Steve Bartkowski will have his homecoming.
Ram Coach John Robinson said Monday that the former Falcon quarterback, grounded for a week with a knee strain, would start against his old team at Atlanta Sunday, with at least a share of first place in the NFC West in the balance. Bartkowski spent 11 seasons with the Falcons.
Steve Dils, who directed the Ram offense in a 26-20 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will return to his backup role, with rookie Jim Everett to be used only if the other two are unable to play.
"We're trying to cram as much as possible into Everett so he can contribute, but it would be a horrible move to put him in there before he's ready," Robinson said.
Holdout Henry Ellard said that Ram negotiator John Shaw phoned him late last week, saying that it probably would be in his best interests just to sit out this year, then resume talks after the season. Ellard said that Shaw pointed out to him that even if he signed now he wouldn't be in shape to play until 10 weeks into the season, and then the franchise "wouldn't be getting its money's worth."
But Ellard still has one ally in the organization. Ellard and his wife attended Sunday's game at Anaheim--with tickets provided by Robinson.
Mark Jerue and Jim Laughlin probably will continue to man the inside linebacker positions. Carl Ekern has missed two games with a groin injury, and his replacement, Steve Busick, was lost with a knee injury. Pro Bowl selection Jim Collins is still rehabilitating a shoulder problem and, Coach John Robinson said, "for all practical purposes is gone for the season." Robinson is especially concerned this week. "Atlanta is a very powerful inside running team, and that frightens us a little bit," he said. The next available backup is Cliff Thrift, a former Charger who was signed as a free agent last week. . . . All-Pro cornerback LeRoy Irvin played only on long passing downs Sunday because he had a pinched shoulder nerve, and the Rams didn't want him tackling anybody. He should be OK this week.