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  • Martz keeps team working

    Martz keeps team working
    The Associated Press

    ST. LOUIS (AP) - Even with an extra day to prepare for their next game, the St. Louis Rams won't be relaxing at home on Thanksgiving.

    Extra practice time also will be devoted to horrid special teams, the end result of a frustrating, up-and-down season and 5-5 record for coach Mike Martz, even if the Rams don't play until Monday at Green Bay.

    "If this wasn't a Monday night game, obviously we'd practice," Martz said Wednesday. "If we had a veteran team that was playing really well ..."

    But Martz doesn't. The Rams have 17 players with two or fewer years experience, players he's counting on to come through on special teams. He's still trying to get them used to the realities of life in the NFL.

    "What's irritating is their role primarily is special teams and it's almost as if they feel they shouldn't have to do that," Martz said. "But they'll learn because they'll either do it or they won't be here." Martz is reluctant to use too many starters on special teams for fear of wearing them out for regular duty.

    "You get all these other guys that should be doing a better job that don't, and you can't put them in there because they're going to beat you because they've demonstrated it," Martz said. "That's what I'm angry about."

    Players didn't seem to mind practicing on Thanksgiving. They also worked out on the holiday last year, although that was on a regular work week.

    "This is our job, this is the time of year we practice and play during the holidays," tight end Cam Cleeland said. "You've got to do it."

    Plus, Martz also is worried players might not retain everything that was installed in practice on Wednesday.

    "We practiced Thanksgiving last year and we were rolling, and we've practiced in years past, too," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "It's an extra day to prepare and to give us a whole day off, you forget everything you put in and come back a little rusty on Friday.

    "So I think it's a good idea to keep things going."

    Special teams rank 30th in the NFL in punt returns and 31st in kickoffs, kickoff returns and punt coverage. Sean Landeta is 31st out of 33 rated punters in the NFL.

    This week, there'll be an additional special teams walkthrough.

    "You can't really do special teams full go because that's a little dangerous," punt returner Sean McDonald said. "We've just got to know what we're doing more and be confident in what we're doing."

    Definitely, there will be changes in the lineup. Middle linebacker Robert Thomas, a first-round pick in 2002, will be restored to his job after five games, and Grant Williams will start at right tackle after missing last week with a shoulder injury.

    Thomas missed two games with a sprained ankle and played the past three weeks primarily on special teams behind Trev Faulk, an undrafted free agent.

    "I'd like to see him stay on the field," Martz said of Thomas. "Robert has unusual speed and range at linebacker."

    Blaine Saipaia made his first career start last week at right tackle. Williams, who started the first nine games, has been inconsistent.

    Rich Coady will get his third straight start at free safety in place of Aeneas Williams, even though he was burned for two touchdown passes and a flea-flicker in last week's loss to Buffalo. Williams has been bothered by a stinger.

    And Martz said safety Antuan Edwards, claimed off waivers Nov. 11 after being released by the Dolphins, will play this week.

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  • RamWraith
    Martz says Landeta needs to produce
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Monday, Nov. 22 2004

    Sleepless in St. Louis.

    It has come to that for Rams coach Mike Martz as he grapples with how to keep
    his team afloat. And more precisely, how to get a handle on the ongoing
    nightmare that is Rams special teams.

    "I went back and looked at it really hard this morning," Martz said Monday
    afternoon. "Didn't sleep at all last night. This is the first night in my
    coaching career that I didn't sleep. A lot of things went through my head. But
    the more I thought about it, the more clear it became.

    "And as I was able to talk to more coaches this morning, it even became more
    clear. I do know what the approach is and the course that we'll take."

    Martz declined to provide specifics. But a couple of things were clear by late
    Monday afternoon. For one, veteran punter Sean Landeta is now officially on
    notice. That became clear during Martz's Monday news conference.

    Buffalo returned three Landeta punts for 148 yards Sunday - a Bills franchise
    record.

    The punt return yardage total also was the second-highest ever recorded against
    a Rams team - exceeded only by Washington's 155 yards in punt returns against
    the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 21, 1963. Martz made it a point Monday to mention
    that not all of those Buffalo return yards were caused by faulty coverage.

    "We just punted the ball very poorly," Martz said. "A 26- yard punt, you know,
    that's not good. That's going to come back at you no matter how you look at it.
    Sean didn't punt well at all. He hasn't for some time now. So that's a major
    issue."

    Landeta's 26-yard punt came in the first half Sunday. Actually, there was no
    return on the play, with Nate Clements fielding it on a fair catch. But Buffalo
    took over on its 49 and scored its second touchdown of the game three plays
    later.

    Of course, the major damage occurred in the third quarter, when a 39-yard
    Landeta punt was returned 53 yards by Jonathan Smith to the Rams' 5, setting up
    a Buffalo TD. Less than 3 minutes later, Clements returned a 54-yard punt 86
    yards for a TD. Martz said the hang time on the 54-yarder was not good enough.

    "No, it wasn't," Martz said. "And those always come back at you - those rockets
    that go down the middle of the field."

    During his news conference, Martz also indicated in general that some players
    were in the process of playing themselves out of jobs - at least jobs with the
    Rams beyond this season. And in the case of defensive back Tod McBride, the
    Rams didn't wait until next season.

    The Rams were...
    -11-23-2004, 04:38 AM
  • Nick
    Burwell - Martz finally understands need for special teams
    by Nick
    Martz finally understands need for special teams
    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Apr. 30 2005

    So here we are at the start of May, deeply immersed in the flow of a bustling
    sports menu full of meaningful early-season baseball showdowns and riveting pro
    hoop playoffs. Yet somehow, your friendly neighborhood sports columnist found
    himself drawn to the friendly surroundings of Rams Park, where Mike Martz's
    newest flock of football disciples were gathered for a three-day indoctrination
    of their one-week-old professional football lives known as rookie mini-camp.

    Who knew that one of the most startling news events of the millennium would
    occur on a windy Saturday afternoon at a Rams mini-camp? In case you missed all
    the subtle signs that have transpired over the past few months leading us to
    this astonishing event, let me be the first to start spreading the
    earth-shattering news:

    In a remarkable turn of events, the Post-Dispatch has learned . . . (dramatic
    pause for gasping and swooning) . . . the Rams suddenly really care about
    special teams.

    THUD!!!!!!

    Ah yes, that peculiar loud noise would be the sound of all you devoted Mike
    Martz bashers falling off your couches this early Sunday morning.

    But I was there on the edge of the outdoor practice field Saturday when I not
    only heard Martz admit that one of his biggest past failings was ignoring
    special teams, but then produced tangible evidence that he has changed his evil
    ways.

    It began after the morning session of two-a-day workouts, when Martz began
    talking about the new collection of fast and aggressive young defenders and
    free agent pickups who have joined the Rams in recent weeks. From the veteran
    free agents to the most inexperienced rookie draftee, they all share one common
    trait - an ability to make plays on punt and kickoff teams.

    "That's a mistake I've made in the past when we've gone after defensive
    players," Martz said. "We've spent so much time looking for ability only on
    defense, but really didn't go into the next phase of that (special teams). You
    have to be equally significant on special teams. We made an issue of it this
    year both in free agency and the draft. So hopefully, we'll make a quantum
    leap."

    The Rams have nowhere to go but up. They ranked last in the NFC in punt
    returns, last in the conference in kickoff returns, last in the NFL in kick
    return defense and next-to-last in the league in punt return defense. Of
    course, Martz fired his third special teams coordinator (Mike Stock), and hired
    his fourth in six years (Bob Ligashesky). The funny thing is, the two things...
    -05-01-2005, 12:19 AM
  • RamDez
    Martz Madness takes hold, and it's only May
    by RamDez
    Martz Madness takes hold, and it's only May
    By Bernie Miklasz
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    05/21/2005

    It's been a bizarre week at Rams Park.

    As Rams players began organized team workouts, the team's public relations staff sent e-mail invitations to St. Louis media outlets. We were told the sessions were open and that players would be available for interviews.

    Later in the week, the invitation was amended, and reporters were told they had to submit interview requests 24 hours in advance.

    On Wednesday, with the invited media waiting to interview head coach Mike Martz, he walked past the notepads, recorders and TV cameras and refused to talk.
    Thursday, the Rams' PR staff sent out another mass e- mailing, rescinding the original invitation, coldly informing the media that the workouts were closed.

    Make up your mind, already.

    Also on Thursday, a livid Martz called my cell phone and left a voice-mail message, expressing his anger over something I'd written in that morning's column.

    I wrote that Martz finally had made the special teams a priority this offseason.

    And that's good news, because the special teams have been mostly awful since Martz took over as head coach in 2000. But after last season, Martz hired Bob Ligashesky as the new special teams coach, and added a second special teams coach to the staff (Charles Bankins) for the first time. The Rams signed several free-agent defensive players with strong special-teams credentials. Many of their draft choices excelled on special teams in college. The Rams even drafted a punter.

    But despite the aggressive attempt to upgrade special teams, Martz told me this is nothing new, and that he's always made special teams a priority.

    But Martz has contradicted that claim with some recent statements.

    Earlier this month, when discussing offseason personnel moves, this is what Martz told reporters: "That's a mistake I've made in the past when we've gone after defensive players. We've spent so much time looking for ability only on defense, but really didn't go into the next phase of that. You have to be equally significant on special teams. We made an issue of it this year both in free agency and the draft. So hopefully, we'll make a quantum leap."

    And in an interview with KMOX, Martz praised Ligashesky and said, "We will give him the personnel that we've not given the coaches here in the past."

    In an earlier interview, Martz said: "For a number of years our second-level defensive players were not of the caliber we needed to play special teams. We've not had the quality of players that we needed to have there. Obviously I feel like there's going to be a dramatic difference this year."

    Let's review: Martz directly acknowledged that he hadn't given previous special teams coaches the necessary
    ...
    -05-21-2005, 01:04 AM
  • RamWraith
    Martz, Rams tackle their problems
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Nov. 10 2004

    If he was Mad Mike on Monday, he became Really Mad Mike on Wednesday.

    The 2004 season has reached the critical-mass stage, and Mike Martz is doing
    everything he can to salvage it. Never mind the standings, the division race,
    or Sunday's NFC West showdown with Seattle. At the moment, Martz just wants the
    Rams to start playing better. A lot better.

    "I think the way we played in the last two games is embarrassing," Martz said
    Wednesday. "Not so much whether you win or lose the game - just the way we
    played the game. Period. We're going to do everything we can to rectify that."

    Including full-contact scrimmage work in practice.

    During the nine-on-seven run period, the first-team offense worked against the
    scout team defense. Then, the first-team defense worked against the scout team
    offense.

    With live tackling in both sessions. Yes, the Rams engaged in some live contact
    in training camp this summer, but those drills were performed almost totally by
    backups. Wednesday's work involved starters - basically everyone but running
    back Marshall Faulk on offense, and safety Aeneas Williams on defense.

    Scrimmaging in the regular season is unheard of in today's NFL. And it was a
    first for the "St. Louis" Rams. Not even in the Dick Vermeil days of three-hour
    practices did the Rams go full-contact.

    Longtime team officials said the Rams hadn't engaged in live practice
    scrimmaging in practice since the 1980s, during John Robinson's tenure as head
    coach.

    So Wednesday's work might fall under the category of desperate measures in
    desperate times. Martz wants the Rams to be more physical, and play a more
    violent brand of football. He wants them to block better. Tackle better.
    Compete better. Live tackling work in practices was a cattle prod to get that
    point across.

    "We've got a core of guys that you can hang your hat on," Martz said. "You can
    get out in the middle of the night, go out and practice them, and you're going
    to get all they've got.

    "What we're trying to do is get the rest of the guys up to that level. We were
    there for a while, and we've fallen off a little bit in a couple of key areas."

    So Wednesday's scrimmaging, coupled with Martz's message to the team Monday
    about accountability, are aimed at an attitude adjustment.

    "This is a game of attitude, pure and simple," Martz said. "It's not about
    ability. Never has been, never will be. Everybody in this league's got ability
    to play. Everybody's talented. Everybody's fast. Everybody's...
    -11-11-2004, 06:46 AM
  • RamWraith
    Martz puts Rams on notice
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    11/08/2004
    Mike Martz fielded all the questions Monday about what went wrong against New England. And there was a lot of ground to cover, because obviously, a lot went wrong in the Rams' 40- 22 loss to the Patriots.

    But then totally unsolicited, he offered some thoughts about accountability. More specifically, the accountability of Rams players.

    "This is my fifth year here," Martz told reporters, referring to his 4 1/2-season tenure as Rams head coach. "You guys have been with me long enough to know, I've never tried to mislead you. Sugarcoat it. If I've screwed something up, I'll tell you.

    "You try and take a bullet (for a player) whenever you can. But there comes a time when some of these guys have just got to play. Step up and make a play. Players make plays. That's just the way it is.

    "And that's not a cop-out, or brushing it off on these guys. But I'm upset. We've got some guys that we're counting on, that have got to step up. That's the way it is."

    Martz wouldn't name names. But it's clear he has put his team on notice. He is growing increasingly frustrated over execution - or lack thereof - on the playing field. The team continues to make too many mistakes, and too few plays, on game day.

    Martz made many of these points to his players and coaches Monday during a team meeting. Right now, Martz is searching for something to jolt his team out of its current skid - a skid that includes two straight losses, but also recurring problems on special teams, on defense, and in pass-blocking.

    The sense of urgency has never been greater because if the Rams don't display a dramatic reversal of fortunes this Sunday against Seattle, the season could be all but lost.

    The Seahawks are 5-3; the Rams 4-4. If the Rams win, they pull even with Seattle record-wise at 5-4, but actually take the NFC West lead because they hold the tiebreaker edge by virtue of a 2-0 sweep in head-to-head competition.

    But if the Rams lose to Seattle, they're two games back, and face the daunting task of playing four of their next five contests on the road.

    "We just didn't play well (against New England)," Martz said. "That's not a secret. We all saw that. We've played much better in the past and I'm confident that we'll do that again."

    But how? What's the way out?

    "We understand what our problems are, and what we need to address," Martz said. "And there may be some personnel changes."

    But eight games into the season, it's not like Martz and the Rams can reinvent the wheel. The 53-man roster is what it is, and there's not much left on the streets.

    So it looks like Chris Dishman will continue to start at left guard and Grant Williams will continue...
    -11-09-2004, 06:25 AM
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