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Rams rookie QB Fitzpatrick likely to start

St. Louis Rams interim coach Joe Vitt has been coy all week about whether rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick earned his first career start.

ST. LOUIS (Nov. 30, 2005) -- St. Louis Rams interim coach Joe Vitt has been coy all week about whether rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick earned his first career start.

But it was telling when the rookie from Harvard, and not veteran Jamie Martin, met with the media, usual the duty for the No. 1 quarterback. And Fitzpatrick was taking snaps with the first unit while Martin, who had a concussion and blurred vision after absorbing a blow in the first quarter of last week's overtime victory at Houston, watched in sweat clothes.

Regardless of Martin's status it's been more or less an open secret around Rams Park that Fitzpatrick, a favorite of Mike Martz's since he drafted Fitzpatrick in the seventh round, will get the nod this week against the Redskins. And why not? It's tough to bench the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Fitzpatrick threw for 310 yards in three quarters and got the Rams (5-6) to overtime with a pair of scores in the final half-minute before throwing the winning touchdown pass to beat the Texans. His yardage is the third highest by an NFL quarterback in his first game.

Still, no official announcement.

"I know, it's unbelievable, it's like the Kennedy assassination," Vitt said after practice. "We'll make that decision later in the week."

The decision could be a rubber stamp if Martin isn't cleared to return for the fill-in role behind injured Marc Bulger, who'll miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury and could be out for the season. Martin sustained a concussion and blurred vision in the game and still had blurred vision Nov. 30. The third-stringer is Jeff Smoker, released twice this year.

Fitzpatrick didn't seem to care what happened.

"The coaches are going to do what's best for the team and put us in the best situation," he said before practice. "And whatever decision they make is a good decision."

Since leading the comeback, Fitzpatrick has had a whirlwind of attention, with an appearance on ESPN's Cold Pizza, a mob of reporters surrounding him and countless telephone calls from long-forgotten school friends.

"It is pretty comical," he said, "me not doing any interviews and then being the guy with cameras in his face."

What he's not getting much of is jokes about his Ivy League schooling.

"Guys respect his skill level, guys respect his intensity, guys respect his commitment," Vitt said.

Vitt doesn't believe he needs to work to keep Fitzpatrick's ego in check, either.

"I don't think he's a nightlife guy and I don't think he's got a lot of distractions in his life," Vitt said. "He comes to work, he studies his game, he goes home and studies his game some more and gets up and comes to work."

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