Coach expects to overcome heart illness by January
BY STEVE KORTE
News-Democrat

ST. LOUIS - St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz said he plans to be back next season even if he doesn't get a contract extension.

Martz's current contract with the Rams expires after the 2006 season.

"I love this team, this is home for us," Martz told St. Louis radio station KSLG 1380-AM on Tuesday. "I just believe that that stuff will all work out. That's up to my agent; he'll deal with that. I'm not going to entertain or even think about leaving St. Louis. I don't want to be in that situation. To me, that's a worst-case scenario. This is our home, this is where I want to retire, and I pray and hope it works out way.

"I talked to (Rams owner) Georgia (Frontiere) a week before the season started and she reassured me. The topic came up about an extension, and she said, 'You'll be the head coach as long as you want.'"

Martz announced Monday that, on the advice of his doctor, he won't return to coaching again this season. He's suffering from endocarditis, a bacterial infection of a heart valve.

Martz took an indefinite leave of absence from his coaching duties two weeks ago.

Martz also told KSLG 1380-AM that he was "very, very angry" that he wasn't allowed to contact Rams offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild during the third quarter of the team's 28-17 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Martz said Fairchild called him during halftime, but the two men didn't have time to finish their conversation.

Martz said he wanted to remind Fairchild of a few things he'd seen watching the Saints defense on television at his house, so he sent Dan Linza, the Rams' director of security, to the coach's box at the Edward Jones Dome.

Linza was denied access to the coach's box by Jay Zygmunt, the Rams' president for football operations.

"I was very, very angry to say to the least," Martz said. "I don't understand why that happened, what the whole thought process was. And if they have an issue with that, why they didn't tell me ahead of time?"

Zygmunt took Linza to Rams President John Shaw, who refused to allow Linza to bring a live telephone into the coach's box.

The fact that Martz and Zygmunt have been feuding for several months added fuel to the conflict.

Rams management seems to be taking the stance that Martz won't be fired, while Martz seems adamant about not quitting.

The question is whether Martz and Zygmunt can continue to coexist in the Rams power structure.

"That's a tough question; that's a personnel question that I am not really prepared to answer," Martz said. "There is a lot of history there. From a business standpoint, yes. From a personal standpoint, I don't know. There have been just too many things that have happened."

Martz, who expects a full recovery from his illness by January, said he wants to be coaching somewhere next fall.

"My batteries don't need to be recharged, they really don't," Martz said. "This is a passion in my life. I am not tired of it. I am not worn down. This illness has gotten the best of me. This is where I want to coach. I don't want to be anywhere else. I am the coach next year, period, that's the way it is going to be