Thursday, September 1, 2005

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

After Wednesday’s afternoon workout, it would have been easy for rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to coast through the post-practice wind sprints.

When coach Mike Martz declared Tuesday that Fitzpatrick had earned his spot on the team already, any trepidation that Fitzpatrick had about his place on the Rams went away.

Yet there Fitzpatrick was, taking nothing for granted and beating all of the defensive backs, and skill position players to the finish line. That’s the kind of attitude that will curry favor with the coaching staff and land a quarterback squarely in the good graces of Martz, a place that’s nice to be considering his outstanding track record of developing signal callers.

With the fourth and final preseason game only two days away, Fitzpatrick figures to get plenty of repetitions so he is taking these two practices and treating them as though he is preparing to start.

“I have to go out and prove myself every day, especially this week,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s just a great opportunity for me to get out there, get some snaps against another team and see what happens.”

When asked about Fitzpatrick’s development Tuesday, Martz said he was more than happy about the young quarterback’s progress.

“He’s a good player,” Martz said. “Has he made this roster? Yea, he’s made this roster. He made this thing about three weeks ago.”

Three weeks ago. In other words, before Fitzpatrick threw a strike for a 78-yard touchdown against the Chargers and before he flashed brilliance against the Lions on Monday Night Football.

It seems as though nothing fazes Fitzpatrick and that is another quality that will make a coach take notice of a seventh-round draft choice.

After completing the touchdown to Curtis on his only pass of the game at San Diego, Fitzpatrick played the fourth quarter against Detroit. He finished that game two-of-three for 25 yards, but showed excellent poise on third and long and led the team to a field goal.

After Martz’s Tuesday declaration, Fitzpatrick received word from his girlfriend about what was said about him. His girlfriend’s mother read an article that quoted Martz and she immediately called her daughter who then informed Fitzpatrick.

“It’s a nice thing to hear, but obviously I still have to perform well in the next preseason game,” Fitzpatrick said. “I should get a decent amount of time, so I am definitely looking forward to it.”

Fitzpatrick’s opportunity against the Chiefs could be his most extensive of the preseason. It isn’t likely that starter Marc Bulger or even backup Jamie Martin will play much, which could leave Fitzpatrick with as much as a half of playing time.

During the preseason, Fitzpatrick is five-of-10 for 129 yards and a touchdown. He is also $50 richer because of the generosity of Curtis. After Curtis’ touchdown catch, Fitzpatrick attempted to reward the receiver with a $50 bill.

Fitzpatrick made it a point to give the money to Curtis in front of the other receivers.

“I slipped it to him in front of all the other receivers too, so they would see,” Fitzpatrick said. “He gave it back to me without anybody seeing it.”

While Fitzpatrick figures to get plenty of playing time against the Chiefs, it sounds like there will be plenty more chances for him to bribe his receivers.

MISSING PERSONS FILE: Defensive end Leonard Little was not at Wednesday’s practice because of a bout with the flu. Little is about the fourth Ram to come down sick in the past week or so and his status for Friday is uncertain.

Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, cornerback Terry Fair and running back Arlen Harris also missed the workout.

Tight end Roland Williams did some limited work in individual drills and participated in post-practice sprints. He is not likely to play against the Chiefs.

“We’ll just see how he feels,” Martz said. “I’m not anxious to play him.”

LEARNING ON THE JOB: Tight end Jerome Collins got a memorable welcome to the NFL moment from Martz at Wednesday’s practice. After some struggles in team drills, Collins got an earful from the head coach.

But Martz said the tongue-lashing was a product of trying to get Collins ready for extended playing time this week. With Williams not likely to play, Collins will probably handle the bulk of the tight end load.

“We think Collins has a great deal of potential,” Martz said. “We are trying to get him as much work as we possibly can right now and get him ready for the season because we think he has some potential to help us during the season.”

How Collins fares against Kansas City could go a long way in determining his future.

HURRICANE RELIEF: For those heading to the Edward Jones Dome for the Governor’s Cup on Friday night, the Rams are holding a Hurricane Relief Drive with all of the money collected going to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

The players’ wives and volunteers from the Greater St. Louis Quarterback Club will take the donations outside of all entrance gates starting at 5:15 p.m. until kickoff.