ANAHEIM — That wealth of running backs the Rams appeared to have after draft day has dwindled to an increasingly precious few.
Anthony Thompson was the latest to drop off the depth chart--at least for the next couple of weeks--when he broke a bone in his right hand after diving into the end zone for the Rams' first touchdown Saturday night.
Surgery is scheduled for this morning. Thompson could be available by the season opener Sept. 5 against the Green Bay Packers.
Thompson, who was claimed on waivers from Phoenix last September, performed mostly on special teams last year and had only 11 carries. But as the injuries have mounted this summer, the Rams haven't ruled out any possibilities.
David Lang, who rushed for three touchdowns in the final game last year, is out three months because of a knee injury. Jerome Bettis, the team's top pick, is sidelined with an ankle injury.
"They've all been kind of freak things, too," Coach Chuck Knox said. "When it all comes in bunches at one position, it really hurts."
There has been some recent good news on the running back front, however. The Rams signed Cleveland Gary in time to make him eligible to play in the season opener and are probably feeling pretty smug about closing the deal when they did.
Terms of the contract have not been disclosed, but Ram sources indicated the one-year deal is in the $750,000 range.
"We're sure glad to have him," Executive Vice President John Shaw said Saturday night moments after the announcement of Thompson's injury at halftime.
Stumble Zone: The Ram offense was less than scintillating in the first half. In fact, their biggest play from scrimmage before the intermission came when fullback Tim Lester broke through the right side of the Charger defense, charged forward for 12 yards and then fumbled when he was hit by Stanley Richard.
Receiver Henry Ellard followed--and eventually fell on--the bouncing ball for a total gain of 21 yards.
Means to End Zone: San Diego running back Natrone Means made the right impression, leaving the impression of his helmet on a number of Rams during the Chargers' second-quarter touchdown drive.
The rookie from North Carolina accounted for 51 yards during San Diego's 60-yard drive--including runs of 26, 12 and a one-yard touchdown dive--before injuring his left ankle in the third quarter.
For the second week in a row the Rams released a bogus depth chart.
The team listed Cleveland Gary and David Lang as starting running backs, although Gary wasn't in uniform and Lang was standing on crutches.
The team also named Marc Boutte as starting defensive tackle, although David Rocker, who has been working with the first unit in practice, earned the start against the Chargers.
Rocker's promotion and Boutte's demotion is interesting, because Boutte received high marks for his play as a rookie last season while starting 15 games.
Rocker, who missed the final 14 games last season with a knee injury, has been one of the team's most impressive performers in training camp.
Tough crowd: The fans booed Ram wide receiver Richard Buchanan in the second quarter when he signaled for a fair catch on a 44-yard punt. The ugly response might have had something to do with the 15 yards of wide open running room that appeared to greet Buchanan upon his catch.
The Rams' punting game/special teams also left room for improvement.
Don Bracken, the Rams' starting punter last season, hit a 34-yarder and then followed that with a 29-yard effort moments later in the first quarter.
Jeff Buffaloe, the Rams' eighth-round pick, relieved Bracken and walloped a 28-yarder before redeeming himself with a 54-yard punt in the second quarter.
After the Rams scored a touchdown in the second quarter, they jumped offsides on the kickoff. Forced to rekick the ball, Tony Zendejas punched it out of bounds, and the Chargers took possession at the 40.
They Chargers then marched 60 yards and scored.