By Jeff Gordon
ONLINE SPORTS COLUMNIST
11/21/2005
Jeff Gordon
Online Sports Columnist Jeff Gordon

Rams interim coach Joe Vitt was understandably subdued Monday afternoon at Rams Park.

Losing to the hapless Arizona Cardinals, at home, was devastating. That castoff quarterback Kurt Warner toyed with the Rams defense only made it worse.

The stunning setback all but eradicated the team’s playoff hopes. The Seattle Seahawks are rolling toward the NFC West title.

At 4-6, the Rams might have to win their final six games to earn a wild-card berth.

Their remaining schedule isn’t particularly tough. But this team doesn’t appear to be emotionally and physically ready to make such a run.

Quarterback Marc Bulger is nursing a shoulder injury and recovering from a concussion. Safety Adam Archuleta and offensive linemen Blaine Saipaia spent Sunday night in a local hospital, recovering from significant concussions.

The Rams’ predicament is bleak and the players are fully aware of that. So how does the coach motivate the team now?

“Nobody has to come to work on Wednesday,” Vitt said during his weekly news conference, repeating one of his familiar refrains. “They really don’t. Anybody that doesn’t want to play, they can stay home.

“We get to come to work. This is the National Football League. This is a great game. I still get excited about playing on Sunday. I still get excited about going to work on Wednesday. I tell the players, this is Thanksgiving week. We do have a lot of to be thankful for.

“Things aren’t the way we would like them to be right now. But they are the way they are. It’s up to us to get them changed. The true test of a man’s character comes when times are tough, and times ARE tough. Make no doubt about that, they are tough.

“We’ll take roll call, see who’s here, and put a smile on our face and prepare to play. That’s the bottom line, prepare to play. We’re all disappointed. But, the last time I looked, we don’t always get what we want. We get what we deserve. It’s up to us to fix it.”

P-D football writer Jim Thomas noted that after the loss, some Rams believed the team’s confidence was lagging.

“We’re all men,” Vitt said. “So, what I’m not going to do is take an air hose . . . and start pumping them up. I’m not going to do that.

“This is a great game. We’re blessed to be a part of it. I’m excited after 27 years to go coach this team. If they’re not excited to play the game, then just let us know. We’ll bring the next guy on.

“But I don’t feel that. After a game, a lot of emotions talk. None of us slept last night. We all feel terrible. With 10 minutes left in the game, we’re winning the game. We are winning the game. Hey, it’s ugly, but it’s a winnable game.

“Well, we lost the game and now it is what it is. I don’t think anybody there is going to feel sorry about our sad story. It’s up to us. I told the players this morning, they are either going to be part of the solution or be part of the problem.

“They will have to define that themselves.”

Frankly, those words aren’t terribly reassuring to the citizens of Ram Nation. But as Vitt would say, they are what they are.

Fans will just have to deal with it.