Rams reward - A few restful days at home

Tuesday, January 8, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- Now that they've clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, the St. Louis Rams will see more of their own homes this week.

Coach Mike Martz has scheduled three days of running and weight-lifting, but the team won't practice until next Monday. They were anticipating the time off after beating the Atlanta Falcons 31-13 Sunday to finish at a franchise-best 14-2.

"I'll sit on my butt and watch a lot of TV," defensive end Grant Wistrom said. "I've got a satellite dish, so I can watch The Simpsons for about four hours straight during the day.

"You can get your mind off football and let your body recover and get ready to roll."

The time off will be especially beneficial to quarterback Kurt Warner, who is resting his vocal cords for a week after taking a blow to the throat in the finale. Warner, who threw for 4,830 yards -- second-most in NFL history -- is expected to be fine for the playoff run.

Also injured in the finale were wide receiver Isaac Bruce (sprained lowere back), offensive tackle Ryan Tucker (sprained ankle) and defensive end Leonard Little (strained knee ligament). All three should play in the playoffs.

"In a couple weeks I'll be fine," Tucker said. "It's never a good time to get hurt."

Tucker had a broken arm and separated shoulder earlier in the year.

"It's just something else, man," he said.

Little's injury is not to same knee that caused him to miss three games. He had two sacks and a fumble recovery in the game against Atlanta, finishing with 14 1-2 sacks in 13 games.

Martz decided last week to give the team, which had already clinched a first-round bye, time off. He also gave himself, and the rest of the coaching staff, a day off on Monday.

The rest of the week, the staff will put together scouting reports on the Rams' three prospective opponents. St. Louis will face San Francisco, Tampa Bay or Green Bay either Jan. 19 or 20 in the Dome at America's Center.

"We won 14 games and are on top of this league, but now that doesn't matter," Martz said. "It's sudden death and our players know it. It's a good point to have a week off and we can recoup and relax."

The Rams have won six straight over the 49ers, including two victories this year. They lost 24-17 to Tampa Bay at home but have not played the Packers.

Both of the Rams' losses have come at home, but they're confident it'll be a much larger factor in the postseason. Last season, the Rams lost as a wild-card team at New Orleans.

"Last year is a perfect example of what it means," Tucker said. "It's just tough to go in someone else's place, no matter how good you are, and win.

"We still have to play great ball, but it's nice to be at home."

Falcons coach Dan Reeves complained after Sunday's game that noise, primarily music from loudspeakers, was interfering with his team in the huddle. The Rams had that problem last month in New Orleans, so they're happy they won't have to worry about music, or hostile crowds.

"It's special playing at home, especially during the playoffs because people go nuts in St. Louis," Wistrom said. "I think they're one of the loudest crowds in the NFL and I'm sure if you asked the other teams they'd agree with you, and it's only going to get louder."

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