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Heat makes Rams coach slow down
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Martz, who likes his practices crisp and to the minute, finally had to apply the brakes.

The St. Louis Rams' first workout in preparation for their Monday Night Football opener against the Denver Broncos lasted an extra 20 minutes. Not because their new coach was trying to install more of the game plan, but as a concession to the weather.

Mike Martz does not expected a letdown in 2000.

It was 97 degrees when the Super Bowl champions left the field, and three water breaks stretched out the work day. Much of training camp, the Rams got off the field early because Martz kept things hopping, but this was perhaps the worst heat and humidity they'd encountered.

"When it's hot like this you've got to slow it down a little bit, give guys a little bit of a break," Martz said. "If it's about 75 degrees, you can go at a much quicker tempo."

Fast or slow, it didn't matter to players who were back at work after a weekend off. All they knew was that it was hot.

"You walk out, it feels like you're walking into an oven," wide receiver Ricky Proehl said. "The first half-hour, your legs start getting fatigued and it's tough to get a pace going and keep it going."

Offensive guard Tom Nutten was the only heat casualty, though, requiring IV fluids. MVP quarterback Kurt Warner, who didn't play in the final preseason game, took all the first-team reps.

"As long as you get your breaks in, it's OK," fullback James Hodgins said. "It's good for us after a layoff to get us back in shape and back into the flow of things."

Martz said his approach Monday had nothing to do with his upcoming high-profile head coaching debut.

"Who cares? Really, who cares?" Martz said. "Let's go play, man. Whether it's Monday or Sunday or Saturday, let's go."

Rams coaches installed the game plan Monday, giving them a two-day jump on the usual regular-season routine. That was one advantage to a preseason schedule that concluded Thursday after three games in 11 days.

Martz felt that could be an advantage to the staff, if they're smart about it.

"Shoot, you put some things in and you don't like them, you take it out and you can kind of re-tool it on Wednesday," Martz said. "There's a danger in this thing, too.

"You can get into a little overkill with this when the guys are ready to play this thing on Saturday and they have another couple days to go."

There's another danger in showing too much too soon. Spies.

At one point late in the practice, Martz noticed something suspicious in the parking lot of a neighboring business and dispatched Rams security chief Dan Linza to check out the situation. The Rams also order unattended TV cameras to be turned away from the action except during a specified filming time.

"I'm paranoid," Martz said. "Heck, all coaches are paranoid. You have people watching with a notepad, somehow it makes you paranoid."

The Rams' practice facility encourages that emotion, because it's so wide open and seemingly accessible.

"I think it would be very easy to come here and watch, but let's not promote that."

Notes: The Rams signed tight end Derek Lewis, cornerback Clifton Crosby, defensive tackle Gaylon Hyder, wide receiver Curtis Jackson and offensive guard Paul Snelling to the practice squad. All except Snelling, who was recently released by the Colts, were among the team's final cuts. Snelling edged out former Missouri center Rob Riti, who was among the final cuts. ... The Rams have hired Raymond Ogas as an administrative assistant to help special teams coach Larry Pasquale.


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