St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz will miss the rest of the season with a bacterial infection of a heart valve that has already sidelined him for two games.
''This is very difficult for me to do," Martz said yesterday. ''But I know it's the right thing to do."
Martz, who has one year remaining on his contract, expects to be back next season. He's 56-37 in his sixth season with the team, leading them to one Super Bowl and serving as offensive coordinator for the franchise's only championship in the 1999 season.
''Absolutely," he said when asked whether he would be returning. ''Why wouldn't I be? I love this place."
Team president John Shaw also said he expects Martz to return.
''Our No. 1 concern is his health," Shaw said. ''He has a contract and we expect him to coach."
Martz said he approached his two-week review with his doctor expecting to be cleared to return. Instead, he was told he would have to stay away from football for at least four more weeks before being able to help in a limited capacity, and his best chance for a full recovery was to sit out the rest of the season.
''She laid it out pretty good this morning," Martz said. ''I was a little stunned."
Assistant head coach and linebackers coach Joe Vitt will continue as head coach for the rest of the year for the Rams (3-4).
Packers take a hit
Packers running back Ahman Green
is out for the season with a torn thigh tendon, the latest in a string of severe injuries to befall Green Bay. Coach Mike Sherman
said Green will undergo surgery this week to repair the tendon, which was torn in the fourth quarter of a 23-20 loss at Minnesota. Green, who has struggled this season after four straight trips to the Pro Bowl, had 255 yards on 77 carries for a career-low 3.3-yard average and no touchdowns in a contract year. Sherman also said wide receiver Robert Ferguson
will miss up to a month with a torn lateral cruciate ligament in his left knee, which he injured in the first quarter Sunday. Green is the fourth key Packer to sustain a season-ending injury, joining Pro Bowl wide receiver Javon Walker
(ACL), backup running back Najeh Davenport
(ankle), and rookie receiver/returner Terrence Murphy
(neck) . . . Browns cornerback Gary Baxter
will miss the final 10 games of the season after tearing a chest muscle during Sunday's loss to the Lions. Baxter, 26, signed a six-year, $30 million free agent contract in the offseason . . . Lions cornerback Dre' Bly
has a dislocated wrist and will see a specialist. Coach Steve Mariucci
said Bly could miss several weeks if he needs surgery.
Hamlin out of hospital
Just before Ken Hamlin
returned home this weekend, the Seahawks safety prepared a surprise for his teammates: a videotaped message from his hospital bed. The video of Hamlin, who is recovering from a severe beating he took in a fight outside a nightclub, was shown at the end of a film session Saturday night. Seattle coach Mike Holmgren
said Hamlin's speech ''was from the heart. It was well done. It was somewhat emotional. I know how it affected me. My goodness, it was something." Hamlin suffered a fractured skull, a blood clot near his brain, and bruised brain tissue in the assault . . . The last-place Ravens will likely be without linebacker Ray Lewis
and safety Ed Reed
when they face the Steelers Monday night. Reed missed Sunday's 10-6 loss to the Bears with a high ankle sprain, and Lewis left in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury . . . Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair
should start Sunday against the Raiders after sitting out a game to rest his sore back . . . The Cowboys waived kicker Jose Cortez
, one day after he missed a 29-yard field goal in a 13-10 loss to the Seahawks, and signed rookie Shaun Suisham
to take his place.
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