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Sunday, September 9, 2007
Pro Bowl OT Pace to have MRI on shoulder

ESPN.com news services

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace will undergo an MRI Monday after injuring his right shoulder in a 27-13 season-opening loss to Carolina.

Orlando Pace

Pace

ESPN.com's John Clayton reported on Sunday night that the team wants to determine if Pace dislocated the shoulder.

Pace's teammates were bracing themselves for another extended period without the seven-time Pro Bowler.

"We played a lot without him last year," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "So, unfortunately we have some experience with it. Hopefully it's not major."

The injury happened when Pace was pass-blocking with 1:45 left in the second quarter. It wasn't immediately clear what happened but there was not severe contact when Pace blocked the Panthers' Julius Peppers.

After the play, Pace began to run off the field but was in enough pain that he dropped to a knee before reaching the sideline. Pace walked into the locker room for X-rays and did not return. For now, coach Scott Linehan is calling the injury "a pretty bad sprain."

The loss of Pace, who missed half of last season with a torn left triceps and a concussion, would be a severe blow. The No. 1 overall pick of the 1997 draft is a veteran presence on an otherwise young offensive line that was also without right guard Richie Incognito, who has a high ankle sprain that may make him questionable for next week's home game against San Francisco.

Adam Goldberg, who made two starts last season, replaced Pace. While the Rams allowed just one sack, the offense struggled after Pace left.

"I think we did a good job of holding them down," Peppers said. "We tried to move them around a little bit."

Overall, St. Louis managed just 16 first downs and 238 yards total offense. The normally accurate Bulger was 22-for-42 for 167 yards. Running back Steven Jackson, who led the NFL with 2,334 yards rushing and receiving last season, rushed for just 58 yards, caught one pass for 3 yards, and had two crucial third-quarter fumbles that turned the game in Carolina's favor.

Bulger said the Panthers tried to attack the left side after Pace left, but he didn't believe that was crucial to the Rams' poor showing.

"We moved it well in the beginning and then hit a lull," Bulger said. "But I don't think losing one guy should have stopped the whole offense. We all should have picked it up and we didn't."

Jackson said the offense was simply out of sync.

"I don't think it was anything due to Orlando or anyone else being out of the game," he said.

But receiver Dante Hall said the loss of Pace hurt.

"Obviously it's a blow losing a future Hall of Fame Pro Bowler -- obviously it's a big loss," Hall said.

Until last season, Pace had been durable throughout his career. He went to seven straight Pro Bowls from 1999-2005, missing six games in '02 with calf and hamstring injuries but starting every game the other six years.

"We had to play a lot last year without Orlando," Jackson said. "He is a big part of our offense, but I just think the Panthers made some great halftime adjustments and it was kind of hard for us to get to moving the ball."

Jackson, Bulger and other offensive players said they'll spend time this week evaluating what went wrong. They don't think it's anything that can't be fixed.

"Rough one," Jackson said. "I didn't intend for my season to start like this but since it did you can't back down."

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.