By Bill Coats
Thursday, Nov. 24 2005

Linebacker Dexter Coakley tackled turkey and stuffing instead of quarterbacks
and running backs Thursday afternoon, an experience he described as "weird."

Coakley spent his previous eight NFL seasons with Dallas before signing with
the Rams as a free agent last March. Since 1978, the Cowboys have played a game
on Thanksgiving.

"I'm used to getting up at the hotel, eating a pregame meal and going to the
stadium," Coakley said after the Rams' two-hour practice. "It's different; it's
going to take some getting used to. But I'm just going to go home and watch
those guys on TV and pull for my friends."

Although the Cowboys were just 3-5 on Turkey Day during Coakley's tenure there,
he said he had "very fond memories of those games. I had one of my best games
on Thanksgiving, against Miami, when Dan Marino threw me two interceptions and
I took one to the house for a touchdown."

That occurred exactly seven years ago today: On Nov. 25, 1999, Coakley broke
open a scoreless game by racing 46 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. He
piled up 10 tackles and picked off another pass in the final period as the
Cowboys prevailed 20-0 at Texas Stadium. He was named the NFC defensive player
of the week.

Coakley, 33, ranks ninth among the Rams in tackles, with 33. Although the Rams
invested $14.15 million in him in a five-year contract, Coakley's action has
been limited. He and fellow free-agent linebacker Chris Claiborne - to whom the
Rams will pay $10.5 million over three years - normally are replaced in passing

"It's very frustrating when you're not on the field and you feel as though you
could help," Coakley said. "When you're standing on the sideline, that's not
the place you want to be. If you have an ounce of competitiveness in your
spirit, in your bones, you want to be out there on the field competing with the

"So, it gets tough at times. ... But I can't worry about what the coaches are
doing. If I try to focus on what they're doing, then I'm not focused on playing
football. I'm not going to get caught up in, why this guy or that guy is not
playing. When you do play, just go out there and make plays."

Still, the three-time Pro Bowler said he didn't mind getting to relax a bit
this Thanksgiving for a change. "I'm not complaining," he said. "I'm going to
be a couch potato."

Thanksgiving break

Interim head coach Joe Vitt gave the players the rest of Thursday off after
practice ended about 1 p.m. so that they could gather with family and friends.

"I told the players, 'Everybody on this team has unique traits and unique
qualities that they bring to the table. We're all blessed,'" Vitt said. "I told
them all to take some time and thank the man upstairs."

Vitt said that he wasn't sure exactly what his wife, Linda, was planning for
their Thanksgiving meal. "I didn't go over the menu last night, and I don't
have time to look at the cooking channel," he quipped. "So, whatever she has,
she has ... and whatever she makes, I'll have a smile on my face. I'm thankful
I have her."


Although he practiced Thursday, tackle Orlando Pace (hamstring) was added to
the team's injury report. He was listed as probable. ... Defensive end Leonard
Little received a cortisone shot in his sore ankle and skipped practice. "He'll
be ready to go" today, Vitt said.