Steve Bartkowski will have his homecoming.
Ram Coach John Robinson said Monday that the former Falcon quarterback, out for a week with a knee strain, would start against his former team at Atlanta Sunday, with at least a share of first place in the NFC West in the balance.
Steve Dils, who directed the Rams' offense in their 26-20 overtime victory over Tampa Bay, will return to his backup role, and rookie Jim Everett to be used only if the two quarterbacks can't 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.
Bartkowski's main contribution to last Sunday's victory was to play catch to keep Dils' arm warm between offensive series.
"It was tough, especially when things started tightening up," Bartkowski said. "I kind of kept waiting for the nod."
His said his knee feels all right. "It's not real sore," he said.
Bartkowski, who will be 34 next month, said he won't be motivated by revenge against the club that released him late last season.
"No hard feelings at all," he said. "I had 11 wonderful years down there. I have nothing but fond memories for the city, the team, the organization. I read somewhere that resentment makes you age. I can't afford to get any older."
He has kept in touch with his successor and former backup, David Archer.
"More from an encouragement standpoint," Bartkowski said. "I wanted to encourage him to hang in there in preseason, and that I knew he'd have an excellent season.
"Obviously, he was happy to have a chance to play but, as he looked back on it, wished that I could have been there to support him a little more. I don't know if he got a great deal of support last year when he was thrown in there."
Bartkowski said he has no idea how he'll be received by Atlanta fans.
"I don't really care," he said. "I've thought about going back and playing in front of the home folks. It's a game for first place, a big game, the biggest we've had this season."
The Falcon fans haven't been this optimistic since 1980, Bartkowski said.
"That season we strung nine in a row together, and when you're winning like that everybody's patting you on the back telling you how good you are and, silly you, you believe 'em.
"I've tried to go into it without anticipating any sort of reaction. Maybe they'll treat me like another guy, but I can promise you this: it won't affect me one way or the other.
"I know there'll be at least 35 people cheering for me. They'd better, or I'll take the tickets back."
Holdout wide receiver Henry Ellard said that Ram negotiator John Shaw called him late last week to say it probably would be "in his best interests just to sit out this year," then resume talks after the season "when cooler heads prevail." According to Ellard, Shaw said that even if Ellard signed he wouldn't be in shape to play until 10 weeks into the season, and then the team "wouldn't be getting its money's worth." But Ellard still has one strong ally in the organization. He and his wife attended Sunday's game in Anaheim on complimentary tickets from Coach John Robinson. . . . Mark Jerue and Jim Laughlin probably will continue to play 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.