Rams sign Little through 2009
By Jim Thomas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Sunday wasn't a total waste for the Rams. They did get defensive end Leonard Little under contract for three more seasons.

Little agreed to a three-year extension, which keeps him under contract through the 2009 season. Details weren't immediately available, but the extension is believed to be worth more than $19 million.

The timing was unusual, with the parties agreeing to terms Sunday morning before the Rams' game with Carolina. But the Rams have been working on a new contract for Little since February and wanted to get the deal done before the season ended. As a result, they don't have to use their franchise tag on Little, which would have tied up more than $8 million of salary-cap space.

"Once we got the numbers in place, it was just little stuff to get ironed out," Little said. "I knew Wednesday or Thursday that it would probably be (done) real soon. My agent called me one day last week and said, 'We really need to talk.' He told me what was going on, and we finally got it done."

Little had been scheduled for unrestricted free agency after this season. All along, Little said he kept an open mind about where he might end up next season.

"It's a business," Little said. "And if I had to move on to another team, I would've moved on. But I like the coaching staff. I like Coach (Scott) Linehan, Coach (Jim) Haslett, and what they're doing with this team. That's my main focus."

Little, 32, doesn't anticipate playing beyond 2009.

"I can't help but think this will be my last deal, hopefully," he said. "I guess I'll finish my career off in St. Louis. Guys like Corey Chavous, he came here because of me, somewhat. He said he's always wanted to play with me. So I did it for those guys that still want me around."

Little, who is from North Carolina and recently purchased a place in Charlotte, had several relatives at Sunday's game. He recorded his 10th sack of the season, finishing with five tackles, one forced fumble and one pass breakup. He entered the day second in the NFL in sacks, trailing only Carolina's Julius Peppers (11 sacks).

Little has 71 sacks since being drafted by the Rams in 1998. Only Kevin Greene (72½) has more sacks for the franchise since sacks became an official NFL stat in 1982.

Injury update

Wide receiver Isaac Bruce suffered blurred vision and a minor eye injury, according to Linehan. Bruce missed a couple of series in the second half but returned to finish the game.

Offensive guard Adam Timmerman, who played in his 183rd consecutive regular-season game Sunday, missed one series at the start of the second quarter after a collision.

"I just kind of got the wind knocked out of me," Timmerman said. "I took a shot to the ribs, and I couldn't breathe for a little while."

Timmerman's brief absence allowed rookie Mark Setterstrom to play in his first NFL game.

Fullback Paul Smith suffered a hamstring strain that wasn't thought to be serious.

Ponder's day

In his Rams debut, new kickoff returner Willie Ponder averaged a modest 19.3 yards on three returns. The three other Rams signed last week did not suit up against Carolina: OT Adam Haayer, CB Chidi Iwuoma and DE Eric Moore. Also sitting Sunday were LB Jon Alston, TE Dominique Byrd, S Dwaine Carpenter and G-C Larry Turner.


The Rams wore white pants in a regular-season game Sunday for the first time since the move to St. Louis. ... Offensive lineman Todd Steussie played in his 200th NFL regular-season game Sunday. ... Harvard grads Ryan Fitzpatrick and Isaiah Kacyvenski were handed Yale garb by Rams vice president Bob Wallace as a result of Yale's victory Saturday over Harvard. Wallace is a Yale grad.