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Martz, Rams tackle their problems
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Wednesday, Nov. 10 2004
If he was Mad Mike on Monday, he became Really Mad Mike on Wednesday.
The 2004 season has reached the critical-mass stage, and Mike Martz is doing
everything he can to salvage it. Never mind the standings, the division race,
or Sunday's NFC West showdown with Seattle. At the moment, Martz just wants the
Rams to start playing better. A lot better.
"I think the way we played in the last two games is embarrassing," Martz said
Wednesday. "Not so much whether you win or lose the game - just the way we
played the game. Period. We're going to do everything we can to rectify that."
Including full-contact scrimmage work in practice.
During the nine-on-seven run period, the first-team offense worked against the
scout team defense. Then, the first-team defense worked against the scout team
With live tackling in both sessions. Yes, the Rams engaged in some live contact
in training camp this summer, but those drills were performed almost totally by
backups. Wednesday's work involved starters - basically everyone but running
back Marshall Faulk on offense, and safety Aeneas Williams on defense.
Scrimmaging in the regular season is unheard of in today's NFL. And it was a
first for the "St. Louis" Rams. Not even in the Dick Vermeil days of three-hour
practices did the Rams go full-contact.
Longtime team officials said the Rams hadn't engaged in live practice
scrimmaging in practice since the 1980s, during John Robinson's tenure as head
So Wednesday's work might fall under the category of desperate measures in
desperate times. Martz wants the Rams to be more physical, and play a more
violent brand of football. He wants them to block better. Tackle better.
Compete better. Live tackling work in practices was a cattle prod to get that
"We've got a core of guys that you can hang your hat on," Martz said. "You can
get out in the middle of the night, go out and practice them, and you're going
to get all they've got.
"What we're trying to do is get the rest of the guys up to that level. We were
there for a while, and we've fallen off a little bit in a couple of key areas."
So Wednesday's scrimmaging, coupled with Martz's message to the team Monday
about accountability, are aimed at an attitude adjustment.
"This is a game of attitude, pure and simple," Martz said. "It's not about
ability. Never has been, never will be. Everybody in this league's got ability
to play. Everybody's talented. Everybody's fast. Everybody's big. Everybody's
strong. If you think that's the difference, you're sorely mistaken. This is
purely a game of attitude."
Martz made his remarks during his regular Wednesday press conference in the
team auditorium. These sessions usually last about 15 minutes, but this one was
over in five. Martz was a picture of intensity. It was almost as if he wanted
to get out on the practice field as soon as possible, so that HE could tackle
somebody. And that led to some, uh, very interesting answers:
When asked if looking at the tape of the Rams' dramatic comeback
over Seattle on Oct. 10 could have an energizing effect, Martz snarled: "I
don't need to look at a tape to get energized. Not me. I don't have to look at
a tape to go to a happy place to get energized. That's just not who I am.
When asked if he would talk to Rams veterans about the current state
of affairs, Martz replied:
"No. Nobody's going to voice anything to me," he said. "We don't hold hands,
and get in a seance, and (sing) 'Kumbaya, my Lord.' I'm not into that.
"We've got a direction we're going in. You're on the train or you're not. ... I
know where I'm going and you're either with me or you're not."
On Monday, Martz put his players on notice, saying they needed to be
accountable for how they played. He indicated that he was tired of taking
"bullets" for them in public, adding that some players the Rams had been
counting on weren't producing.
Players interviewed Wednesday expressed no problem with those sentiments.
"This is a player's league," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "It's always
been and always will be. ... The coaches can only put you in position. But once
the ball's snapped, Mike Martz can't help us. Larry Marmie can't help us. Bill
Kollar can't help us. When the ball's snapped, we've got to go get the guy with
the ball and have a mean attitude when we get there."
Quarterback Marc Bulger said: "It's on the players every week. If (Martz) says
that this week, and we didn't realize it till he brought it up, then there's
obviously a problem. I'm sure he's speaking to some guys that maybe don't
understand that this is your job, and it's not going to go on the coach every
time. He's taken the heat for us probably too much."
And for any players who still didn't get the point, along came Wednesday's
scrimmage. Linebacker Trev Faulk, for one, had no complaints about such a
"We gave up 40 points (to New England)," Faulk said. "So whatever it takes to
get this thing right, I'm all up for it. Because I just want to win."
Re: Martz, Rams tackle their problems
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