Martz ready to coach again

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Martz is eager to coach again, especially after missing the last 11 games of the season with a heart ailment.

He's still coming to grips with not coaching the St. Louis Rams
anymore, he told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.

"I felt like I could ride this one into the sunset," Martz
said, a day after he was fired after five-plus seasons. "But the
NFL, it stands for 'Not for Long.' "

Martz's agent, Bob LaMonte, is scheduled to meet with team
president John Shaw in the next day or two to discuss a possible
settlement of the final year of his contract, worth $3.25 million.

"All of that stuff, I just leave up to my agent," Martz said.
"We'll just see how that goes. We'll just see what the Rams say."

Physically, Martz said he's ready to work again. He received
clearance from his physician to return to work on Sunday after
dealing with endocarditis, a bacterial infection of a heart valve,
but told his agent a month ago that he was ready then.

"I feel great," Martz said. "I feel fully recovered."

Martz had been with the Rams for 12 of the past 14 years,
beginning as an unpaid assistant to Chuck Knox in 1992. He served
as wide receivers coach for two seasons, and as offensive
coordinator for the franchise's lone Super Bowl championship in
1999 before succeeding Dick Vermeil as head coach in 2000.

In four of his five full seasons, Martz led the Rams to the
playoffs, and took them to the Super Bowl in 2001 before losing to
the Patriots. This year, he stepped down for the season in October
and the team finished 6-10 under interim coach Joe Vitt, the
franchise's worst record since 1998.

Vitt checked into a hospital for treatment of a lingering staph
infection on Tuesday.

"I thought we had terrific success here," Martz said. "It was
a very special place in time and we were able to stretch it out
over five or six seasons, Dick's last season and my five years.

"It was terrific and I think the coaches, the players and the
city enjoyed that terrifically."

Now Martz, 54, will try to duplicate that in another city.

"It's going to be fun to try," Martz said. "No question about
it. This makes you hungry."

Players who've been around him for years are confident it can
happen again.

"One thing I know about him, he's a great coach," offensive
tackle Orlando Pace said. "He'll land on his feet and he'll land a
job pretty quick."

Martz refused to talk about specific job openings. He did say,
however, that for now he's unwilling to return as an offensive

"We'll just see how it works out," he said. "I'm sorting
through this right now."

Rather than leave with bitter feelings, Martz spoke in
generalities about the end of his era in St. Louis. He was
dismissed more because of a rift with Jay Zygmunt, president of
football operations, and general manager Charley Armey, than his
won-lost record.

"I think you always have regrets because you think you could
have done a better job," Martz said. "Perfection is always the

"Obviously there's regrets that I'm not going to be here
anymore, but that's the way it goes."

Martz was peeved about reports he'd been showing up at Rams Park
on a frequent basis at the end of the season. He said he spent
three of the last four weeks of the season at his second home in
San Diego and was returning to that city on Wednesday.

He also said he had not met with Shaw in about 2½ months.
Martz said he was at Rams Park on Monday when Shaw told him on the
telephone that he was being fired.

Given a chance to stay, Martz said he believed he could have
mended fences with Zygmunt. He noted the two had a good working
relationship earlier in his tenure.

"On a personal level, it's not what it used to be," Martz
said. "We have some differences. But obviously, I could coexist
with him."

Shaw said Monday that he hoped to hire a new coach in three to
four weeks and is expected to lean toward a defensive mind this
time. The team has already received permission to talk with Chicago
Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera this week.