Rams coach Linehan downplays sideline confrontation with Holt

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Rams coach Scott Linehan had job security for next season before Thursday night's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A third season might not be such a certainty, though, after wide receiver Torry Holt uncharacteristically gave Linehan a piece of his mind near the end of the game.

Holt, the team's lone Pro Bowl representative, is a team leader who usually emphasizes the sunny side, but not this time. He was caught by TV cameras yelling at Linehan after Ike Taylor's 51-yard interception for a touchdown on a fourth-and-10 play put the game out of reach.

Linehan downplayed the exchange after the game, saying it was not a "big deal" and was said in the "heat of the battle."

He stuck to that story on Friday.

"When you're sitting here at 3-12, I'm the first one to say everything's not all that pleasant," Linehan said. "No one likes losing. Exactly what I said last night is what I say today and I'll say tomorrow.

"You can ask me that question any way you want and I'll have the same opinion on it."

Rams president John Shaw said on Dec. 10 that Linehan would be back, and that it was unfair to judge job performance because the team has had so many injuries. The Rams have 11 players on injured reserve, including three offensive line starters and top pass rusher Leonard Little.

Shaw was en route to Los Angeles and did not immediately return a telephone message from The Associated Press.

Holt declined to comment on Thursday and was unavailable on Friday, a day off for players. Players also have the weekend off, with the next practice set for Monday.

The Rams began the year with eight straight losses before winning three of four, but they've lost three in a row entering the season finale next Sunday at Arizona.

A former first-round pick, Holt has been a key member of offenses that produced two Super Bowl berths in a three-year stretch from 1999-2001. He's finishing off his eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season despite persistent problems with his right knee coming off arthroscopic surgery last February.

Through the years, win or lose, Holt is often seen on the sideline with a wide grin on his face. That vanished at the end of another second-half collapse.

The Rams had closed the gap to one touchdown in the third quarter before fading. They've been outscored 130-40 in the fourth quarter this season.

Holt has only five catches the last two weeks, but offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who is in the booth on game day, didn't think that was a factor in his disgruntlement.

"I think it's more born out frustration for a 3-12 season," Olson said. "No one's used to that."

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he heard of the confrontation but did not witness it.

"I miss all that stuff, arguing with my guys," Haslett joked.

Linehan said it wasn't a surprise that Holt, or the rest of the roster, would be unhappy. The Rams' loss total matches their worst, a 4-12 record in 1998, since the franchise moved to the Midwest in 1995.

Linehan declined to reveal the exact nature of Holt's tongue-lashing, saying it was "nothing specific." Apparently, Holt was taking issue with Linehan's play-calling.

"It was the situation we got in on fourth down and that was it," Linehan said. "Everything else, the rest, was between he and I. And it's over as far as I'm concerned."

Linehan said he didn't think the team had lost confidence in him.

"Well, I mean, I don't know that we're not unconfident," Linehan said. "We're going about our business and we've been very competitive, especially the second half of the year. Obviously if we were winning our confidence level would be higher.

"It's not where it needs to be, that's for sure."

The last few weeks there's been heightened secrecy surrounding the team, with Linehan more tightlipped regarding injuries. Linehan confirmed only Friday a published report that quarterback Marc Bulger's setback on a week he was scheduled to return from a concussion earlier this month was due to getting struck on the head by a football during practice.

Linehan said he found out about the accident the following week, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch disclosed the accident on Thursday. Because backup quarterback Gus Frerotte also was out with a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, the Rams were forced to elevate Brock Berlin from the practice squad to start in his NFL debut in a loss at Cincinnati.

"I don't really understand the significance of when I found out or anything like that," Linehan said. "I had no idea when it happened and he hadn't told anybody, as far as coaches were concerned."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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