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Coaches involved in skirmish during practice

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams' front office has been squabbling with the head coach for years and now even the assistants are getting feisty.

Given the turmoil surrounding the team, players weren't shocked to see running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild square off briefly in practice on Wednesday.

"Very interesting year," wide receiver Torry Holt said Thursday. "We all know that."

Wide receiver Isaac Bruce, who has been with the team since 1994, said this sort of thing happens when a team is struggling. The Rams are 4-5 after losing last week at Seattle, a setback that likely knocked them out of the NFC West title picture.

"I just think it comes more to the forefront if you lose a game," Bruce said. "If we win this week, something may happen but you may never hear anything about what the situation was.

"That's funny how that works," he said.

The coach vs. coach skirmish was so brief, many players didn't see it. It came on the heels of a Sports Illustrated article in which an anonymous player ripped the team's three defensive tackles, all former No. 1 picks.

In the article, a "disgusted veteran" was quoted as saying: "We have three No. 1 picks at tackle and those guys are killing us. They're not playing hard and they can't stop anybody. It's horrible."

Interim coach Joe Vitt said he didn't see the coaches' tiff, saying: "I was looking at practice and that is the gospel truth."

"I'll tell you what," Vitt added. "When you bring those people over here, just like all those unnamed sources, let's put a face to them and they'll ask me and I'll comment on it. No more hearsay from me now. You'd better come with somebody's name and tell me and I'll respond to it."

Montgomery declined to comment and Fairchild was unavailable.

One of the players criticized in the Sports Illustrated article, Ryan Pickett, didn't want to talk about it on Thursday.

"I don't have no comments on that, none at all," Pickett said. "I can't worry about what's going on in the tabloids and stuff like that, so I don't even want to talk about that."

The front office and head coach Mike Martz, who's out for the season due to a bacterial heart infection, have been at odds over control. It's gotten to the point that Martz hasn't been on speaking terms with president of football operations Jay Zygmunt and general manager Charlie Armey. Martz said earlier in the season that he didn't know if he and Zygmunt could coexist professionally next season.

Martz, who has not coached the team the last four games, still pops in every now and then. He addressed the team on Monday.

"I don't know if it was a pep talk," Bruce said. "If you need a pep talk you need to get out of this league."

It reads like a soap opera, but Bruce said that's just life in the NFL.

"Chaos has always been here, it's been around the league," Bruce said. "You get into the intricate parts of any organization you'll find something.

"We joke about anything and everything," he said.