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  • Little inspires rams

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    When he arrived at the Russell Training Center on Friday of last week, Leonard Little wasn’t feeling well.

    After stopping in just long enough for his teammates and coaches to see how sick Little was and how ill he might become, he was sent home in an effort to keep him quarantined from the rest of the team so it wouldn’t get sick as well.

    Little spent the majority of the rest of that day in bed, doing whatever possible to cure the strep throat that had hit him suddenly Thursday night.

    On Saturday, Little had a bit more time to rest as the Rams traveled to Jacksonville but he didn’t feel a whole lot better.

    When he woke up on Sunday morning, Little was still far from healthy. In fact, he was still downright ill.

    Despite his ailment, the thought of not playing against the Jaguars never crossed his mind.

    “There wasn’t a chance I wasn’t going to go,” Little said. “If I can walk out there, I can play. I just tried to go out and be a good leader for the young guys on this team and try to do the best I can to help us win the game.”

    On both counts, Little did exactly that. Fighting off the red, puffy eyes, dehydration and overall fatigue that goes with his ailment, Little’s performance against the Jaguars was nothing short of courageous.

    “I think so,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “I think he takes a little bit of pride in that. I think that sent a message to the rest of the team. I know they respect him and appreciate what he brought yesterday.”

    What Little brought was six tackles, his team leading fourth sack of the season, a pass defended, an interception and one dramatic dive for the end zone that resulted in a touchdown. He nailed the landing, by the way.

    After his big and – admittedly long – day, Little trudged around the Rams locker room as though he had just been put through boot camp a few times over. The eyes were still red as Little walked gingerly back to his locker and slowly dressed in his pinstripe suit.

    Worn down by his illness and the fatigue of being on the field for many of the 88 plays Jacksonville ran and much of the 42 minutes and 12 seconds the defense was on the field, Little could barely even recall what happened late in the fourth quarter with his team desperately needing a big play.
    “I don’t even know what happened,” Little said. “I just know I ended up with the ball in my hands. I just tried to get to the end zone as quick as I could. That’s all I remember about the play. I just thought the only person I had to beat was the quarterback. I knew he had the angle on me so I told myself if I got close to the end zone I would dive for it because I knew he would dive at my legs and try to knock me out of bounds. I just tried to get in there as best I could.”

    With 4:46 to go, Jaguars quarterback David Garrard dropped back to pass, dumping a pass in the right flat for fullback Greg Jones. But Jacksonville had run many similar plays and checkdowns during the game and Little read it from the start.

    Little stopped his natural instinct toward Garrard and wheeled back in front of Jones, getting in front of the pass where he tipped it to himself.

    After hauling in the interception, Little had 36 yards of open field in front of him with only Garrard in his way. Although he had a head start, a tired Little had maybe just enough gas to get there.

    Not wanting to be denied his first touchdown since returning a fumble for a score against Arizona on Dec. 19, 2004, Little decided to do his best Superman impression and took off about 6 yards from the goal line.

    “I was happy for Leonard,” Spagnuolo said. “He launched that thing from about 6 yards out. I didn’t realize how impressive the end of that was until I watched it on film. The catch itself for a lineman was pretty impressive but then to hump it down there and then outleap a quarterback who is a good athlete at the end was really impressive. It was just will and determination. That tells you a lot about the person. He willed himself into that end zone. It was good to see.”

    The touchdown was the third of Little’s career, his second career interception and the first interception return for a touchdown in his 11-plus seasons.

    Indeed, Little has long been perhaps the Rams most consistently dominant defender. After dealing with a variety of injuries in the past couple of years, Little is relatively healthy (save the strep throat) this year and it’s apparent in his performance.

    Little’s fourth sack of the year in the second quarter of Sunday’s game was No. 85 for his career and No. 84.5 since 2000, fourth most in the league in that time.

    On a team in which Little is by far the most tenured member, it was the type of play that can set a tone for his younger teammates. Considering the combination of his illness, general fatigue from the game and his experience in the league, it was a play that stunned even a more veteran player like defensive tackle Clifton Ryan.

    “That was a shocker,” Ryan said. “For him to make a huge play like that is a testament to his character. That’s something he has been doing for years, making big plays.”

    In his 12th season in the league, many have speculated Little could be in his final go-around. But it’s become apparent that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, even if he needs an occasional refill when the game is over.


    I didnt know he was that sick. What a top knotch player.

  • #2
    Re: Little inspires rams

    Wow, great article, amazing effort LL


    • #3
      Re: Little inspires rams

      Maybe the entire team should get strep throat before the next game.


      • #4
        Re: Little inspires rams

        I wonder... was the double-meaning of the thread title deliberate?


        • #5
          Re: Little inspires rams

          Originally posted by AvengerRam View Post
          I wonder... was the double-meaning of the thread title deliberate?
          Actually no it wasnt but thats pretty funny. Had to look at it a few times to see what you were talking about.


          Related Topics


          • r8rh8rmike
            The Legacy Of Leonard Little
            by r8rh8rmike
            The Legacy of Leonard Little
            Thursday, November 26, 2009

            By Nick Wagoner
            Senior Writer

            Two years into his NFL career, Leonard Little had yet to make much of an impact on the game and found himself wondering when his opportunity would arrive.

            Beyond that, Little was still unsure that even if the chance to prove himself came, that he could actually do it.

            In his college career at Tennessee, Little had regularly dominated. He was one of the most intimidating forces in the college game and had made a habit of collecting sacks like Jay-Z collects No. 1 albums.

            But the NFL was a different world and Little had yet to even show up on the radar.

            So it was that then coach Mike Martz made the decision that the best way for Little to unlock his many skills was to get his behind kicked every day in practice.

            “If you were going to get better, you were going to have to go against someone great,” Little said. “I was going against the best every single day in training camp. He told me if I was going to be an impact player in this league, I have to practice against the best and Orlando Pace was the best.”

            Practice after practice, repetition after repetition, all world left tackle Pace utterly destroyed Little. Every move Little made was turned away, every spin move stonewalled.

            Eventually, Little had a breakthrough. After hundreds, perhaps thousands of opportunities, Little finally began to solve Pace or at least battle him to a draw.

            “He was the best at the time and when I first went against him it was intimidating because he was a great player,” Little said. “He would get the best of me and I’d keep battling and then beat him sometimes. He would beat me. It went back and forth. But I think that was the first time I realized I could play in this league.”

            Twelve years into his career, there’s nobody who can question that Little can indeed play in the NFL as he has become one of the league’s premiere pass rushers and the greatest defensive force in St. Louis Rams history.


            When the Rams used the 65th overall choice, in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft on Little, they knew they were getting an extremely productive college player.

            For a player with Little’s resume to last until the third round would normally be a bit of a surprise. But for as impressive as his statistics were, the stat that held Little back the most was the fact that he was a 236-pound defensive end/linebacker.
            Before the dawn of the 3-4 defense in which teams can regularly find ways to get pass rush specialists on the field as an outside linebacker, there was Little.

            In fact, Little was one of a number of players first associated with the dreaded “’Tweener” label.

            The Rams decided to roll the dice...
            -11-26-2009, 06:16 PM
          • RamWraith
            Little Embracing Leadership Role
            by RamWraith
            Wednesday, November 22, 2006

            By Nick Wagoner
            Senior Writer

            While Leonard Little was leading the Rams’ defense and continuing in his role as the team's top pass rusher last season, it wasn’t easy to see that Little simply wasn’t enjoying himself on the football field as he usually does.

            By his own account, Little wasn’t the same player or person last season as he had been in almost every other year. And it wasn’t even close. At 32, having gone through more in a five-year period than many endure in a lifetime, Little had to learn to handle pain in his foot and, more difficult, his heart.

            “Last year, my brother passed away and that really stuck with me throughout last season and I didn’t know how to come back,” Little said. “This year, I learned to deal with it and I am just going out trying to have fun. For me, I’m 32 years old and I just try to go out there and seize the moment and have fun while I’m out there playing.”

            Not only is Little having fun on the field and seizing the moment, he has done so much that he could finish his career in St. Louis. Little signed a three-year deal with the team this week; a contract he says will likely be his last.

            Last season was a difficult one for Little. Plagued by injuries, including an ankle and heel issue that slowed him, and forced to deal with the death of his brother Jermaine, Little struggled to find the bounce in his step that had made him one of the league’s most feared pass rushers.

            Little missed a pair of games after finding out about the shooting death of his brother before returning to the field with a heavy heart. With the Rams struggling, particularly on defense, Little couldn’t find a way to play with the passion and enthusiasm that had been motivating factors behind his immense success.

            “Last year, it was hard for me to cope with it because he was younger than me and we grew up tight,” Little said. “We were a close knit family. Last year, I was trying to cope with it and now I just deal with it.”

            Despite the extraneous factors working against him, he still led the Rams with 9.5 sacks. But, after a hot start, Little hit a lull in the middle of the season and didn’t hit his stride again until the end. His sack total was the second-lowest of his career since a huge 2001 when he had a career-high 14.5 sacks despite missing three games.

            In the offseason, Little’s surroundings changed once again. St. Louis hired a new coaching staff and brought in plenty of new pieces to surround the star defensive end. All of that, though was assuming Little could be a centerpiece.

            Little had ankle surgery that shaved away some bone chips in the offseason and went through a strenuous rehabilitation and recovery period that had him hobbled as recently as training camp.

            In addition, the Rams brought in defensive tackle La’Roi Glover...
            -11-22-2006, 01:48 PM
          • RamWraith
            Little honors brother who's serving in Iraq
            by RamWraith
            By Jim Thomas
            Wednesday, Oct. 04 2006

            When Leonard Little dropped Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna on Sunday for a
            first-quarter sack, the Rams' defensive end turned toward the Lions' bench --
            and saluted.

            Little normally doesn't do much after a sack. Perhaps it was an acknowledgement
            of former teammate Tyoka Jackson -- now a Lion -- because Jackson usually
            salutes after a sack.

            Not exactly. "I knew people were going to think that," Little said.

            The salute was for Little's brother, Army sergeant Lamont Hughes, who is
            stationed in Iraq.

            "He e-mailed me the other day and told me to salute if I got a sack, so he'll
            know I'm thinking about him," Little said.

            Hughes has been in Iraq for the past 11 months. He told Little that the troops
            get to see some NFL games in Iraq. Last week, the Rams-Arizona game was shown,
            and Hughes told his fellow soldiers that Little was his brother. They
            immediately started taking interest in Rams games.

            "He's got everyone over there watching our games," Little said.

            Little got an e-mail from his brother Monday, telling him the Rams' 41-34
            victory over Detroit also was shown to Hughes' unit. When Little got the sack,
            and saluted, the soldiers went wild.

            "I think about my brother all the time," Little said. "He's over there fighting
            for our country. And we're over here living in the free world. I e-mail him all
            the time. I talk to him every now and then."

            Knowing that his brother might be watching against Detroit "gave me a little
            bit more inspiration to come out and try to do it for him," Little said.

            Hughes' tour is up at the end of this month. He'll then return to Fort Leonard
            Wood. Little wants to get Hughes and some of the other returning soldiers in
            his unit to the Rams' home game Nov. 5 against Kansas City.

            In the meantime, Little hopes to be doing more sack salutes, beginning with
            Sunday's game at Green Bay. Little was a force against Detroit, far beyond that
            first-quarter sack -- his third of the season. He was in Kitna's hair most of
            the afternoon, with seven quarterback pressures.

            "He's a great pass rusher," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "He can put
            pressure on almost any tackle in the league. ... He's the one guy up front that
            can put some pressure on the quarterback constantly."

            On one of his quarterback hits Sunday, Little hurdled Detroit running back
            Kevin Jones, who was attempting a cut block, en route to Kitna. That's
            something you don't see every day from a defensive end.

            -10-04-2006, 04:34 AM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Little Carries Legacy
            by r8rh8rmike
            Wednesday, May 13, 2009

            By Nick Wagoner
            Senior Writer

            After 11 seasons in the league, all spent with the Rams, Leonard Little is the last man standing.

            With the offseason departures of Orlando Pace, Torry Holt and Trent Green, Little is the final player on the team’s roster from the 1999 Super Bowl championship team as the 10-year anniversary of that magical season approaches.

            At the team’s second minicamp earlier this month, that reality began to set in for Little.

            “It goes by fast,” Little said. “For me to be sitting here and be the longest tenured Ram, I never thought it was going to happen. But it is here, so I have to try to lead the young guys as much as I can and try to bring them along. Once you’ve been in the league over 10 years you already know basically what the steps are of being successful. I just try to do what I need to do to make this team better and plus try to talk to the young guys and try to help those guys out too.”

            What Little has done to help make the Rams better throughout his career is simply be one of the league’s best pass rushers. In his time in the league, Little has racked up 81 sacks, the most in the history of the franchise since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

            At 34, Little is the team’s elder statesman but remains its most viable pass rush threat. And though he is the first to admit he doesn’t have the speed rushing from the outside he once did, he believes he still has plenty in the tank as he heads into the final year of his contract.

            “I’m energized every year,” Little said. “What people don’t realize is this is like my eighth year in the league. I didn’t really play my first three years here. I still have the energy I usually have. I just try to go out and get better every day.”

            Having Little at his best would be a tremendous advantage for a revamped Rams defense that is still in the process of coming together.

            With new head coach Steve Spagnuolo and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole in the fold, the Rams are incorporating myriad defensive ideas into the new scheme.

            That scheme is expected to be an aggressive, attacking type of unit that takes bits and pieces from what the Eagles, Giants and Panthers do in getting after the quarterback.

            In Spagnuolo’s defenses, pass rushers are at a premium.

            “It’s exciting for me because this is my first defensive head coach,” Little said. “He has had success in the past and it’s a matter of us knowing what we have to do first and then we can play fast and create turnovers and do the things we need to do. This defense is going to rely on the guys up front to put pressure on the quarterback. That’s going to be the biggest thing about this defense, so it really puts pressure on the front four to be great pass rushers and get to the quarterback.”

            -05-14-2009, 08:29 PM
          • RamWraith
            Little Working to Return
            by RamWraith
            Thursday, March 27, 2008

            By Nick Wagoner
            Senior Writer

            After finding himself in a precarious position that could have ended his tenure with the only NFL team he’s ever known, defensive end Leonard Little arrived in St. Louis this week for the team’s offseason conditioning program with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

            When you’re one of the team’s highest paid defenders and a veritable one man pass rush, a single sack in seven games and a season ending toe injury isn’t exactly the type of return anyone is looking for.

            While Little understands that, he also recognizes that he isn’t that far removed from being one of the best edge rushers in the NFL.

            “People don’t remember that the year before that when I had like 13.5 (sacks),” Little said. “I know I can still do it, and obviously the team knows I can still do it. It’s just a matter of me going out and doing it. Last year, I missed a lot of opportunities for sacks and stuff like that. I don’t like to dwell on last year because it’s passed, but I missed a lot of opportunities. This year, I just have to capitalize on opportunities and hopefully come out a little better.”

            The opportunity to improve on a disappointing 2007 in which he was regularly getting close to quarterbacks but not finishing the job almost came in a different NFL city.

            On Feb. 27, just before the start of the free agency period, the Rams and Little worked to re-structure the multi-million dollar contract he signed near the end of the 2006 season. Little was due a $7.17 million roster bonus and would have had the largest cap number on the team heading into 2008.

            That number would have severely affected the team’s ability to make any kind of a splash in free agency. That left both sides with two options: re-structure or part ways.

            Little prepared himself for either scenario.

            “It’s a business before anything else,” Little said. “I kind of figured if they were going to do it, they were going to do it. If not, then I was going to move on and hopefully go somewhere else. I wasn’t really concerned about it. If it happened, it happened. If it didn’t, it didn’t. I was prepared either way. That’s the way I took it.”

            For a player who has been with the Rams for the entirety of his 10-year career, the thought of not being in St. Louis wasn’t the most appealing option.

            “It was pretty simple,” Little said. “I thought about it like I was here 10 years of my career, and it would be good to end my career here, but if I had to go to another team, I would be willing to do that.”

            Ultimately, Little and the Rams struck a deal that would keep him in St. Louis and save the team upwards of $3.5 million in salary cap space, money the team would spend in the hours after the re-structure.

            With that important piece of business out of the way, Little...
            -03-27-2008, 03:45 PM