Defensive line played shorthanded

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little, in mourning after the shooting death of a younger brother, had an excused absence for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints.

Team president John Shaw said he had been led to believe that Little would return to the team Saturday night after attending the funeral of Jermaine Little earlier that day in Asheville, N.C. But interim head coach Joe Vitt said Monday he was not surprised that Little did not, and had not yet, returned to the team.

The Rams (3-4) resume practicing on Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's game against the Jaguars.

"This is a tough, tough, tough time for Leonard," Vitt said. "This should not have been a surprise. The bereavement process for him is ongoing."

Vitt said the team's "thoughts and prayers" were with the team's best pass rusher. Little has four sacks this year and 55 1/2 since 2000, among the best in the NFL.

"I know Leonard's intent," he said. "When he can physically and mentally do it, he will come back and help us win. Enough, enough."

Vitt's words were harsh in the case of defensive lineman Damione Lewis, who was ejected in the first quarter of Sunday's 28-17 victory over the Saints after punching center LeCharles Bentley in the groin area. Vitt said he talked to Lewis after the game about the situation, but had not seen the play until reviewing game film Monday morning.

"Inexcusable. We will not tolerate it," Vitt said. "He'll be dealt with. We're going to play the game the right way, and that's not the right way."

Bentley said he thought Lewis' ejection was "extremely, extremely justified" and added "they should ban him for a game, too."

"You don't do stuff like that where I'm from; you kind of just keep playing," Bentley said. "I did nothing wrong. Anything I did was within the rules.

The best news for the Rams on the day head coach Mike Martz announced he would miss the remainder of the season was the fact that Marc Bulger, who missed Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, threw for the first time since being injured in last Monday's loss at Indianapolis.

"Marc threw today for the first time and felt pretty good; that's a positive update," Vitt said.

But the coach wouldn't say whether Bulger had a chance of playing this week against the Jaguars. Jamie Martin made his fourth career start against the Saints and won for the first time.

"I said he threw today, that's all I said," Vitt said.

Rookie offensive guard Claude Terrell, who sprained his neck in the fourth quarter, was hospitalized overnight. Vitt said an MRI exam showed no significant problems.

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