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Illnesses keep dogging Rams players
ST. LOUIS - So many St. Louis Rams players have landed in sick bay in recent weeks, felled mostly by a persistent stomach virus, that interim coach Joe Vitt suggested fumigating the locker room.
This week, the virus has hit quarterback Jamie Martin, running back Marshall Faulk, linebacker Brandon Chillar and defensive lineman Brian Howard. Over the last month, a dozen or more players have been affected.
"Maybe the virus is mutating and it's going to take over the whole world," joked wide receiver Dane Looker, who was sent home himself recently. "Still, anytime you're in close quarters with guys I think this is going to happen."
Martin, who'll start the season finale at Dallas on Sunday night, left practice early Wednesday, but he felt well enough to return to the field the next day and again on Friday.
"I'm a little tired and trying to get my energy back, but no more sick feeling," Martin said. "Throwing up is hard work.
"Luckily, mine was only a day thing. Some guys have been knocked out for a while."
Offensive lineman Rex Tucker missed two games with illness that struck during the Vikings game on Dec. 11, and he's still not 100 percent.
"By the end of that game I could barely stand up," Tucker said. "I'm wondering what in the world is wrong with me, sucking oxygen like crazy, sucking an IV dry.
"I'm still kind of feeling it, just kind of worn out."
This week, the malady has hit Faulk particularly hard. He might be in line for extra duty considering that Steven Jackson continues to be hampered by a hip pointer, but neither practiced on Friday.
Vitt said Jackson would be a game-time decision, but said that Faulk's availability was more in doubt.
Faulk needs 59 rushing yards to pass Hall of Famer Jim Brown (12,312) for eighth on the career rushing list. And this could be his final game, period.
Vitt said he has no idea why so many players have been affected. This week, he jokingly suggested that team meetings be held outdoors and that the soap dispensers be checked for germs.
"This is the hand we've dealt and we've got to play the hand," Vitt said. "This is the last game of the year and I can't do a study on why we've been so sick.
"These guys have been really sick, they've gone to the hospital, they're getting IVs, but to date we haven't lost anybody because of it."
The Rams (5-10) are winding up a disappointing, turbulent season in which they've lost head coach Mike Martz to illness and landed 10 players on injured reserve, including quarterback Marc Bulger and both starting cornerbacks. It's an uncertain time for Vitt, 3-7 as Martz' fill-in.
"It's our last game until next year," Vitt said. "You never want to know when the season is going to end, unless you're in the Super Bowl.
"We're in this game because we love it, so this is our Super Bowl and this is our playoff game coming up."
Vitt doesn't believe his time on the hot seat has elevated his local profile, because he's been so busy coaching. Vitt said he's only been five places since taking over for Martz in October.
"I've been to this complex, I've been to the dome, I've been on the bus to go to the airport, I've been to the airport and to the visiting hotel," Vitt said. "Believe me, nobody mistakes me for Tom Cruise."
Notes: Torry Holt has a couple of milestones within reach. He needs 9 yards in the finale to become the first player in NFL history with six straight 1,300-yard seasons, and two catches for his second straight 100-reception season. ... Kicker Jeff Wilkins needs 13 points to become the first player in franchise history to reach 1,000.
Re: Illnesses keep dogging Rams players
Just out of curiosity...
How many of the Rams starters have made it through the season without an illness or injury? Mom and I think the number would have to be 5 or less...