Martz keeps team working
The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Even with an extra day to prepare for their next game, the St. Louis Rams won't be relaxing at home on Thanksgiving.

Extra practice time also will be devoted to horrid special teams, the end result of a frustrating, up-and-down season and 5-5 record for coach Mike Martz, even if the Rams don't play until Monday at Green Bay.

"If this wasn't a Monday night game, obviously we'd practice," Martz said Wednesday. "If we had a veteran team that was playing really well ..."

But Martz doesn't. The Rams have 17 players with two or fewer years experience, players he's counting on to come through on special teams. He's still trying to get them used to the realities of life in the NFL.

"What's irritating is their role primarily is special teams and it's almost as if they feel they shouldn't have to do that," Martz said. "But they'll learn because they'll either do it or they won't be here." Martz is reluctant to use too many starters on special teams for fear of wearing them out for regular duty.

"You get all these other guys that should be doing a better job that don't, and you can't put them in there because they're going to beat you because they've demonstrated it," Martz said. "That's what I'm angry about."

Players didn't seem to mind practicing on Thanksgiving. They also worked out on the holiday last year, although that was on a regular work week.

"This is our job, this is the time of year we practice and play during the holidays," tight end Cam Cleeland said. "You've got to do it."

Plus, Martz also is worried players might not retain everything that was installed in practice on Wednesday.

"We practiced Thanksgiving last year and we were rolling, and we've practiced in years past, too," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "It's an extra day to prepare and to give us a whole day off, you forget everything you put in and come back a little rusty on Friday.

"So I think it's a good idea to keep things going."

Special teams rank 30th in the NFL in punt returns and 31st in kickoffs, kickoff returns and punt coverage. Sean Landeta is 31st out of 33 rated punters in the NFL.

This week, there'll be an additional special teams walkthrough.

"You can't really do special teams full go because that's a little dangerous," punt returner Sean McDonald said. "We've just got to know what we're doing more and be confident in what we're doing."

Definitely, there will be changes in the lineup. Middle linebacker Robert Thomas, a first-round pick in 2002, will be restored to his job after five games, and Grant Williams will start at right tackle after missing last week with a shoulder injury.

Thomas missed two games with a sprained ankle and played the past three weeks primarily on special teams behind Trev Faulk, an undrafted free agent.

"I'd like to see him stay on the field," Martz said of Thomas. "Robert has unusual speed and range at linebacker."

Blaine Saipaia made his first career start last week at right tackle. Williams, who started the first nine games, has been inconsistent.

Rich Coady will get his third straight start at free safety in place of Aeneas Williams, even though he was burned for two touchdown passes and a flea-flicker in last week's loss to Buffalo. Williams has been bothered by a stinger.

And Martz said safety Antuan Edwards, claimed off waivers Nov. 11 after being released by the Dolphins, will play this week.