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Rams' Martz returns to practice, mum on condition

10/7/2005 - NFL St. Louis Rams

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Martz returned to the practice field
Friday, ready to put the attention back on the St. Louis Rams' next
game instead of his heart condition.

Martz, 54, missed two days while undergoing tests for a
bacterial infection of a heart valve. He said earlier this week
that team doctors believe he has endocarditis.

"I appreciate everybody's concern and I'm not trying to
minimize this, I'm really not, but everything's fine," Martz said.
"Now it's time to focus on this team and winning a game. Really,
I'm not trying to minimize it or be a John Wayne or anything else
like that, it just is what it is."

Martz has undergone a series of blood cultures to confirm the
diagnosis, but had nothing to add on that front, repeatedly telling
reporters to ask him about "Seattle stuff."

"It just takes a while to treat and get over it," Martz said.
"It's so early now that there won't be any issues from it. I'm
very pleased about that."

The Rams (2-2) play the Seattle Seahawks (2-2) on Sunday in a
game for first place in the NFC West.

He appeared to be his old, feisty self during practice, yelling
at rookies.

"It was nice to hear his voice out there," said defensive end
Leonard Little, who is glad he's not a rookie.

Martz felt well enough to joke about the team getting accustomed
to his absence, saying assistant head coach Joe Vitt had taken over
his office with his feet up on the desk and clicking the channel
changer when he came in every morning for an abbreviated work day.

Vitt, also the linebackers coach, directed practice Wednesday
and Thursday.

"The family pictures were still there," Martz said. "The name
had been changed on the door to Joe Vitt."

Martz was hospitalized late last week with what doctors believed
to be a sinus infection, but he coached the Rams in a 44-24 loss to
the New York Giants.

Players were happy to have him back.

"He had a little twinkle in his eye," defensive lineman Tyoka
Jackson
said. "I didn't know what that was all about, but he looks
better, sounds better, so I think he's ready to roll on Sunday.

"We need to go out there and make sure he didn't fight to get
out of the hospital for nothing."

Martz said the only difference this week for him was he wasn't
on the field for those two days. He has watched practice tape and
also was present for meetings.

"I was very proud of the way they practiced," Martz said.
"They didn't skip a beat. There's good news and bad news in that,
I guess."

On the injury front, wide receiver Isaac Bruce (turf toe) is
doubtful and likely will be sidelined for a second straight week.