ST. LOUIS — It's definitely going to be a big weekend of football for St. Louis Rams center Tim Barnes.
Barnes will be watching his alma mater, the University of Missouri, play against Auburn on Saturday in the SEC championship game. Then he'll be make his first NFL start in the Rams' game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
"Obviously, the most important thing is doing my job for the Rams,'' Barnes said. "The fan inside also is excited for what Missouri has been able to do. It's a huge step for the program, and I think I'll be able to watch most of it before our meetings start. It's exciting.''
Rams coach Jeff Fisher also will be watching the Missouri-Auburn game with keen interest. His son, Trent, is a junior safety for Auburn.
"What a great accomplishment on behalf of both programs,'' Fisher said. "For Mizzou to be only in their second year in the SEC to have a shot at the SEC championship and the way both programs have turned things around in just a year is pretty impressive. So, I will be watching it as a dad, so you'll know which way I'm leaning."
The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Barnes replaces center Scott Wells, who fractured the fibula in his left leg late in the first half of the Rams' 23-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday.
Those snaps against 49ers were Barnes' first snaps from the line of scrimmage this season.
"Tim's done a great job,'' Fisher said. "Last year in the preseason when he got a chance to play, he played well. You see the skillset, and he's dedicated, he's a pro, he prepares. He's ready to go, so Tim will be fine."
Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens said he's not worried about having problems with the center-quarterback exchange this Sunday.
"The good news is I've been taking snaps from 'Barnesy' for a couple years,'' said Clemens, who has been on the scout team with Barnes. "So, it's kind of just like riding an old bike. You just kind of get back on and go. We didn't even take any snaps at halftime last week and didn't have any problems. So, I'm not going to lose a lot of sleep over it."
Barnes signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2011, but he was cut after training camp.
The Rams signed the Longwood, Mo., native to their practice squad, and he ended up playing in 12 games on special teams last season.
"I think everyone sweats to some extent,'' Barnes said of surviving preseason roster cuts with the Rams. "Of course, I (did). I wasn't a drafted guy, I had to prove myself. When you have to prove yourself, you're always peeking over your shoulder.''
Four years removed from playing at Missouri, where he was part of an offensive line that allowed only 20 sacks in 13 games his senior season, Barnes said he doesn't have a lot of close ties with players on this year's team.
"I'm running out of guys that I actually know on the team,'' Barnes said. "There is just a few left.''
Barnes said he's been in contact with offensive lineman Justin Britt and offensive line coaches Josh Henson and Bruce Walker.
Barnes said Missouri's success this season after posting a 5-7 record last year has come as no surprise to him.
"Last year, they were just riddled with injuries,'' Barnes said. Teams struggle when they get injuries. A lot of people were panicking and a lot of people were wanting to fire Coach Pinckel.
"It's going to be a rough year when that many people get hurt. This year just goes to show the job they've done with the program.''
So, both the Missouri Tigers and Barnes will be trying to show how far they've come this weekend.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.