Martz' method works for Rams


St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz has always taken an unusual approach to bye weeks.

Judging from how well it has worked, maybe it should not be such an unusual approach.

For the fifth straight season, Martz gave his team the entire bye week off. The Rams, who were off last week, play the visiting New England Patriots Sunday.

The Rams are 4-0 following bye weeks under Martz, and they have averaged 39 points per game with an average margin of victory of nearly 25 points.

The controversial coach said it was a difficult move to make at first. He added he has continued the practice in part because his team's bye week has always fallen pretty much in the middle of the season.

"After you have gone through the preseason and the entire start of the regular season, these guys physically and emotionally need a break, and the coaches could use one," Martz said.

"They have to come in and lift and run three days out of that week," he added. "They get away with their families, their bodies are healed, and it's just like starting the whole year over. It's kind of refreshing."

Most teams will hold two or three regular practices during a bye week before giving players the weekend off.

INJURY UPDATE: The Patriots made no changes to their rather lengthy injury report.

Running backs Corey Dillon (thigh) and Patrick Pass (thigh), receivers Deion Branch (knee), Troy Brown (shoulder) and David Givens (knee), tackle Tom Ashworth (back) and special teams linebacker Larry Izzo (knee) all missed at least a portion of team practice for the second straight day, according to the team.

All are questionable for Sunday's game except Branch, who is doubtful. "I'll be back soon," Branch said. "It (being injured) is part of life."

Cornerbacks Ty Law (foot) and Tyrone Poole (knee) will not play Sunday.

Poole said players such as second-year pro Asante Samuel and rookie free agent Randall Gay will have a chance to gain experience, and the Patriots will benefit from that later in the season.

"If something happens in a crucial game, the coaches don't have to say, 'Wow, I wonder how this guy is going to react in a crucial situation,' Poole said.

"We have injuries, and that's not a positive, but it's a positive in the fact that it gives the guys who would not normally have opportunities to play the chance to do that."

New England coach Bill Belichick was asked yesterday morning what his players would wear at practice in the afternoon. He responded, "shoulder pads and knee braces."

BASEBALL BLUES: St. Louis defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson attended Game 3 of the World Series, watching his Cardinals lose 4-1 to the Red Sox.

"That was depressing. I know what it is like being a fan now. You talk about feeling helpless.

"Every Cardinal fan knows that wasn't the team that dominated the league the whole season. I just feel bad for them. I know what it is like to play a game and just not be yourself. They played four of them."