Quarterback John Skelton's first NFL playing time as a rookie last year was against the Rams at home, and his first game this year could repeat that feat.
John Skelton, as the backup quarterback, insists he gets ready to start every game even if he knows he won't.
That's easy to have said, for instance, two weeks ago when Kevin Kolb was healthy. It means something different when Kolb is limping around with a turf toe.
"It's more of a sense of urgency, it's more of 'You might play' to now 'You may play,' " Skelton said Thursday. "You prepare as best you can for the situation you find yourself in."
That situation is that Kolb didn't practice for a second straight day and that Skelton seems likely to find himself under center Sunday against the Rams. It's nothing he wasn't already thinking. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said if Kolb doesn't practice Friday he'd still "consider" playing Kolb, although it sounded anything but a certainty.
Skelton missed a chunk of the preseason after suffering a high ankle sprain, the reason he fell behind Rich Bartel on the depth chart through the first five games of the season. Then came the bye week, which "let him get back in the flow," Whisenhunt said. Following the bye, Skelton was back to his backup role.
If Skelton does play, Whisenhunt is much more comfortable than he was last year, when the intent was to have Skelton ride the bench all season and just watch. Even without an offseason, Skelton is in a much better place -- "It was hard enough for him to call a play in the huddle last year," Whisenhunt said – after starting the final four games of 2010.
That highlighted one of Skelton's strengths, which was that rarely does he get flustered. Skelton said he isn't the type of guy to throw a helmet when things go haywire and, despite his youth, he has already developed a reputation of an even-tempered demeanor, impervious to emotional derailment.
He also has a dry sense of humor, which he showed off when a reporter asked if Skelton at least had a dog to kick around.
"I do, and he gets kicked quite a bit," Skelton joked. "It's mostly his fault though."
Running back Beanie Wells is indeed following the same pattern as he did last week with his bad knee, practicing limited Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. He was the only change to the injury report from the day before.
Along with Kolb, safety Kerry Rhodes (foot), fullback Anthony Sherman (ankle) and tight end Rob Housler (groin) remained out. Linebacker Joey Porter (knee), tight ends Jim Dray (pectoral) and Todd Heap (hamstring), defensive tackle Nick Eason (Achilles) and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (shoulder) joined Wells as limited.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford continued to sit with his bad ankle and he is not expected to play Sunday, replaced again by backup A.J. Feeley.
DRAY'S EXTRA JOB
Jim Dray didn't play in the first six games of the season because of a pectoral injury, one suffered in training camp and then aggravated as the regular season began. His return was important, even as a fourth tight end, because the position seems to have been an injury magnet. Dray also plays an big role on special teams.
Then came Sunday, when Dray – a Stanford product -- was forced to play fullback much of the game after Anthony Sherman left with an ankle injury.
"It shows you the value of smart guys, because he hadn't had a lot of reps," Whisenhunt said. "I am glad we had him available for this game because he filled a lot of roles for us. It was a little surprising because he hadn't had a whole lot of practice."
Dray called his fullback scramble "unexpected," but said the coaches quickly went over some of the protections with him.
"They did a good job informing me as best they could," Dray said. "I think I did OK, given the circumstances."