Little makes a slow recovery

Friday, November 21, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Every week, the St. Louis Rams are optimistic it'll be their last one without Leonard Little. Then, another week passes.

The team's best defensive lineman is likely to miss his fourth straight game Sunday at Arizona due to a torn chest muscle. The Rams (7-3) are being extremely cautious with Little, who still ranks fourth in the NFC with seven sacks despite the inactivity.

The last two days, he's practiced sparingly. Mostly, he's done individual drills.

"Leonard is probably very doubtful for this game," coach Mike Martz said. "I would be very pessimistic about his chances of playing."

That's because Little is so important to the defense. No one else on the roster has his mix of raw speed and power off the edge, and the team can't afford a relapse.

"He's had an incredible year," Martz said. "Watching people try to account for him, it's fun. There's two or three blockers on him and he still hits the quarterback."

Little initially thought he'd be out only two weeks. Then he targeted the Cardinals game as the definite return.

"It was kind of wishful thinking but I really thought I had a chance," Little said.

But he understands the waiting game, because he's been told if he's reinjured he'll likely suffer a complete tear that would require season-ending surgery.

"It's feeling kind of frustrating, especially watching on the sideline and watching my teammates making plays," Little said. "But I've got to do what they tell me to do, and I've got to make sure I'm fully healthy before I come back."

So instead of Little terrorizing Cardinals quarterback Jeff Blake, it'll be backups Tyoka Jackson and Bryce Fisher.

"I've got to come back strong, I've got to come back and pick up where I left off," Little said. "First of all, we've got to win games."

Little resumed lifting weights last week and continues to build his strength.

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