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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Little Still Undecided On Playing ..

    BY JIM THOMAS Thursday, August 5, 2010 12:10 am

    After 12 years in the business, and minus a contract, Leonard Little needed time away from football to clear his head and mull things over.

    But after months of contemplation, and nearly one week into training camp, Little has yet to make up his mind. In his first interview since the 2009 season, the veteran defensive end told the Post-Dispatch he hasn't decided whether to retire or keep playing.

    "Sometimes I feel like I want to come back," Little said. "Sometimes I feel like I don't. It's a hard decision to make when you're used to playing football. I've been playing football since I was 5 years old.

    "I love the game. And I do miss it. But my decision is not going to be about football. It's going to be about other things — things I'd rather not talk about right now."

    Even at age 35 — he turns 36 in October — Little knows he can still play effectively, albeit as a situational pass rusher with limited playing time. It's a role he's willing to embrace if he decides to keep playing.

    Although he declined to name specific teams, Little said, "There's some teams interested. If I want to call 'em and tell 'em I'm ready to play, I think it'll be a good chance I could join those specific teams. But I haven't given anybody a definitive answer, so teams don't know where I'm at right now."

    Little continues to train at his home in Charlotte, N.C. He says his strength is where it needs to be to play NFL football. His weight is holding steady at around 265 pounds, his normal playing weight. He says his conditioning still needs work, although he ran the half-mile in about 2½ minutes Wednesday.

    And what about the Rams? Little said he has been playing phone tag lately with coach Steve Spagnuolo.

    "He'll call me; he'll miss me," Little said. "I don't know their practice schedule, but I'll call him; I'll miss him. I'm pretty sure in the next day or two, I'll be talking to him."

    Little has spent his entire NFL career with St. Louis. He has 87½ sacks, making the Pro Bowl following the 2003 season. He led the Rams in sacks in six of the past nine seasons, including double-digit sack totals in '01, '02, '03 and '06.

    But injuries have slowed him the past three seasons. He missed nine games in '07 with a toe injury that required surgery; played 14 games in '08 despite a severed hamstring; and missed the final three games last season with a knee infection.

    "I've tried to isolate myself a little bit the last month or two, and just sit down and think about things — think about every possible scenario, and what I really want to do," Little said.

    He has gotten messages from Rams fans asking him to come back.

    "There's some wonderful fans up there (in St. Louis)," Little said.

    But he knows there also are Rams fans who want him to stay away.

    "I hear stuff. I read everything," Little said. "I know there are a lot of Rams fans that don't even want to see me in a Rams uniform again. And I've got to keep that in mind, also, when making a decision.

    "There's people that want me to come back and there's a lot of people that don't want me to come back because I made some bad decisions in my career. And that's understandable."

    Little was referring to the drunken-driving fatality he was responsible for in 1998, during his rookie season in the NFL. Little pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Susan Gutweiler of Oakville on Oct. 19 — Little's 24th birthday.

    "I did apologize (to the family) after I got sentenced," Little said. "And tried to express my remorse to them. I'm going to always be apologetic, and I'm always going to think about that. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about that. ... But I know a lot of Rams fans don't want me around because of that.

    "I understand what I did. I understand what I did was the biggest mistake in my life. And that's the only thing I'll ever regret that I did in my life."

    But Little said he was grateful to Rams management, particularly late owner Georgia Frontiere and minority owner Stan Kroenke, for sticking with him in 1998 and beyond.

    "They showed me they really cared. That really meant a lot," he said.

    And to Dick Vermeil, who was Rams head coach at the time.

    "When I went through the accident, the first thing Coach Vermeil told me was, 'I'm going to treat you like I treat one of my sons in this situation. Which means kids are going to make mistakes but I'm going to try my best to help you get back on your feet and help you be a better person and make great decisions after this.' "

    And he was thankful to a host of Rams coaches who followed — Lovie Smith, Mike Martz, Jim Haslett, Scott Linehan and Spagnuolo, plus line coaches Bill Kollar and Brian Baker, and others — for judging him as a person, and not solely on the fatal mistake he made in 1998.

    Over the years, something he noticed on game day at the Edward Jones Dome also stuck with him.

    "I really respect the people that let their little kids wear my jersey on Sundays," Little said. "That really meant the most to me, that a parent would see a guy who made a mistake in his life and still let his son come to the game with my jersey on. It wasn't just one kid; it was a lot of kids."

    It showed Little there was some forgiveness in this world for a tragic mistake he made 12 years ago.

    "To me it was like yesterday," he said.

    But he added, "I appreciate all the support I got up there from the fans. I appreciate everything that the city has given to me. I appreciate the opportunity to play in the city for 12 years."

  2. #2
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Little Still Undecided On Playing ..

    Who does he think he is? Brett Favre?!

  3. #3
    Keenum's Avatar
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    Re: Little Still Undecided On Playing ..

    Common now, nobody wants to go through training camp, right? lol.

    Hope to see him before the season starts though! I think he's still got a solid year left in him.

  4. #4
    SLSG Guest

    Re: Little Still Undecided On Playing ..

    Quote Originally Posted by laram0 View Post
    Who does he think he is? Brett Favre?!

    Nope, Orlando Pace

  5. #5
    npow81 Guest

    Re: Little Still Undecided On Playing ..

    Well eventhough he has never played the position I'm certain the Broncos would be in the market for his services with Dumervil going down.

    I've always though Leonard would be a pretty good fit as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme, ala Jason Taylor back in the day.

  6. #6
    shower beers's Avatar
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    Re: Little Still Undecided On Playing ..

    "Little still firm on not wanting to go through training camp and pre-season games."

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