By ERNEST HOOPER, ROGER MILLS and Times Wires
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 14, 2000
TAMPA -- Kick a 46-yard field goal in this league and nobody notices. Do it in a torrential downpour, on the road, with the game in the balance and footing as slick as a wet bar of soap and they will.
Now you understand why Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Gramatica connected on 3 of 4 field-goal attempts, including the winning 46-yarder, in Sunday's 16-13 victory over the Dolphins.
Despite conditions that would rattle most kickers, Gramatica said he was oblivious to the pelting rain.
"That's true. I was watching the film and I thought it was just a little sprinkle like it was early in the game," Gramatica said. "I had no idea it was raining that hard.
"I could tell myself treat it like it was dry or a turf game. Don't think about the wet grass or anything."
Earlier in the game, in much drier conditions before Pro Player Stadium deteriorated to a swamp, Gramatica had his streak of 16 straight field goals broken when he missed a 34-yarder.
After the kick, he was bumped and exchanged words with Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison.
Not coincidentally, it was Madison that Gramatica gestured to, raising his index fingers, in an emotional outburst caught on camera.
"It's just part of the game, you know?" Gramatica said. "I guess sometimes you just show different kinds of emotion. I want to clarify something. I never shot him a bird. A lot of people were thinking I did, but I would never do that. I know I get carried away, but that's something I would never do."
SCOREBOARD WATCHING: Considering the Bucs once were on a four-game losing streak and can still win the NFC Central Division and host a playoff game, the outcomes of other games gain significance.
For instance, the results of the Packers-Vikings and Lions-Jets games, both on Sunday, will impact the Bucs. A win by the Packers keeps the Bucs alive for a division title. A win by the Jets boosts the Bucs chance of making the playoffs.
None of the scenarios means a thing if the Bucs lose Monday to the Rams.
"You avoid thinking about (the other teams) and take the attitude we have of late, which is, if we just take care of our own business, we're in," safety John Lynch said. "We feel like that's all we need to do is get in and we know we can do some damage."
Remarkably, if the Bucs win out and the Vikings lose their last two, the Bucs not only win the division, but keep alive hopes of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"I think we learned that last year how valuable that can be," Lynch said. "If we can do that, that's even better."
MARTZ'S REMARKS: Rams coach Mike Martz said at his weekly news conference that the Rams may play more aggressively Monday night then they did in their 11-6 win over the Bucs in last season's NFC Championship Game.
"I think that what had happened in that game, we had that initial drive that we got three points out of," said Martz, according to the St. Louis Dispatch. "We went about 75 yards or whatever it was, but we just couldn't get untracked there. When that happens, you have a tendency to back off a little bit.
"We just didn't feel like they were going to score. We just felt like we'd wait for an opportunity. We felt it would be a low scoring game and whenever the opportunity game up, we'd try to take advantage of it. That's how we played that game. I'm not sure we couldn't just do our regular mix and do relatively well."
DON'T WORRY: He knows the passing game hasn't been scorching over the past four games. He knows he has failed to throw a touchdown since the Green Bay game on Nov. 12. But in his typical poised approach, quarterback Shaun King isn't concerned about the Rams.
"We'll be fine, we'll find a way to win," King said. "We may throw for 400 (yards) or we may run for 400, you may never know. We may run it, we may throw it, we may kick it."
King said he doesn't feel pressure to prove his modest performance against the Rams in last season's NFC Championship was a product of inexperience. He said personal redemption is not in the picture.
"I just want us to win, all the rest of that stuff will take care of itself," King said. "I want to play well, I want to play well each week. (But) if everybody does their job, we'll win then we'll go in the locker room be happy and then get ready for Green Bay."
HOT TICKET: With Monday night's soldout game the home finale with playoff implications and a rematch of last season's NFC title game, it's no wonder tickets are hard to obtain. How hard?
"I need a lot of tickets," he said Monday, referring to a large contingent of family members expected to be at the game. "I need to talk to (director of ticketing) Mike (Newquist). I need to ask him now."
King jokingly tried to solicit tickets from the media and members of the Bucs staff. Pressed to say how many tickets he needs, King responded: "I'm not going to disclose that number."
COADY OUT: Rams strong safety Rich Coady is gone for the season with a bulging disc in his neck.
Coady, who has missed the past two games, was placed on injured reserve. Team doctors felt Coady might have been able to recover in time for a playoff opener, but were worried about him aggravating the injury.
Coady, a third-round draft pick last season, cracked the starting lineup ahead of Devin Bush in Games 11 and 12. He's had two cortisone shots in the neck.
"It's been getting a little better," Coady said. "But it's not the progress they had hoped."
The Rams replaced Coady by signing former Bucs safety Shevin Smith. Martz said Smith's time with Tampa Bay was not a factor in the signing.
Other Rams players with injuries were doing much better. Defensive tackle D'Marco Farr, limited to five starts by sore knees, saw action as a reserve against the Vikings, and Martz said he should be able to play more against the Bucs.
Special teams player Chris Thomas' turf toe was not a serious injury. Also, wide receiver Torry Holt has a slight hip injury and defensive tackle Gaylon Hyder has a mildly sprained knee.