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Rams Wrap Up Post-Season Against Road-Weary Chargers

August 22, 1996

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Not many NFL coaches are getting a better chance at evaluating talent than San Diego’s Bobby Ross, whose team has gone to overtime twice and plays its fifth preseason game Friday night at St. Louis.

``That’s the equivalent of 5 1/2 games,″ Ross said. ``I think it was good for our younger players. We went through quite a bit of transition.″

For the most part, Ross said he expects the heavy preseason play to help the Chargers (2-2), who were 9-7 and made the playoffs as a wild card last season. This is only the third time in 19 seasons that San Diego played five games in the preseason, and four of them are on the road.

On the other hand, more games also means more chance of getting injured. Four offensive linemen, three of them starters, are out with various ailments. Center Courtney Hall, guard Isaac Davis and tackle Troy Sienkiewicz all have undergone arthroscopic knee surgery.

``We need the work,″ running back Terrell Fletcher said. ``At the same time it’s starting to wear on our bodies a little bit, so coach is kind of backing off and giving us some time to try to get our bodies back so we’ll be fresh for that opening game.″

The Chargers’ long preseason began July 27 when they beat Pittsburgh 20-10 in the American Bowl in Tokyo, Japan. They followed with overtime losses on the road to Minnesota and San Francisco before beating Arizona 32-10 last week in their only home game of the preseason. It also was their most lopsided preseason victory in nine years.

The Rams (2-1) are also coming off an impressive performance after winning 34-30 at Kansas City last Saturday. That was seven more points than in their first two preseason games combined and 22 more than Kansas City had allowed in victories over Dallas and New Orleans.

Quarterback Steve Walsh completed 15 of 22 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns in a little more than a half, rallying the Rams from a 13-0 deficit to a 14-13 lead at one point. For the preseason he’s 28-for-43 for 390 yards and three TDs.

``His second quarter last week was very impressive,″ coach Rich Brooks said. ``It showed his ability not to panic. We have a lot of weapons and Walsh is smart enough to get the ball in their hands.″

Rookie Eddie Kennison caught three touchdown passes last week, one from each of the Rams’ three quarterbacks.

St. Louis has lost four in a row to San Diego in the preseason, including 17-9 in last year’s preseason finale. This year they’ve got a former Charger on their side, free agent pickup Leslie O’Neal at defensive end.

``He became a major factor last week; he turned up the dial,″ Brooks said. ``After being pretty quiet the first two preseason games he was a loud guy with his play on Saturday.″

They’ve also got strong safety Toby Wright back. Wright, who started every game last season and was second on the team in tackles, missed the first three preseason games with a hamstring injury.

Wright, who also had offseason shoulder surgery, said he wouldn’t hold anything back.

``I expect to be sore,″ he said. ``I want to play hard enough to feel this game and combine all the games into one.″

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