Martz takes indefinite leave from Rams

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Martz is out indefinitely as coach of the St. Louis Rams with a bacterial infection of the heart.\nA specialist Monday told Martz that his condition, which kept him out of two practices last week, had worsened. The 54-year-old has been ill for more than a month and was tested for endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the lining of the heart or a heart valve.\nAfter the Rams' 37-31 loss Sunday to the Seattle Seahawks, Martz said he shouldn't have been on the sideline. St. Louis dropped to 2-3.\nRams president John Shaw said Monday that Martz will be hospitalized four to 12 days but would not speculate on the length of his absence. Shaw said he wasn't told the specific name of the illness, but was led to believe that Martz's heart valve had weakened since last week.\n"I think he was concerned he was letting down a lot of people, but also had concern about the gravity of the situation," Shaw said.\nThe antibiotics that Martz began taking on Friday didn't seem to help, Shaw said, but he didn't know if any additional procedures would be necessary. Severe cases of endocarditis can require open-heart surgery.\nAssistant head coach Joe Vitt will take over as coach. Martz told his players during a brief but emotional team meeting that he would step aside, Vitt said.\n"The team is his concern," Vitt said. "His health is our number one concern."\nMartz spoke with a raspy voice after Sunday's game but sounded optimistic about his health. Still, he said that in retrospect, he should have allowed offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild to run the show.\n"I wasn't myself this week, the game plan wasn't clear for me," Martz said. "It's over with now but I just feel what happened to me has affected this team, and that breaks my heart."\nMartz was first hospitalized Sept. 30 with what was thought to be a sinus infection. He coached two days later during a 44-24 loss to the New York Giants.\nSeahawks coach Mike Holmgren, a friend of Martz's, advised the Rams coach to be careful with his health.\n"Really, what I told Mike was -- and I put myself in the same category -- you get so caught up in this that it, at times, appears to become more than life and death," Holmgren said. "And it's not. It really isn't."\n"So, with the health problem like he seems to have, he's got to take care of it. He's got to take care of himself, his family. He's got to think of way more things than football, of winning a football game. But it's hard for us. It's hard for all of us to back away on something like that"

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