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Rams use bench as motivational tool

By ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000


There are no hard and fast rules about how to motivate players, only an ongoing list of dos and don'ts as football moves into the new millennium and the attitudes of men evolve with increasing salaries and societal attitudes.

But by season's end there will be a new chapter in the book of motivation, and the principals will be Rams coach Mike Martz and defensive end Kevin Carter.

Martz has benched Carter and made no attempt to hide his displeasure with Carter's effort eight games after he led the NFL in sacks.

"I don't feel like his effort was up to NFL standards for any defensive linemen," Martz said. "That's why we made the move."

Carter publicly disagreed with the decision and said there is no way the Rams are better with him on the bench. Carter defended his performance and noted his statistics are almost the same as they were last year. He has one more sack (four vs. three at this point last season), one fewer tackle (19 to 20) and eight fewer quarterback pressures (19 to 27).

The difference is the Rams defense is playing a lot worse. Carter said the demotion won't motivate him and the team should stand behind its great players. But maybe Martz isn't trying to motivate Carter. The rest of players looking at Carter and cornerback Todd Lyght, who also was demoted, have to think, "Wow, if the Pro Bowlers get benched, no one's safe."

Only time will tell who's right, but a coach's job should be culling great performances out of his players. It doesn't appear he can get a lot out of Carter if he's sitting on the bench. But if the Rams defense plays better, it won't matter.

FREEMAN'S FOLLIES: Green Bay coach Mike Sherman is unhappy with Packers receiver Antonio Freeman, and it has little to do with his on-field performance.

Freeman was fined an undisclosed amount of money after failing to show for a midafternoon practice Monday, Green Bay's first after a three-day weekend bye.

Tuesday, Sherman had a long meeting with Freeman during which the wide receiver suggested the coach had handed him the maximum allowable fine under terms of the collective-bargaining agreement.

"I didn't do it on purpose," Freeman said. "Things happen, and you've got to deal with the consequences that come."

According to Sherman, Freeman had a flight canceled because of mechanical problems. In April, Freeman irritated Sherman when he missed the first day of the mandatory post-draft minicamp because his flight the previous night was canceled. Then Freeman was absent for the first day of the June minicamp because of what the team described as illness.

Defensive tackle Santana Dotson said he would have preferred catching a few extra hours of sleep Monday morning but instead took the first flight out of Houston.

"When you travel to the Midwest, like everybody knows, the weather can get bad," Dotson said. "The biggest thing is you want to leave room for error whenever you travel back up here. It (Freeman's absence) disappoints."

Freeman has had some minor run-ins with the law because of traffic offenses, and also drew a rebuke from a Wisconsin columnist after he was seen laughing with Detroit players after the Lions beat the Packers.

"Every time I do something wrong, it doesn't have to relate back to the negative aspects of my career here in Green Bay," Freeman said. "I was simply late for a team meeting that I should have been here for. If that makes me a bad person, a villain, then I apologize."

SAD NOTE: Writers across the nation are mourning the death of Steve Schoenfeld, long-time Arizona Republic NFL writer who recently took a job with CBS Sportsline. Schoenfeld, a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, was killed in a hit-and-run accident Tuesday night.

Every writer who knew Schonie would offer praise, but when a player salutes a writer, it really says something.

"For the vets who know what he brought to this organization, what he brought to his job and what he brought to the writers not only around the state but the country, it's a definite big loss," Arizona quarterback Jake Plummer said. "As players, we're going to miss him."

ET CETERA: In each of the last three seasons, the last undefeated team went on to win the Super Bowl. Denver did it in 1997-98, and St. Louis did it last season. If history repeats, the Vikings (7-0) will win Super Bowl XXXV. ... The Rams are the first team since the 1986 Jets to score and allow at least 50 points in a game. ... Warren Moon is 43 and has a birthday next month. He's older than the four franchises he has played for: Houston, Minnesota, Seattle and Kansas City. ... Buffalo has a losing record at this point of the season for the first time since 1987. ... The Packers have forced four fumbles but are the only team in the NFL that hasn't recovered a fumble this season. ... The Chiefs haven't lost to an NFC team at Arrowhead Stadium since 1994 -- a winning streak of 11 games.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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