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Return of Greene Hasn't Been Coloring Martin's Thoughts : Rams: Linebacker more concerned with re-establishing himself than with presence of his former college teammate.

September 10, 1993|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Kevin Greene, Kevin Greene, Kevin Greene, that has been the Rams' story this week: The return of Kevin Greene.

And Chris Martin, a former Auburn teammate of Greene's, could care less.

Martin, who will be starting in Greene's old position at outside linebacker for the Rams, has his own bittersweet agenda Sunday in Anaheim Stadium.

Martin's former employer, the Kansas City Chiefs, decided after last season that he no longer fit in the team's plans. The Rams acquired him for a conditional seventh-round pick, a slap in the face for a proud professional who had started 59 games the previous four seasons.

"We play a part of Kansas City this week--we play Bill Cowher," Martin said. "That's the story."

Cowher had been Martin's boss in Kansas City for three years before being promoted to head coach in Pittsburgh last season, and when Martin became available this year, he expected a call.

It never came.

"There is incentive there," Martin said, "because when it came time for me to go elsewhere, I didn't wind up in Pittsburgh."

Martin moved to Anaheim and assumed his role as backup outside linebacker to Roman Phifer and Henry Rolling without complaint. Sunday he makes his first start as a Ram in place of Rolling, who will miss three weeks with a fractured thumb.

"It's been difficult sitting and watching the players and helping people do things you know you do well," Martin said. "I would have liked to have been starting, but you just have to wait."

Martin piled up 321 tackles the last four seasons, the Chiefs' second-best mark in that time, and he earned a reputation as a helmet-banging defender against the run before a hand injury last season limited his effectiveness.

After the Rams acquired him he began smacking his teammates in practice, and emerged from training camp as one of the team's top performers. The only thing keeping him out of the starting lineup has been an up-and-coming youngster in Phifer and a $1-million free-agency payoff to Rolling.

"I got a lot of satisfaction out of training camp to know I was still at the level that I was at two or three years ago," Martin said. "That was important--to still show I can play.

"The way K.C. was talking about me, I was an 11-year guy, washed up and moving into a backup situation. I came in here and proved to myself that I still can play.

"Those people who say I'm finished don't know Chris Martin personally. K.C. wanted to look at some other guys to see if they could play, and as it turned out those guys aren't there anymore. I've proved my point and I should have been the starter there this year, would have been the starter next year, and I would have been the starter until I decided I wanted to give it up."

When the 1993 regular season opened in Milwaukee, Martin was not a starter, but there was no keeping him off the field. The Rams have six special teams units, and although Martin's status as an 11-year veteran might earn him a pass, he was on every one.

"This guy is a professional football player," said George Dyer, Ram defensive coordinator. "There are a lot of guys who get money to play this game, but there are only a few true gunslingers who understand the job and know this is what they get paid to do."

Martin was the only player in Kansas City not to miss an off-season workout the last four years. He became a team leader on defense in Kansas City, and since joining the Rams has become a chatterbox in practice. He also willingly plays the part of dummy for the offense during daily workouts.

"I've always been a dummy," Martin said with a grin. "I'm alive, the sun is shining on my face and I'm playing football.

"I took pride in them putting me on all the special teams. That's a compliment. It's like they were saying, 'He can still run down the field on a kickoff.'

"I know I'm a veteran, but I'll tell you, it's not as bad as if I were still in Kansas City because I'm not around anybody I really know. It might have been a step down, a pride thing after being a starter in K.C. and then playing special teams, but nobody knows me here."

Martin, however, is on a mission to change that. He asked to be traded after losing his first-team status in Kansas City, and now he's starting all over again.

"When it's time for me to go out, I'll go out on a stretcher," Martin said. "I don't want to go out the way K.C. wanted me to go out.

"I could have sat on the bench, gotten my whole salary and wouldn't have had to play on special teams. But I don't want to lay down and quit. I want to go out with some fight."

Bring on the Steelers.

"Make quarterback Neil O'Donnell beat us," Martin said. "Our philosophy in K.C. was if they don't have an outstanding (quarterback) or a Joe Montana or Dan Marino, take away the running game and make the quarterback beat us. Make him throw the precise pass, make him make the right decision."

Funny thing, that's probably what Kevin Greene has in mind: Make Jim Everett throw the precise pass, make him make the right decision, make Jim Everett beat the Steelers.

Kevin Greene, Kevin Greene, Kevin Greene . . . "I don't have any idea what Kevin Greene is thinking or what happened to him here or anything about Kevin Greene," Martin said.

"All I care about is playing hard, wreaking havoc and making sure we win."

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