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Thursday, October 21, 2004
Rams want insurance if Wilkins can't kick

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

Concerned about a left ankle injury to standout kicker Jeff Wilkins, the St. Louis Rams have signed free agent Jeff Chandler to the active roster.

A two-year veteran, Chandler hasn't kicked in a regular-season game since early in the 2003 season with the San Francisco 49ers. In 13 games with the 49ers, Chandler made 14 of 19 field-goal tries, but was released after the second game of the 2003 campaign despite having converted on six of seven attempts.

The addition of Chandler, 25, is an insurance policy against the possibility Wilkins will not be able to kick in Sunday's game at Miami. The 11-year veteran is officially listed on the Rams' injury report as "questionable." By definition, that means there is a 50 percent chance Wilkins will play against the Dolphins.

St. Louis officials did not want to get into a scenario where Wilkins warmed up in Miami and decided he could not kick in the game, which would have left the first-place Rams without a placement specialist. Wilkins received treatment on Wednesday and an MRI exam showed no structural damage to his plant ankle.

The injury occurred in Monday night's victory over Tampa Bay, when Wilkins made a touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff. He received treatment throughout the game and television cameras showed trainers re-wrapping his ankle at least twice. Following the injury, Wilkins missed field-goal tries from 56 and 44 yards. It marked the first time since late December 2001 that Wilkins, one of the NFL's most accurate place kickers and blessed with a very strong leg, had missed two field goals in one game.

Wilkins, 32, was 39-for-42 on field goals in 2003, tying the league record for most field-goal conversions in a season. He has made eight of 11 attempts in 2004.

For his career, Wilkins has converted 213 of 262 field goals and all but three of his 384 extra-point tries, for 1,020 points. Wilkins is an impressive 65-for-101 on field-goal tries of 40 yards or more, including 14-of-22 from 50 yards or more. He has scored 100 points or more in five seasons, including a career-best 163 in 2003.

Chandler was the 49ers' fourth-round choice in the 2002 draft, and the former University of Florida standout has logged plenty of auditions since San Francisco released him last season. He was in training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars this summer, but lost out in a three-player competition, and has worked out for several teams since then.

In his Tuesday workout for Rams coaches and team officials, he was more impressive than Bill Gramatica and Tim Duncan, two other free agents brought in for the session.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.