ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams released linebacker Chris Draft on Thursday after the 11-year veteran declined to take a pay cut in the final year of a three-year contract.
The 33-year-old Draft made 16 starts in two seasons with St. Louis and had been listed first on the depth chart heading into Sunday's opener in Seattle. Last year, Draft made nine starts and had 41 tackles.
Linebacker Quinton Culberson, who had been among the final cuts last week, was re-signed to fill the roster spot in upheaval three days away from the opener.
Running back Steven Jackson didn't learn of the move until just before practice. David Vobora, a seventh-round pick who inherits Draft's starting spot, noticed the position meeting room was shy one player, and didn't get a chance to thank the veteran for his help.
"In our business we've learned to kind of adjust on the fly, and that's what it's going to take," Jackson said. "We're going to need those young guys stepping up and becoming leaders. It may be a little faster than you'd want ideally."
Coach Steve Spagnuolo had little to say about the move, which saved the Rams $380,000. He declined to judge Draft's performance and emphasized it was a team decision.
"None of these moves are easy," Spagnuolo said. "It's a tough business in a lot of ways. We've got a lot of respect and appreciation for Chris Draft and what he did both on and off the field."
Vobora, the last overall pick of last year's draft, got a lot of work with the first string both in preseason games and practice. That included this week, and Spagnuolo said "there was a chance" he would have started the opener in any case.
"Hopefully," the coach said, "we won't skip a beat."
Draft was the third-oldest player with the Rams, who have been transformed from one of the oldest teams in the NFL to the third-youngest since the end of last season. He previously played for the Bears, 49ers, Falcons and Panthers with 88 career starts in 142 games.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)