- Associated Press - Monday, September 12, 2011

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Opening day was a beatdown for the St. Louis Rams. In more ways than one.

They’re likely to be minus four starters next Monday at the New York Giants, including running back Steven Jackson. Cornerback Ron Bartell is likely out for the season with two breaks in his neck.

Quarterback Sam Bradford expects to play despite a bruised right index finger that knocked him out in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 31-13 loss to the Eagles. But one of his top targets, wide receiver Danny Amendola, is out with a dislocated left elbow.

Another cornerback, Bradley Fletcher, has a sprained toe that might limit him, and offensive tackle Jason Smith has a sprained left ankle. The team had feared Smith, the second overall pick of the 2009 draft, had a high ankle sprain which would have sidelined him for perhaps a month.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Monday it’s the worst injury report in his three seasons. It comes off a disappointing effort for a franchise that’s supposed to be on the rise, too.

“There’s a lot there, no question,” Spagnuolo said. “Nobody’s going to bury their head in the sand, and we’re not going to go away. We didn’t envision beginning like that and we certainly didn’t envision losing all these guys.”

The defense gave up 16 plays for double-digit yardage, the offense was 2 for 12 on third downs _ with about a half-dozen dropped passes _ and the line couldn’t protect Bradford, who was sacked four times. The Rams were outscored 14-3 in the second half.

“A lot of their big plays were mental errors,” safety Quintin Mikell said. “You can’t have that against teams like that, but there’s some promise here and once we get the little things ironed out, we’ll be all right.”

Bartell, the Rams‘ top cover cornerback, underwent a CT scan and an MRI exam at a hospital after the game. The team initially believed the injury was a stinger.

Teammate Justin King said Bartell was trying to tackle Eagles running back Ronnie Brown midway through the fourth quarter when a Philadelphia lineman dived to block Bartell and hit the cornerback on the top of the head. King is likely to step up to take Bartell’s spot.

“It didn’t look right, the impact,” King said. “It’s very unfortunate, it’s one of the cruel realities of the game. One play and your season can be over.”

Amendola, who led the Rams with 85 catches last year, also was undergoing an MRI exam. Team medical personnel did not believe the injury would require surgery.

Amendola caught five passes for 45 yards against the Eagles. Like many teams, the Rams opened with two quarterbacks instead of three and had considered Amendola their third quarterback.

Now, their third-stringer might be a running back in a wildcat formation.

Jackson was injured without contact on a 47-yard touchdown run on the Rams‘ first play and left with a strained right quadriceps after one more 9-yard carry. Spagnuolo characterized Jackson as week-to-week and probably out for the Giants game.

Jackson rode a stationary bicycle for a few minutes before giving up on the game, although he stayed in uniform the rest of the way and the Rams didn’t change their assessment that Jackson’s return was questionable.

“Once we knew, there was no thought of trying to get him back in there,” Spagnuolo said.

The Rams added quality backups this year for the first time under Spagnuolo, and Cadillac Williams had 91 yards on 19 carries with 49 yards receiving. Williams had limited snaps in practice, but Spagnuolo said “he was fully in tune, knew exactly what it was that he was supposed to do.

“That’s a pro, that’s what you need,” the coach added.

There’s more. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher is day to day with a sprained toe and offensive tackle Jason Smith has a sprained left ankle. The Rams had feared Smith had a high ankle sprain, which would have sidelined him for perhaps a month.

Spagnuolo said he couldn’t control injuries, but what he had some control over was what happened next.

“Like I told the team, you just get a foxhole mentality,” Spagnuolo said. “Get in there, regroup, get the next guy up, come out the hole fighting. So that’s what we’ll do.”

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