Martz Returns to Practice
Friday, October 7, 2005

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

It isn’t often that a coach receives an ovation from his players for simply showing up at practice, but this time was different.

As Mike Martz strolled to the practice field for the first time this week Friday afternoon, his players broke out in applause. Although the Rams did their best to go about business as usual this week, everything really was back to normal with Martz’s return.

Well, almost everything.

“I knew it was different was when I came in in the morning each day and Joe (Vitt) had his feet up on my desk flipping through the channels,” Martz joked. “Some family pictures were still there. My name had been changed on the door to Joe Vitt. That got a little old after awhile. But other than that, everything was good.”

Obviously Martz was in good spirits Friday afternoon upon his return to practice. He missed the workouts on Wednesday and Thursday because of the need for medical tests to determine what has made him ill for the better part of the past four or five weeks.

Martz said Wednesday that doctors suspected he had endocarditis, a disease involving a bacterial infection on the inner lining or valves of the heart.

Results of the numerous tests (including blood cultures) are not known as of yet, but Martz said he feels fine and made his best effort to not make a big deal out of his health.

“I’m not concerned,” Martz said. “Everything is under control. I appreciate everyone’s concerns. I am not trying to minimize this, I am really not, but everything is fine. It takes a while to treat, get over it. It’s so early now that it won’t be an issue. Let’s leave it at that. I am not trying to minimize it or be a John Wayne or anything else like that. It just is what it is.”

If there was any question about how Martz would react to being back at practice he put it to rest by yelling at one of the rookies to run harder early in the work out. With that, everyone knew Martz was back.

“It was nice to hear his voice out there,” defensive end Leonard Little said. “You know he wasn’t here the last two day, but we still had to focus on what we had to do.”

Defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson even noticed a little something extra in Martz that he didn’t usually see.

“He had a little twinkle in his eye,” Jackson said. “I don’t know what that was all about. He looks better, sounds better, so I think he’s ready to roll on Sunday. We need to go out there and make sure he didn’t fight to get out of the hospital for nothing.”

Martz spent Wednesday and Thursday morning reviewing the tape from practice, setting up the game plan and scripting the practices. Martz said he was happy about how is team performed in what he saw on film.

“I am very proud of the way they practiced,” Martz said. “They didn’t skip a beat. There’s good news and bad news in that I guess.”

But the real good news is that it appears Martz and the Rams are ready to go on Sunday.

BIG 10 BATTLE: This weekend’s Ohio State-Penn State matchup had one corner of the Rams’ locker room abuzz Friday afternoon. Former Nittany Lions Jimmy Kennedy and Tyoka Jackson were pitted against former Buckeyes Ryan Pickett and Orlando Pace.

Aside from the, ahem, wagers being placed on the game (mostly involving wearing the opponents colors if lost), the trash talk was friendly, but plentiful.

To put the foursome officially on the record, here are their predictions with little to no surprises in the bunch.

“I think we’ll beat them 30-14,” Pickett said. “I changed my mind, I just thought about it. I remembered it’s Penn State.”

Pace also thinks it will be a blowout, saying the Nittany Lions have to prove that they have returned to prominence before they can be considered elite again.

“I say it will be like 30-7,” Pace said. “They have to prove it to us.”

The always analytical Jackson says it will be closer and was offended by Pace’s prediction of a blowout.

“I’m going to go with Penn State 24, Ohio State 17,” Jackson said. “30-7, wow, that’s terrible. Both offenses are going to struggle a little bit because both defenses are pretty good. I think it will come down to special teams and turnovers. Since we are at home, I like our chances.

As for Penn State proving itself, Jackson said it will be easy to recognize they are back come next week.

“It will be proved when you see Ryan Pickett walking around in all Penn State gear; loser wears all of the other team’s colors. He is going to wear Penn State shirt, Penn State hat and Penn State slippers.”

Kennedy went with 21-17 Penn State.

INJURY REPORT: The injury reports for both teams remained essentially the same Friday.

Receiver Isaac Bruce (toe) is doubtful, tight end Brandon Manumaleuna (knee) and tackle Rex Tucker (calf) are questionable and linebacker Dexter Coakley (back) is probable.

Tucker and Bruce missed at least a portion of Friday’s practice. Manumaleuna got back into the action full swing and will likely be a game time decision.

Tackle Wayne Hunter (hamstring) is out, receivers Darrell Jackson (knee) and Bobby Engram (ribs) are doubtful and defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs (quad) is probable.

Engram, Jackson and Hunter missed at least a portion of the team’s Friday practice and are not expected to play.