Rams' Avery hopeful of playing this week

Oct 21, 2009 - 11:02 PM By R.B. FALLSTROM AP Sports Writer

ST. LOUIS(AP) -- Woes at wide receiver prompted the St. Louis Rams to trade starting linebacker Will Witherspoon for an Eagles backup with no career receptions.

That puts the heat on Donnie Avery, who'll try to shake off a bruised hip and get back on the field this week against the unbeaten Colts.

The second-year wide receiver didn't practice Wednesday while restricted to off-field drills, but expects to be ready. Two days earlier, an MRI exam that revealed a bruise instead of a stress fracture provided a measure of relief for a player who toughed out a solid rookie season with a similar injury.

"It's just a little hump in the road," Avery said. "I'm going to get over it, get out there and make plays. The best receivers, you're always going to have obstacles."

Avery said he's been experiencing sharp pain when he tries to stretch out on a route but expects daily massages to reduce that.

Whether or not Avery plays, the winless Rams (0-6) will go with an inexperienced crew at wide receiver against the Colts (5-0). Keenan Burton (17 catches) was a fourth-round pick last year, Danny Amendola (nine catches, 24-yard kickoff return average) has been with St. Louis a month after getting signed off the Eagles' practice squad and Tim Carter (one catch) was re-signed last week after being among the final cuts before the season opener.

Brandon Gibson, acquired from the Eagles for Witherspoon and a fifth-round draft pick next season, fits right in. He holds career records at Washington State for receiving yards (2,756) and touchdowns (17) but lasted until the sixth round of this year's draft after a dropoff his senior season in college.

"He's definitely got some ability," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "He's still a rookie, too, so there's a huge learning curve he's going through right now. Hopefully he can help us later in the year."

Buried deep on the Eagles' roster, he played in Week 3. Given Philadelphia and St. Louis run similar offenses, there's a chance he could dress on Sunday.

Bulger insists the self-inflicted position shortage has not been a frustration for him, even though he's directing an offense that averages an NFL-low nine points per game. The Rams released Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce the last two offseasons, going with youth while addressing salary cap issues, and have dressed only four wide receivers all season.

"Coaches are still figuring out what guys can do and I think it'll work out eventually," Bulger said. "It's just going to take some time and you just have to be patient."

Avery has 19 receptions with an 11.2-yard average and two touchdowns, and brings speed to the offense. After he was hurt in Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss at Jacksonville, the Jaguars were able to load up at the line and shut down the Rams' running game with little risk of getting burned deep.

"I think we'll get him out there," Bulger said. "He's one of those guys that can put pressure on the outside."

Avery's not lacking in confidence, either, even though the Rams were 13-point underdogs at home.

"They're great and I look at us, we're great," Avery said. "It's just about going out there and making plays."

Safety James Butler (knee) returned to full participation in practice and is likely to return to the lineup after missing three games. Cornerback Ron Bartell was cleared to return from a mild concussion, while defensive end James Hall (groin) and rookie defensive tackle Darell Scott (illness) did not practice.

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