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Vikes vow to keep close tabs on Little
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
The last time the Rams played Minnesota, defensive end Leonard Little enjoyed perhaps the best game of his career. He registered a career-high four sacks - tied for the second-highest total in franchise history.
Little also forced two fumbles, one of which was returned 90 yards for a touchdown by Aeneas Williams in a 48-17 Rams victory on Nov. 30, 2003.
In the process, Vikings right tackle Mike Rosenthal was whistled for three false-start penalties trying to block Little.
Sunday marks the first Rams-Vikings meeting since the 2003 encounter, and Minnesota coach Mike Tice vows that history will not repeat itself.
"We won't let Leonard Little take over the game," Tice told Vikings reporters early last week. "That will not happen. ... I am not going to tell you what my game plan is, but he won't take over the game."
Little hasn't taken over a game in a while. He has only four sacks this season, missing two contests in October following the shooting death of his brother. The effort is still there: Little had a season-high 11 tackles last week against Washington, and he leads Rams defenders this season with 24 quarterback hurries.
But Little's usual acceleration doesn't seem to be there, and there's a reason. He has painful bone spurs in an ankle, which will require surgery following the season.
"I've had them for a while," Little said. "My ankle swelled up real big after one game."
Little can't remember which game, except to note that it was last month.
"The games run together so much," he said. "I went and got an X-ray, and they said I probably had to get them taken out after the season. ... They are (painful), but it's something you've got to work through."
As for Tice's comments about stopping him Sunday in the Metrodome, Little said: "He said what he had to say. ... But it's a game of adjustments. I'm pretty sure that whatever they throw at us, we can adjust to. So I'm not really worried about that."
Besides, what more can Little see other than the usual double teams, or chip-blocking help by tight ends and running backs?
"I don't know," Little said, smiling. "Maybe (Tice) might come from the sideline and try to hit me, too."
Tice and Vitt
Rams interim head coach Joe Vitt was an assistant coach in Seattle for 10 seasons, from 1982 through 1991. During nine of those seasons, Tice played tight end for the Seahawks.
During the 1986 season, following the death of his father, Tice was named Seattle's winner of the Ed Block Courage award. At the annual Ed Block banquet following the season in Baltimore, Tice was presented the award. But he immediately turned and gave it to Vitt, who was battling cancer at the time.
"Joe was very ill," Tice recalled. "A couple times in his life he's beaten cancer. And I just made a gesture to Joe because we were such good friends."
The late Ed Block was a long-time trainer of the Baltimore Colts, and a native St. Louisan.
"I'm from Baltimore, and Ed Block was a really good friend of mine," Vitt said. "So they invited me back for the banquet, and I received the award at the banquet. ... So it was very touching, very nice."
Breakdown in communications
After struggling with pass blocking on a couple of occasions, offensive guard Claude Terrell was removed from the Rams' game Nov. 27 in Houston late in the fourth quarter.
Terrell responded by throwing his helmet in anger on the sidelines. In the process, he knocked out the Rams' headset system to call in plays.
"It was the closest thing in sight that I could get my hands on," Terrell said. "I was fired up. I was taken out. It was a crucial part of the game. I thought I should've been in, but that was the coach's decision."
Given his perpetual smile, Terrell's temper tantrum seemed totally out of character.
"That smile will fool people," he said.