Rams Vitt
Interim head coach Joe Vitt at Monday's press conference.
(Karen Elshout/P-D)

Here are transcripts of Monday's press conferences, as provided by the Rams' media relations department:


MIKE MARTZ


(Opening statement)

“I want to thank all of you in the media. I have had so many calls and letters and flowers and gifts. It’s really been overwhelming, and I really want to tell you that it’s heartfelt and tell you how much I appreciate your concerns and your attention, and really, that’s why I’m here. I wanted to make sure, because so many of you called and wanted to know what’s going on, and you’ve treated me so well over the years, that’s the least I could do is to answer some questions and let you know what the situation is.

“I was talking to Dan Dierdorf last week. He called. You guys know Dan, wonderful guy, great sense of humor. He asked how I was doing and, probably the best way to put it is, I didn’t know I was feeling so bad until I started feeling good. That’s kind of where I am right now. I really do feel good. However, I met with Vicki Fraser, Dr. Fraser, from Wash. U, and it was her conclusion that it was in my best interest, health-wise, to not coach the remainder of this season. For at least four more weeks, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything, and then there was a possibility of coming back under a limited capacity. Somebody who has this in a normal job, I say normal, but who has a normal job, right, a nine-to-five job, that’s probably do-able. I can’t do that. She understood that, and she said the best chance for a full recovery, which I will have a full recovery, and get back to normal is to stay away. For me to have one foot in and one foot out is not fair to the organization, to these coaches or these players. To be back next year with the Rams, here, as a head coach, the best think I can do, personally, is to take care of my health.

“After talking to Julie [Martz], and obviously Dr. Fraser was adamant about this, this is a tough thing to do, and there is a lot of guilt involved here. You feel like you are letting so many people down, the coaches and the players and the organization. There is a responsibility that, when you take this job, you feel. No matter where you are, when you go to bed at night, when you are out to dinner, if you are on the west coast, wherever you are throughout the season, there is that responsibility that is your life. So, not to be here when you feel like you need to is hard to deal with.

“The only good part of that, at this point, is that I know Joe Vitt and the job that he has done the past two weeks. What a remarkable man he is. He really deserves to be a head coach in his own right. I think he is. He’s just done an outstanding job. The way the players and the coaching staff have rallied to this point is remarkable, and I’m excited about that. So, that’s a relief for me. That’s a terrific relief for me. It would really hurt if this team wasn’t going to be in such good hands. That’s kind of where we are. This is very difficult for me as those of you that know me can imagine. I know it’s the right thing to do, health-wise, and Dr. Fraser was adamant about it. There was not really a decision to be made. She was adamant about the course that I needed to take in terms of the rest of the season, so that I can be back and completely healthy and ready to go for next season. That’s where we are. I’ll answer a few questions, not too many. You have to remember, I’m a sick man.”


(On when he received the advice to step down)

“I had a visit with Dr. Fraser this morning. When I went into the hospital she said ‘we’ll review this in two weeks,’ which was two weeks ago. She would not talk about when I would come back and all those things. So, she laid it out pretty good this morning. I was a little stunned, but it was this morning.”


(On if he has any assurance that he will be back with the Rams next season)

“I’m under contract. I want to be here, obviously. So, unless there is something that I don’t know, I’ll be here. Why wouldn’t I be? I love this place. This is our home, so absolutely.”


(On if he will offer his input during the season)

“No, that’s not fair to Steve [Fairchild], that’s not fair to Joe [Vitt], that’s not fair to the staff. That’s the hardest thing. I have stuff at home that I can look at, and I have to divorce myself from this. It’s not fair to these people. I’d become a distraction for them. They need to go and do this job and use their judgment. We’ve been together for so long now. There is a way of doing things through scheduling, and how we coach players, and how we deal with wins and losses. We’re all on the same page. This is now really Joe Vitt’s team, it is. As a head coach, he’ll have his way of doing some things that are different than mine. I trust in him completely, and to tinker or to try to be involved, Dr. Fraser was pretty adamant about that. I just need to separate myself. I feel good, by the way, I feel great. This is kind of bizarre to me, but it is what it is.”


(On if an official was stopped trying to send a play to Offensive Coordinator Steve Fairchild)

“This is truly about my health. I tried to stay away from this completely other than a few things that Steve and I talked about. I don’t want to get into all of those things. This is about the rest of the season.”


(On if he could possibly need surgery to repair the endocarditis)

“You’re starting to scare me. They did an echocardiogram. Dr. Soffer did two of them. They had one previously from two years that they called a baseline echocardiogram. The first one that I did as I went into the hospital was different from the baseline. I guess the third one that they did here a week ago was better. The antibiotics are working. Dr. Soffer, the cardiologist, and Dr. Fraser said, in their mind, that they feel certain that I will have a complete recovery.”


(On if he was surprised to hear that he would not be able to coach the rest of the season)

“Yes, to some extent. You just feel like everything in your life you can muscle through. As coaches, you don’t get enough sleep, you just muscle through it. If you’re hurt, you muscle through it. You do this, you know, those things, somehow you get through. That’s the life of a coach, not me, but all coaches. So, when you get something like this, it’s frustrating, because I do feel pretty good. I feel like I could coach right now. She said this took a long time to develop. It’s a low-grade bacteria, whatever that means. Dr. Martz. It will take some time for it to get completely out of the system. So, what she stressed to me this morning was a pretty good shock to me. She said ‘if you come back and try to go through the hours, even after the antibiotics, and you do not do the 10-12,’ which I cannot do, you know that, ‘then you will end up back where you were,’ and I don’t ever want to go there again.”


(On if Dr. Victoria Fraser knew that he would miss the season when he first went into the hospital)

“Well she knew, but she didn’t want to deal with me with it I guess. I guess she kind of knows. It was to the point where she thought I was going to be in the hospital a little bit longer than I was. It was inappropriate to have that discussion at that time, I guess.”


(On how tough it is for him to have to watch the games on TV)

“I broke three TVs. No, it’s been very difficult. It’s hard. These are your guys, your coaches, and to not be a part of it, this is the first time I’ve seen the [Edward Jones] Dome on TV. You feel like you want to jump into the TV set. This is seven years here now, 12 years in this organization. That’s a lot of years, and not to be able to be there when you want to be there is hard.”


(On what he will do with his time)

“That’s a good question. I’ll probably have to talk to Julie [Martz] about that. She’s probably wondering the same thing. I like to read. You know I love to read. I have lots of books. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought that much about it. This is all new to me. So, we’ll see.”


(On if he will have an office at Rams Park)

“No, like I said, I’m out of this. Joe [Vitt], obviously if he wants to visit about anything in general, things that come up as a head coach, particularly with personnel, how to deal with some things. But, Steve [Fairchild] is on his own. By the way, Steve’s done a remarkable job, hasn’t he? Hasn’t he done a good job? He’s an outstanding offensive coach. This is his first two games calling plays and I think he’s done a terrific job. We had 28 points and 28 points and whatever it is. So, he has done a real good job. The players have really taken to Steve. They respect him. He has complete knowledge of this offense. They are going to be fine. It kind of makes me mad, they all going ahead without me, no.”


(On if he is looking forward to the draft and free agency)

“Woah, woah, woah, I’m just out for the season. Let’s not put me in a box and ship me out the door yet. I’m out for the season, I’m back. I’m doing this so I can come back if I can completely recover.”


(On how much contact he had with the coaches)

“Oh, about 15 or 20 minutes per night, and this is pre-arranged. Very little, nothing specific about plays or things of that nature, just in terms of inactives and personnel and some of that stuff, and they’re ready to go. They’ll do a great job with this team. I’m the biggest fan right now. I’m excited about what Joe [Vitt] and Steve [Fairchild] and Larry [Marmie] will do with this football team and these players. How about that game? Wasn’t that awesome? How about that? We have everybody out, everybody except the guys that are playing the game forgot that they weren’t supposed to be good players. How about our rookie [Ron] Bartell stepping up and making a couple plays? How about Mikey Furrey, Dane Looker? How about that quarterback? Three rookies on offense are very exciting. These guys have them playing, I’m not here. Obviously they will continue to do a great job.”

* * *


John Shaw


(Opening Statement)

“Coach [Mike] Martz came in, spoke to the staff, told them he was advised by his doctors that he shouldn’t coach for the rest of the year. He asked to see me, I came down to see him and have him tell me what the situation is. Our number one concern is Mike’s health. That is what’s most important to us. I think he will fully recover. It will take some time, I spoke to his doctor. She (Dr. Victoria Fraser) expressed the same things to me that she did to Mike that she thought it would be best for him not to coach this year. That’s basically where we are.”


(On what will happen for the rest of the season)

“Joe Vitt, who is the acting head coach, will coach for the balance of the season. As Mike [Martz] said, the staff has done a pretty good job the last two weeks, we played really well yesterday and hopefully we will keep that momentum in going forward. As you guys know he is under contract next year. He has a contract, we expect him to coach.”


(On if he was surprised to hear that Martz would not be back)

“Very surprised. I met with Mike last Tuesday for about four hours at his house. I felt at that time that he thought he was coming back after the bye. I think he felt that he was a couple of weeks away so I was kind of expecting him to come back and coach after the bye. I was very surprised.”


(On if it is realistic to see Martz coaching next season)

“What happened today really was a surprise for us. My focus right now as is the organization’s focus and our ownership’s is that Mike get well. We have not spent one second thinking about what happens next year. We have nine games left this year, I hope we win our fair share of them.”


(On if there were any guidelines on how much Martz could be in contact with the coaching staff)

“There were no guidelines. I had spoken to his doctor at the time and I was under the impression that he would do very little. That he really shouldn’t work at all for a certain number of weeks, we didn’t know if that was two, four, six. Obviously Mike is competitive, concerned about how the team is doing and has been in contact with his assistant coaches. But there were no guidelines. We left that up to Mike and left that up to his doctor.”


(On if Martz calling was a distraction to the coaching staff)

“Not at all. I didn’t think it was a distraction. I didn’t think that his input was helpful to our coaches. It was basically Mike’s team so I would expect him to have input.”


(On a team executive trying to relay a play call to Offensive Coordinator Steve Fairchild on Sunday)

“I didn’t think it was a distraction. I thought the story was inaccurately reported, but I didn’t think it was a distraction.”


(On if Martz will be coaching next year)

“I can definitively say he is under contract and I expect him to coach next year. There’s still some uncertainty about how long it will take him to recover, when he recovers. We will watch as Mike gets better over the next several months, we will watch the performance of the team over the next several months and we will make decisions at that time about what’s best for Mike, what’s best for the football program. But as I speak with you today, I fully expect that Mike will be our coach next year. It’s totally unfair to Mike at this point to really comment on it. Again, the only thing that is of concern to us and this ownership is his health. When he gets healthy, we will address all these issues with you guys.”


(On if he feels a personal challenge to be stronger than he has been in his leadership role)

“I feel that the organization has had some difficulties this year in terms of what’s going on, on the field. We have had a head coach that has been sick for a lot of weeks, so I feel committed to try and help our coaching staff, as our owners are, to succeed and do as well as we can under the circumstances.”


(On if the organization considered docking DE Leonard Little’s pay because he was not at the game)

“Coach [Joe] Vitt will be here in just a couple of minutes. I would say this. I was told Leonard was excused through Saturday. I was lead to believe, going into the game, that Leonard was supposed to come back Saturday night. He obviously wasn’t here. I don’t know if it was excused or not excused on Sunday. I asked Joe. He told me that he really thought Leonard would be back Saturday night, so there might be an explanation for his absence, I’m not sure. If it’s an unexcused absence, or if the circumstances are such that they are really not defensible, I would expect the coach to fine him, but again, that’s up to the coach.”


(On if he can see the current organizational structure co-existing in the future)

“The only thing I can say about that is that this has been a highly successful organization for a number of years. We’ve had a playoff game five of the last six years. That group did very well, even without my leadership. I would feel that they are capable of doing well in the future.”


* * *

JOE VITT


(Opening statement)

“Obviously, this was great win for our football team yesterday. We accomplished what we set out to do. We did a better job of protecting the football. We did a better job of our turnover/takeaway ratio. We got points off of turnovers. Special teams, we got something out of the return game. I thought the fourth-and-1, when our punt return team defended the fourth-and-1, and got a stop there for downs, was huge, obviously the blocked field goal. We felt going into the game, because of the injuries that we had, that we had to be exceptional on special teams. Defensively, after the first two drives and we settled down, we got out of our defense what we need to get out of [them]. Obviously, it was a great, great win. One of the things that concerns us right now is we have too many penalties and we can’t win with the penalties that we have right now. We have to clean those things up. We have to have more poise in the game, dumb penalties at stupid times. Our guys played hard, now you have to play a little smarter. But we were very proud. It was a great, great win for our football team. Players, coaches, staff…it was great.”


(On Damione Lewis’ ejection from the game)

“I talked to him after the game, and I had not seen the play until I reviewed the film this morning. Inexcusable, I will not tolerate it. He will be dealt with. We are going to play the game the right way, and that’s not the right way.”


(On whether his approach changes now that he will be the Interim Head Coach for the rest of the season)

“I’m really not going to change anything that I have been doing so far. For the last two weeks it has been my responsibility to prepare a football team to compete and to win. We talked about what we had to do to do those things. I am what I am. To me it’s we’re carrying on, business as usual. We have practice on Wednesday and we have to get better.”


(On being presented the game ball after the Rams-Saints game)
“It’s great. It’s an emotional time for you. I’ve said all along that we have great, great veteran leadership on this football team, and when you have the kind of people that we have on this team, the kind of coaches that we have on this team you always have a legitimate chance to win. To be down 14 to nothing, you could have heard a robin burp up in the balcony in the first quarter. It was just quiet. It was dead silence in there. Our guys came back and competed and hung in there for four quarters, and it was gratifying for our whole football team.”


(On what he thinks turned the game around for the defense after trailing early)

“We were shooting ourselves in the foot. We were getting some three-and-outs, we’re getting some third-down outs, and [then] we get a holding penalty or we line up offsides. We’re just killing ourselves. And once we calmed down and just executed the game plan, we started to get in the flow of the game. That’s been the way it’s been now for the last three weeks. We’re killing ourself. And finally we started getting in a little bit of rhythm. We wanted to go in there with a heavy dog package; we wanted to put some pressure on [Saints QB] Aaron [Brooks]. We wanted to keep our ends up the field so he couldn’t bootleg on us. And once the players bought into that it was the right approach, hey just go play, stay onsides, don’t hold, and things will take care of themselves.”


(On whether he felt that the blitzing a defensive package might be used again)

“It depends on the match ups. We knew [WR] Joe Horn wasn’t going to play, so we had pretty good matchups down the field. But that’s something that you evaluate every Wednesday...Tuesday and Wednesday. What gives you the best chance to win? Yesterday is what we felt gave us the best chance to win.”


(On whether Coach Martz’s announcement today was surprising to him)

“We all have known that [Coach] Mike [Martz] has been sick, and this was a possibility. It really was. Mike has been fighting this for a long time. Was it a surprise? Yeah, it’s a surprise when you hear it. Was the whole staff shocked? Probably not. Everybody in our staff room today wanted to know how he felt, how’s he doing. And I’ve said it all along, his health is the most important thing to me. It’s the most important thing to our staff, our team, our organization. And this is killing Mike. This is killing Mike. He loves this football team. He loves these players. He loves this coaching staff. He loves this organization. It’s killing him. This has been very, very hard on him, and it’s been hard on all of us watching what he’s having to go through.”


(On whether Coach Martz contact over the last weeks has been a distraction)

“I talked to Mike every other day or every night. He want to know who guys are doing, how guys are feeling, what do you think about this, what do you think about that. When you’re a football coach, you can’t just put it to bed. It’s our life. It’s our livelihood. You think about it 24/7. Are we [coaches] messed up? Yeah, we’re probably screwed up, but it is what you think about. When I had a catastrophic illness, I’m in the hospital, I’m thinking about football. Mike is the same way. Mike cares very deeply about this game, about this profession, about this team. Hell, I’ll tell you this, coming back from the game last night, he’s the first one to get me on the cell phone and say stop on over. He presented me with a bottle of champagne. He couldn’t have been more proud of our football team, and what we accomplished yesterday. And that one was for him.”


(On what is the role of Jay Zygmunt in the coaching booth)

“We’ll evaluate that as time goes on. To look at the replay. I’d just as soon, right now, talk about football and football related things. Either the Jacksonville Jaguars or our football team or yesterday’s game.”


(On whether his sense of obligation is heightened since he will be coaching the remainder of 2005)

“I don’t see how it could be heightened over how it was the last two weeks. I feel like you have a sense of duty to the game itself, which has been so good to me, to our players, to our coaches, to our ownership, to our fans. That’s a big obligation, but it’s a lot of fun. This is what I do. We want to do things the right way. Every time we line up, we’re lining up to go win, and go win the right way.”


(On whether he expected DE Leonard Little at the game on Sunday)

“Was I expecting him? Personally, no I was not. This is a tough, tough time for Leonard. Anybody that was in our press conference Friday, this should not have been a surprise. He’s going through a tough, tough time right now. The bereavement process for him is ongoing. Our thoughts and our prayers are with him. Our football team, all together, our thoughts and our prayers are with him. We know what Leonard’s intent is and where Leonard’s heart is. This is a tough time for him right now.”


(On whether Leonard Little will be fined for not being at the game)

“No.”


(On CB Ron Bartell game vs. New Orleans)

“Great. We were talking about him before the game yesterday. We though that he had his best week of practice last week. And specially covering deep outs, flipping his hips, dropping his weight, and closing. Yesterday when [Travis] Fish[er] got nicked, he ran up to [Coach] Kurt Schottenheimer and said put me in, put me in. And that was great to see. I think he has a great future. He’s athletic. He’s big. He gets his hands on receivers. He has a good work ethic. He answered the challenge. I’m very, very proud of him.”


(On whether he expects to continue to receive phone calls from Coach Mike Martz)

“I don’t have a crystal ball. That’s a hypothetical question. I don’t know. Again, we want Mike to get better. We want Mike to get better. If you ask me, if Mike calls my office am I going to tell Carol [Kovac], tell him I’m not here? No, I’m going to pick up the phone and say hi to Mike Martz. What are you kidding me?”


(On President John Shaw being surprised that DE Leonard Little was not at the game Sunday)

“I’m going to speak for myself. I was not surprised that Leonard was not there. My thoughts and my prayers are with Leonard, and I know Leonard’s intent. Leonard, when he can physically and mentally do it, will come back and help us win.”


(On how much influence he has on the offensive game plan)

“We wanted to protect the ball. That was the number one thing we wanted to do yesterday. We wanted to give [RB] Steven [Jackson] 20 touches. We wanted to get the ball in his hand and see what he could do. And he got that. We have to be more balanced now because of what we are dealing with. We wanted to let [QB] Jamie [Martin] break a sweat, get into the rhythm of the game. It went the way we wanted it to go. He was able to make a big throw at the end of the game. So I don’t think it has anything to do with being a defensive coach. It’s just what you have to do on this particular day to win the game.”


(On what the communication between Coach Fairchild and him during the game)

“When our defense comes off the field, I click on quickly, ‘Steve, what are you thinking?’ I’ll just remind him, here’s the time left in the half, here’s the time left in the quarter. Hey, look at the field position. We need three. What do you think? And he’ll tell me. Then I’ll shut it off and get as quickly as I can with the linebackers and make some adjustments there. Make those adjustments then get back on and see where we are. But that’s [Coach] Steve [Fairchild]’s baby. This offense was very successful before I ever stepped foot in this place.”


(On whether he can give any updates on the status of injured players in the game)

“No, not really. We’ll update that on Wednesday. [G] Claude Terrell spent the night in the hospital, had an MRI, and that was all negative. He’s still stiff and sore. I’ll give you a little good news, [QB] Marc [Bulger] threw today for the first time and felt pretty good. That’s an update, and that’s a positive update so other than that we’ll update that on Wednesday.”


(On how long CB Travis Fisher’s injury has been bothering him)

“About the last two weeks.”


(On whether QB Marc Bulger will be able to play)

“No, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that. I said he threw today. That’s all I said.”


(On how he thinks the players will respond to Coach Martz’s announcement)

“They knew Mike [Martz] was really sick. They know Mike was really sick since the later part of training camp. And I think they are going to be like we all are today, have a heavy heart. We’ve assembled a great group of players right here, and this is a strong football team. They know how to fight through adversity as they proven and did yesterday, and will continue to do so.”


(On whether there is anything this week that might have contributed to the improvement on turnovers)

“Well, we talked about it everyday. We had graphics up on the wall here that talked about turnover to takeaway ratio [over] the last five years, your percentage of wins, your percentage of losses if you’re plus one or minus one. What they are when you’re at home. What the Rams, specifically were. And the numbers are glaring. And the players listened to it and believed in it. Obviously, that was a big determining factor in us winning.”


(On how it has been being the Interim Head Coach)

“Again, we have a great staff here. I love our players. From the time you meet with them in the morning and you go into meetings, practice, watch the film with them after practice, getting ready for the game, being at the game; this is what I do. If I didn’t love it, I’d do something else. I can’t sing or dance, so this is what I do. I’ve done it my whole life. I’m blessed. I’m really blessed to be around the kind of people that I’m around on a daily basis around here.”