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Rams' Martz to miss practice with infection

ST. LOUIS (Oct. 5, 2005) -- St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz has an infection of the heart that will require treatment with antibiotics and keep him out of practice for a couple of days.

"I haven't been feeling good for four or five weeks and there is some type of infection in my body that has gotten worse," Martz said. "They think they've identified what it is."

Martz, 54, said doctors believe he has endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the heart's inner lining or the heart valve. Martz will undergo a series of blood cultures over the next week to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment involves taking antibiotics over a long period of time, Martz said.

"This is something that if you let it go, it could become a real issue," Martz said.

Martz was hospitalized Sept. 30 with what doctors believed was a sinus infection. He was released the next day and coached the Rams on Oct. 2 in their 44-24 loss to the New York Giants.

Martz said he would continue to do some scripting and game planning in the morning the next few days, but planned to go home before practice begins. Joe Vitt, the assistant head coach and linebackers coach, ran practice last week in Martz's absence.

Martz, who had back surgery earlier this year, said fatigue was the most noticeable symptom of the infection. "You feel really good and then in the course of a couple hours you hit rock bottom," he said.

Bacterial endocarditis affects 10,000 to 20,000 Americans each year. If the valves are damaged enough, endocarditis can cause strokes, require open heart surgery, and even be fatal, said Dr. Arthur Labovitz, director of cardiology at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Martz joined the Rams as offensive coordinator in 1999, and his high-powered offense led St. Louis to its first Super Bowl title that season. He became head coach following Dick Vermeil's retirement days just after the Super Bowl.

Now in his sixth season, Martz is 56-35 including the postseason. The Rams have missed the playoffs just once in his tenure (2002) and reached the Super Bowl after the 2001 season, losing 20-17 to New England.

The Rams (2-2) are tied with Seattle for first place in the NFC West.

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