Beefed-up security no bother for Rams

Saturday, February 2, 2002

NEW ORLEANS -- For St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz, the distractions of Super Bowl week have been largely non-existent. The increased security is no bother at all. In fact, he likes having an escort and being whisked away.

"It's not been a problem," he said Friday. "In fact, it's helped. Our situation in the hotel is really better than two years ago. Actually, it's much appreciated because it's so much easier."

Except for daily visits from the media, the routine is basically unchanged from the regular season. Martz complained a bit about the "hectic" day-to-day grind, yet he was loose enough to joke about wearing a sport coat to his final pregame news conference before Sunday's Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.

His usual attire is a sweatsuit.

"Our players didn't recognize me," Martz said. "It took them 10 minutes to realize who was talking to them."

Martz hasn't imposed a curfew all week. His only requirements: Players had to be in by midnight Friday night and 11 p.m. Saturday.

"To my knowledge, we've not had any problems with that," Martz said. "Everything has gone smoothly. This whole deal is built on trust, and they hold themselves accountable, so I'm not concerned about it."

Until the playoffs, players were allowed to stay at home on Saturday night. Only in recent weeks have they moved to hotels.

"We're all professionals," defensive end Grant Wistrom said. "It would be a shame to come down here, party a little bit too much and go out and lay an egg on Sunday."

The Rams are seeking their second Super Bowl championship in three years, and players realize the opportunity. Especially after their experience two years ago, culminated by a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans for the franchise's first Super Bowl title.

"I think guys understand a little bit more what it's all about and the expectations," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "It's hard to get to this point, and you have to finish it off.

"You don't get opportunities like this every year and you don't know when you're going to be back, so you really have to focus."

Martz said he hasn't decided what he'll say to the players before the game. His message likely will include not being afraid to fail, a recurring theme all season.

"We talk about that every week," Martz said. "When your focus becomes being afraid of failure, there's a real danger in that you don't enjoy what you're doing. Then, even when you succeed, you're not happy."

The Rams take chances, lots of chances, and some of Martz' exotic plays just don't work out. More of them do, because he's given the players confidence that everything will work.

"He says all the time, 'I'm not going to coach scared of making mistakes. I'm expecting great things to happen,"' tight end Ernie Conwell said. "So you expect big plays, and that can only happen when you play with confidence."

Martz' attitude regarding turnovers is much the same. The Rams led the NFL with 44 giveaways, including 14 in their two losses. The epidemic was quietly quelled and the only real casualty was punt returner Az-Zahir Hakim, who lost his job to Dre' Bly after losing three fumbles in a five-game span.

"When you tell a running back 'Don't fumble,' he fumbles," Martz said. "When you tell a quarterback 'Don't throw an interception,' he throws an interception. You fix it and you move on, but you try not to make it an issue."

The week after the Rams committed six turnovers in a 24-17 loss to the Buccaneers, they had none against the Falcons. They had one giveaway in their blowout victory over the Packers in the playoffs, and none against the Eagles in the NFC championship game.

The Rams head into the Super Bowl with few injury concerns. Offensive tackle Orlando Pace, defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina and wide receiver Isaac Bruce all returned to practice on Friday.

Two days before the NFC championship game, Martz cut the workout by an hour and promised to do the same before the Super Bowl. That leaves only a brief Saturday walkthrough.

"We've played so many games and had so much practice time, we just feel like we're ready to play," Martz said.

Rams' notebook

Offensive tackle Orlando Pace and defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina practiced for the first time this week in the team's final pre-Super Bowl workout Friday.

Pace injured his right knee in the NFC championship game and Zgonina has a hyperextended left elbow.

The Rams practiced in shells and helmets for about 1 1/2 hours at the Saints' practice facility. Martz cut the practice short about an hour, similar to the Friday practice before the NFC championship game, eliminating a 48-play team session.

"We've played 23 games to this point, so that eliminates wear and tear on the body," Martz said.

The Rams will have a walkthrough in the Superdome today.

The schedule is already set for the celebration Monday in St. Louis should the Rams win Sunday.

Festivities begin at Gateway Mall (8th Street and Market Stree) and Aloe Plaza (across from Union Station). A parade down Market Street will begin at 20th Street and end at 8th Street and Market. A rally and awards presentation is at 5:45 p.m. at Gateway Mall.

Police recommend using Broadway, Tucker, Jefferson, 14th and 18th streets from the north or south after 9 a.m. Monday. From the east or west, use Spruce, Locust, Olive and Washington streets.

Several downtown streets will be closed all day Monday in preparation for the events. The events are scheduled only if the Rams win Sunday.

Missouri Senators Jean Carnahan and Kit Bond will give Massachussetts Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry a variety of St. Louis' well-known Teddy Drewes frozen custard if the Rams lose Sunday. It's part of a friendly wager agreed upon this week.

If the Patriots win, Kennedy and Kerry promise an old-fashioned New England clambake for four from Legal Seafood in Boston.

Some information from staff reports

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