KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) – St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz says the infection that hospitalized him late last week involves his heart and is getting worse.

He said he expects to miss practice the next two days.

“I haven’t been feeling good for four or five weeks and there is some type of infection in my body that has gotten worse,” Martz said during a conference call with Seattle reporters. “They think they’ve identified what it is.”

Martz. 54, said doctors believe he has endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the heart’s inner lining or the heart valve. Martz will be undergoing a series of blood cultures over the next week to confirm that is the infection. If caught early, treatment is done through a series of antibiotics taken over a long period of time, Martz said.

Martz was hospitalized last Friday with what doctors believed was a sinus infection. He was released on Saturday and coached the Rams in their 44-24 loss to the New York Giants. Martz said he would continue to do some scripting and game planning in the morning the next few days, but planned to go home before practice begins.

Joe Vitt, the assistant head coach and linebackers coach, ran practice last week in Martz’s absence.

“This is something that if you let it go, it could become a real issue,” Martz said. “They feel very confident that’s what it is, but they have to confirm it.”

Earlier this year, Martz underwent back surgery, and said fatigue has been the most noticeable symptom of the infection.

“I can’t explain to you the fatigue,” Martz said. “You feel really good and then in the course of a couple hours you hit rock bottom.”

Martz joined the Rams as offensive coordinator in 1999, and his high-powered offense led St. Louis to its first Super Bowl title that season. He became head coach following Dick Vermeil’s retirement days just after the Super Bowl.

Now in his sixth season, Martz is 56-35 including the postseason. The Rams have missed the playoffs just once in his tenure (2002) and reached the Super Bowl after the 2001 season, losing 20-17 to New England.

The Rams (2-2) are tied with Seattle for first place in the NFC West. Coincidentally, Seattle defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes missed Seattle’s season opener in Jacksonville after suffering a mild stroke and did not fully return to his duties until last week.

“I’m going to be very careful with this,” Martz said.

AP-ES-10-05-05 1429EDT


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