Again this is somewhat dependent on the distro.
I can only speak first-hand for SuSE(8.0) and RH (7.3, 8.0)
My feeling is that it would probably be best to have the card in when you install the drivers.
For redhat, edit the XF86Cofig file so that the driver being used is 'vesa'.
This "should" allow you to work in graphical mode.
In SuSE, by installing the dummy GLX and nvidia_kernel drivers, 'nv' should be listed as the driver in XF86Config. However, there is no reason why 'vesa' should not also work.
These options will allow you to go online in graphical mode and download the drivers.
Once downloaded, you have to install the drivers from the command line - in other words, you have to be out of X. This means booting into run level 3, rpm -ivh <gLX>, rpm -ivh <nvidia_kernel>.
Yast on the otherhand, will install the drivers from within X, but you will have to restart X for the changes to take place.
In both cases, you'll have to edit XF86Cofig to load GLX and remove references to DRI and something else - the documentation from nvidia explains it well. There is also an excellent thread here on how to install the nvidia drivers.
below is the section of my /etc/X11/XF86Config file for use of this card with the vesa drivers. Boot to run level 3, log in as root, type pico (or your fav editor) /etc/X11/XF86Config, edit and save.
# no known options
Identifier "VESA driver (generic)"
VendorName "VESA driver (generic)"
BoardName "VESA driver (generic)"