The Rams started five rookies Sunday against Washington, including their quarterback, plus two spots where the player had never played the position before this season. The rookies were quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, fullback Madison Hedgecock, left guard Claude Terrell, strong safety Jerome Carter and cornerback Ron Bartell. Right tackle Rex Tucker has been a guard throughout his career, while free safety Mike Furrey was a wide receiver until this season.
Said interim coach Joe Vitt, "You know what happens now too, you have to be careful. All of a sudden, we lose a game (Sunday) the way we lost it, a 10-7 game with 1:30 left to go in the third quarter. Not everything is wrong, not everything. There are a lot of guys out there busting their ass making some plays on both sides of the ball. A lot of guys are out there coaching their butts off to try to get these guys better too, so not everything is wrong. We keep having the same mistakes over and over again week after week.
"We have been curtailed a little bit because of injuries, but I'm not going to tell you at any time that injuries are an excuse for failure or for losing, because they're not. If a guy plays bad, I don't think he gives his money back, does he? ‘I didn't play too good this week, here take that, I don't want that.' You're getting paid to do a job, do the job."
Vitt was especially distressed by the missed tackles that led to big plays by the Redskins, and even said, "My feelings are hurt."
He said, "Let me tell you something, how many guys in here have played football? If you're a defensive player, you start to play defensive football because you like contact and you like to tackle. It's the staple of our sport on defense, and if you can't tackle, you have to go find another profession. You really do. We work on it every day in practice, and with the preseason we're at, what, game 16 now, and we're missing tackles face up on somebody? We're looking them right in the eye and they're either running over us or running around us.
"If you can't tackle, you can't play. The next guy has to come on. All of a sudden now, ‘Oh geez, that's a bad call by (defensive coordinator) Larry Marmie. Oh geez, that's a bad technique by (secondary coach) Kurt Schottenheimer. Make the play, make the tackle. Are you going to back up for your paycheck today? What are you going to do? You get paid to do a job, go do the job."
Asked if it appears some players want to tackle, Vitt said, "You'll have to ask them. I don't think it's a lack of courage. Maybe it's a lack of confidence. Maybe I should pat them on the butt a little more, blow on their ear, make them feel better about themselves, get that air hose out and pump them up. Make the tackle. We're not splitting the atom in this business. We're not finding a cure for cancer. The guy with the ball, you want to tackle, and when you get two hands on him, bring him to the ground. Don't let him run through you, don't let him run around you, bring him to the ground."