 100 percent."

2008 Statistics
Completion Pct.: 57.0

Passing Yards: 2,720

TD/INT: 11/13

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo also announced that offensive tackle Jason Smith, the second overall pick of the draft, would start on the right side. Linebacker James Laurinaitis, the second-round pick, also is starting.

"The main thing is proving myself and just being a part of a great offensive line," Smith said. "My whole thing is 'What can I do to help us.'"

Bulger missed the last three preseason games after being injured in practice Aug. 17. In recent practices, he had been working only out of the shotgun to avoid aggravating a fracture that hadn't completely healed, but he said he participated in all drills Wednesday.

Bulger confessed to a sense of relief after taking the first few snaps from center Jason Brown off to the side. Brown minimized the drama, joking that he hadn't been aware which quarterback was on the receiving end.

"I definitely lost some sleep over it," Bulger said. "You stay mentally ready and physically ready, but you kind of worry that the first snap isn't going to go how you wanted, and you don't want to let your teammates down."

Bulger had the last two fingers taped during the practice, although he expects to play without tape Sunday. He said he might not require a pain-killing injection, either.

"I don't want to encourage some things NFL guys do, so I probably won't need anything," he said.

Wide receivers were impressed with Bulger's work. Backup Kyle Boller started the last three games for the Rams, whose 3-1 preseason record topped their victory total of two from last year.

"It's the same Marc Bulger, nothing's changed," Donnie Avery said.

"He looks like he did before he hurt himself," Keenan Burton said.

Spagnuolo said Bulger dropped one snap, but after the Rams changed centers without the quarterback's knowledge.

"I thought he looked good throwing the ball," Spagnuolo said. "I had an eyeball on him a couple of plays and didn't see any ill effects."

Backup guard John Greco underwent surgery for a wrist injury that's expected to keep him out two or three weeks. Two other reserves, safety Craig Dahl (hamstring) and linebacker Larry Grant (knee sprain), were held out, although Grant did some running.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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