RAMS : Offensive Guard Brostek Manages to Have Some Fun in First NFL Start

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Call this one a rookie faux pas . Certainly, Bern Brostek was the only guy in the Ram locker room Sunday talking about how much fun he had during the 36-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

"I was nervous as heck at first, but it was really fun," Brostek said.

Standing in front of an adjacent locker, 13-year veteran Doug Smith winced.

Brostek also made some rookie mistakes on the field, but the Rams' first-round draft choice made a good impression on the right people during his NFL debut. At the University of Washington, he was a four-year starter at center. With the Rams, he's a one-game starter at right guard.

And, depending on how quickly Joe Milinichik rebounds from thumb surgery, Brostek might stretch his string of starts to two.

"He missed some things and all that, but it was a physical performance," Coach John Robinson said. "We clearly have a really good player. We put him in his first NFL game in a position he didn't know anything about and has no college experience . . . and he performed pretty well. That's a good sign."

Brostek did have the advantage of four days' worth of practice at right guard and found out he was the starter on Saturday night. So who needs sleep the night before a football game, anyway?

"I was tossing and turning, thinking about my plays," Brostek said. "I was just praying I would remember my assignments."

Not surprisingly, he missed some pass-blocking assignments when Green Bay showed defenses he had never seen. However, with considerable assistance from Smith, Brostek managed to do the right thing remarkably often, given the circumstances.

And he had to deal with his emotions as well as blitzing linebackers. The first step from college to the NFL can be a huge one and a player debuting at his normal position is nervous enough. It might be hard to imagine that a 6-foot-3, 295-pound man can be awe-struck, but it happens.

"I was in awe in the beginning, but once you start playing, you kind of put it in the back of your mind," Brostek said. "After the first couple plays, I lost the nervousness and just tried to remember all my assignments."

Meanwhile, he managed to do an impressive job of slamming his body into a good portion of the Packer defensive front.

"He was very active out there," Robinson said, smiling. "He's a naturally aggressive player, because when you're preoccupied or trying to think about assignments, that's when your aggression goes. But he maintained an aggressive level."

Brostek might have been confused at times, but when he found someone to block, his physical instincts took over.

"I guess I was going a little crazy," Brostek said. "It was fun."

Heck, even veterans get nervous.

Duval Love, who normally plays guard, started at left tackle Sunday in place of Jackie Slater, who was sidelined with a dislocated toe.

"I felt good about the second or third series," Love said. "I was a little nervous but I settled down a little bit and it was all right."

Robinson said his halftime speech Sunday revolved around the theme "We're Working Our Way Out of This," in reference to the team's out-of-sync offense.

"I was saying that all of sudden things will begin to fall in place, the rhythm will come and we'll take over this game," Robinson said. "And then we immediately said, 'Oh yeah? We'll show you the third quarter.' "

In the first seven minutes of the third quarter, Ram receivers fumbled twice and dropped two catchable passes.

Ram Notes

Eleven players in Sunday's starting lineup were either not on the team, not starters or started in a different position on opening day last season: tight end Pat Carter; right tackle Duval Love; right guard Bern Brostek; running back Gaston Green; punter Keith English; defensive tackle Brian Smith; inside linebackers Frank Stams and Fred Strickland; cornerbacks Bobby Humphery and Mickey Sutton, and free safety Anthony Newman. . . . Coach John Robinson, on the panacea for what ails the Rams: "We can't worry about anything, we just have to simplify our existence and get on the practice field and get better.". . . And on the prospect of being 0-2: "If you hold together when you're 0-2, it doesn't matter that much. It's two losses, but it doesn't say, 'Oh my God, we're gonna fold the tent and wait 'til next year.' However, it certainly will test our nerve if we are slow to recover."

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