Rams tied for most turnovers in NFL

Saturday, November 24, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- Giving the ball away three times per game hasn't hurt the St. Louis Rams much.

The Rams lead the league with an 8-1 record heading into Monday night's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, despite totaling 27 giveaways. They're tied for the most in the league with the lowly Cowboys, who have played 10 games.

There are two major reasons for the high count:

1. Kurt Warner has been hindered by a sprained thumb since the opening game, and has thrown nine interceptions the last three weeks.

"I think the thumb was an issue with some of those," coach Mike Martz said. "That's just the way it goes."

2. The Rams' top-rated, go-for-broke offense takes plenty of risks.

"You never like to say it's a trade-off because you never want to have the turnovers," Warner said. "But I think it is part of it because we attack and we attack and we attack.

"In the course of making some of the plays, turnovers are going to happen."

The Rams try to guard against mistakes, with drills designed to increase ball awareness at the start of every practice.

"We address it every day," Martz said. "We've got to do a better job of protecting the ball when it's thrown to us, kicked to us, handed to us."

But there's no finger-pointing or hand-wringing when things do go wrong.

"We don't take turnovers too lightly, trust me on that," Martz said. "But I'm not going to blow up and get all excited and scream.

"We address the issue with the guys who are having a problem, try to solve the problem, and move on."

It helps, a lot, that the Rams have an offense that can turn the mistakes into mere speed bumps. They're outscoring their opponents by an average of 31-17.

"It just seems to be balancing out," fullback James Hodgins said. "Whatever situation we get ourselves into, we're able to get out of it.

"I hope it doesn't catch up to us and I don't think it will."

Warner has 17 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. The only time turnovers have really been a problem was when they coughed it up eight times -- four interceptions and four fumbles -- in a 34-31 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Game 8.

The Rams overcame three giveaways last week in a 24-17 victory over the Patriots and three turnovers barely slowed them down in a 48-14 victory over the Panthers two weeks ago. They had four giveaways in a 42-10 victory over the Dolphins.

"You throw the ball as much as we do, some of those things will happen," Martz said. "We do everything we can each week to prevent them, but when they happen I don't worry about it.

"It's just something to overcome, that's all."

Warner said the key is when the turnovers come, not how many the Rams have accumulated.

"You've just got to make sure you don't do it in a situation that's really going to hurt the team," Warner said. "I think that's the thing we have to key on, more than the fact of just having an interception here or a fumble there."

NOTES: Defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson, who played for Tampa Bay from 1996-2000, has been mimicking the Bucs' Warren Sapp on the scout team this week. "I know I'm not going to be talking as much as he does, but I'll try everything else," Jackson said. "I don't think I can get my vocal cords that warmed up." ... Safety Adam Archuleta, listed as doubtful with a sprained ankle, did not practice Friday and almost certainly will not play against the Bucs. Martz said team doctors originally believed Archuleta would be out 3-4 weeks and Archuleta was limping noticeably earlier in the day at Rams Park. Wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim didn't practice either, and likely won't play. ... Linebacker Mark Fields (ankle) practiced and should be fine on Monday and offensive guard Tom Nutten (ankle), who missed last week's game, also worked out and should play. Frank Garcia might again start ahead of him, however. Both Fields and Nutten were listed as probable.

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