Nutten Done for the Season, Turner Returns
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
With one recognizable face on the way out because of injury, the Rams brought back another familiar mug to take his place.
St. Louis placed guard Tom Nütten on the injured reserve list Wednesday because of a bulging disc in his neck that has plagued him for the better part of the past three weeks.
“He’s had neck problems in the past,” coach Joe Vitt said. “As an organization, it’s awful tough to ask an offensive lineman to play with a herniated disc. He wanted to play, we called him in yesterday and we made the decision.”
Nütten’s spot was filled by the return of center/guard Larry Turner, a former seventh round draft choice who spent last season and all of the preseason with the Rams. Turner was released in the team’s final round of cuts before the start of the season.
But Turner had no ill will toward the team that brought him in the league and was nothing short of excited about his return to his original NFL home.
“I have a special place in my heart for St. Louis,” Turner said. “I loved it, I loved being around here, loved the guys, loved the organization. Of all the places I could have went to I wanted to come back here. I didn’t want to go anyplace else.”
Of course, Turner was forced to go elsewhere after his original release from the team. He went to Houston and Minnesota where he was given a workout, but didn’t sign a contract in either place.
A few weeks later, he finally got his opportunity. Turner signed with Cincinnati, an enjoyable time for the 23-year old from Dayton, Ohio. That stay didn’t last long, though, and Turner was released about a week later.
Since then, Turner has spent his time working out and substitute teaching at Wayne High. He helped coach the football team, working the sidelines and waiting for a call. When the call finally came, Turner was ready to get away from the headaches of teaching.
“Some of those kids had a lot of attitude, they give you a lot of grief,” Turner said. “Especially high school kids. Those freshmen, they talk and talk back to you, they don’t care who you are.”
As for Nütten, his future with the Rams remains in doubt. The man who earned the nickname Lazarus because of his ability to rise from injury and play every week has had issues with his neck before.
Nütten retired from football before the 2003 season because of a neck fusion surgery before returning to the Rams before last season. During that season, Nütten accumulated a number of injuries, including a serious turf toe injury that seemed ready to end his career once and for all.
Somehow, Nütten returned to the team before the season, though, and reclaimed the starting left guard job.
Considering his ability to bounce back, Nütten isn’t quite ready to make a decision on his long-term future.
“I’m taking it day by day,” Nütten said. “The biggest thing is to get rid of this pain. Who knows how I will be feeling come May? So I don’t want to make any predictions this time around.”
This time around, Nütten won’t need surgery, which could leave the door open for a return if he chooses to come back. Of course, the Rams are attempting to get younger on the interior with the additions of Richie Incognito and Claude Terrell. Terrell shared time with Nütten for most of this season and will handle the starting duties in his absence.
Nütten is just now able to start sleeping through the night without waking up because of pain and estimates that it will be between six and eight weeks before the pain will go away.
“At this point, it’s bearable and that’s why I was hoping to maybe hang on another week to see if it gets better,” Nütten said. “But the folks upstairs made the right decision for me.”
Turner’s return gives the Rams another young lineman to work with. His release in the preseason came as somewhat of a surprise considering he played in 14 games, starting one last season. He hasn’t yet been told whether he will be working at center or guard, but a big part of the reason the Rams brought him back is his knowledge of the system and ability to play both spots.
Regardless of where Turner ends up on the line, he says he plans to make the most of his next opportunity with the team.
“Second chances don’t happen that often,” Turner said. “They gave me a second chance and I’m going to make it worth their while.”
INJURY REPORT: Nütten’s injury isn’t the only one plaguing a starter on the Rams’ offensive line. Right guard Adam Timmerman did not participate in Wednesday’s practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday because of a back injury.
Vitt said Timmerman’s pain is more a variety of things than just the tight back that has bothered him for the past few weeks.
“Adam was taking a rest,” Vitt said. “I am probably going to hold Adam out of practice this week. Maybe he could be active for the game but not start him. Adam has played 545 plays this year; he’s had two shoulder surgeries in the offseason and a foot surgery. He’s hurting a little bit right now. He did not…by any chance, he wanted to play, he wanted to practice, it was a decision we made to just hold him out.”
Timmerman’s streak of consecutive games is clearly in danger after starting in 167 straight games. The last game he missed was in 2000 against Kansas City. If Timmerman can’t go, Blaine Saipaia would start at right guard with Rex Tucker as the backup.
Joining Timmerman as questionable is cornerback Travis Fisher. Vitt said Fisher will also be held out this week and essentially ruled Fisher out against the Cardinals. Chris Johnson and Ron Bartell took turns in Fisher’s place Wednesday and are candidates to get the start in Fisher’s place.
Running back Marshall Faulk is probable because of knee injuries that Vitt attributed to normal wear and tear from game action.
DEFENDING THE LINE: In an article appearing in this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, one unnamed Rams’ veteran accuses defensive tackles Ryan Pickett, Damione Lewis and Jimmy Kennedy of not playing hard, among other transgressions.
Defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson took umbrage with the comment, saying it held no value in his mind because the player saying it refused to be named.
“When you have opinions and everyone has one, you know the whole story, people say what they want to say, but that is not what usually comes out of this locker room so it’s a little surprising,” Jackson said. “But I’m not surprised we don’t have a name attached to it. If there’s not a name attached to it, it really doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight to me.”
Jackson went on to defend his linemates, particularly Pickett, who by most accounts is having his best season.
“Ryan Pickett is one of the best nose tackles in the league,” Jackson said. “People don’t really understand that. Ask the opponents. Watch the film. If you guys want to find out how good someone is playing, watch the film. Don’t take my word for it, words mean nothing, really. The film doesn’t lie. All of our careers in terms of our contract being up, when you want to get another contract, all of our careers are hanging in the balance based on what the film looks like. Guys that are here aren’t here because someone put a gun to someone’s head and made them be here. The film does not lie so if you want to evaluate myself or anybody else in this locker room, turn the film on.”
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: The news out of Sports Illustrated hasn’t been all bad, though. In a list of potential All Pros, a pair of Rams made the list. Right tackle Alex Barron and Jackson were mentioned for their performances.