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Little Starts Strong
Friday, September 16, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
Most NFL defensive ends would be thrilled to post the kind of numbers that Leonard Little did last season.
By the time his season was complete Little had 92 tackles, seven sacks and four fumble recoveries, one of which he returned 61 yards for a touchdown. But for a player who has set the bar as high for himself and his fellow ends as Little has in recent years, it didn’t quite live up to expectations.
“After the season last year with seven sacks, I just wanted to get off to a good start,” Little said.
And Little got off to a great start against San Francisco last week. He finished the game with a pair of sacks and a pair of forced fumbles that his teammates were able to recover. But all of that meant little to Little because of the 28-25 loss to San Francisco.
With a good start under his belt, Little is faced with the task of getting to former teammates and current Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner this week. Little said he considers Warner a good friend, but when the game starts Sunday, there will be no mercy.
“I’m going to treat him just like a regular quarterback,” Little said. “He’s a friend, he’s a good friend of mine and he’s a great guy, but we have to go out and try to win the game. I have to do the things that I need to do to try to win this game.”
Little doesn’t have too many fond memories of the last time the Rams tried to win a game in Arizona. He provided the team’s only offense in that game with the 61-yard fumble return for a touchdown, but that game became a blowout loss that was probably the team’s low point last season.
Although Little finished with good numbers a year ago, he wasn’t able to maintain the sack rate that he had established in the years prior. Still, Little is fifth in the NFL in the past four seasons with 46 sacks.
That total includes the seven from last year, the first year that Little constantly faced double teams and chip blocks from opponents. That adjustment made last season more difficult for Little, but he said he didn’t notice too much extra attention from the *****.
“I really didn’t pay attention to it,” Little said. “I got some one on one situations and that’s what I have got to do once I get one on one situations. I have to take advantage of them. They might have chipped me a little bit during the second half, but I really didn’t pay it any attention.”
BEAT THE HEAT: With temperatures expected to be hovering around 100 degrees in Arizona this weekend, many are speculating about the Rams possibly wilting away in the heat, particularly in the fourth quarter.
But considering the amount of heat and humidity the team has practiced in for most of the preseason, that isn’t much of a concern for coach Mike Martz.
“I was there for 10 years, and I promise you it was a lot worse here last week than it ever was down there when it was 113 [degrees] during the day,” Martz said. “My challenge to them is to come back when it’s 98 [degrees] in this humidity. If you want to make it a distraction, you can. It is what it is. It’s still 98 [degrees] on that other sideline. It just is.”
Although this week in St. Louis has proved a nice break from the heat and humidity of the past couple months, the mid-70s-upper-60s temperatures and rain didn’t exactly make for a good week of preparing for the Arizona heat.
That heat is what is generally referred to as a “dry” heat, which doesn’t make it any less hot, but there is less humidity than in say, St. Louis. Of course, an oven would also be considered a dry heat, but nobody really wants to stick their head in one.
In preparation for the heat, the Rams will use “air-conditioned” pads in the game. There will be a nylon wraparound Velcro-ed underneath the shoulder pads that will help keep the players cool when they come on to the sidelines. The air can be as cool as 45 degrees blowing into the pads.
But nothing can prepare the Rams for playing in the heat as much as the training camp in the St. Louis humidity.
“I don’t think this is going to be an issue for us,” Martz said. “It was that temperature here last week with the humidity. Watching our guys on the offense go through 91 plays and come back we ran them pretty good on Monday. It shouldn’t be a concern for us. I’ll be surprised if we have issues with the heat.”
DANSBY’S A DANDY: Arizona linebacker almost single-handedly provided the offense for the Cardinals against the Giants last week and appears to be starting his ascent to the top of the league among linebackers.
Dansby was outstanding against New York, collecting a sack, three tackles and made a pair of spectacular interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. With the additions of the likes of Chike Okeafor and Antrel Rolle to the defense, Dansby is emerging as the leader of Arizona’s defense.
“The mark of an outstanding defensive linebacker is the fact that wherever the ball ends up, that’s where that linebacker is, and that’s what he is,” Martz said. “He’s a spectacular player. I think he is absolutely going to be one of the premiere defensive players in the league.”
INJURY REPORT: The Rams’ injury report remained the same Friday with the same names in the same places.
Right tackle Rex Tucker is, of course, out for Sunday’s game with a right calf injury. Cornerback Terry Fair (neck) is doubtful. Tucker and Fair missed part or all of Thursday’s practice.
Receiver Kevin Curtis (ankle) is probable and participated in Thursday’s practice.
Arizona’s injury report also remained the same. Running back J.J. Arrington is probable because of an illness and is joined as probable by centers Nick Leckey (ankle) and Alex Stepanovich (hand).
Tight end John Bronson (knee) and linebacker James Darling (knee) are doubtful. Linebacker Gerald Hayes (knee) is out for this week.
ROSTER MOVE: The Rams released center Toby Cecil from the practice squad Friday and replaced him with center Shawn Lynch.
Lynch spent part of the preseason with Minnesota before moving on to Arizona, where he started at center last week.
Re: Little Starts Strong
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