All but lost amid the hype, albeit deserved, surrounding quarterback Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams' explosive offense has been the stellar play of Ram defensive end Kevin Carter, whose 5 1/2 sacks in the last two games gave him 9 1/2 for the season, a half-sack behind league leader Simeon Rice of the Arizona Cardinals.
"Once he sees where you are and he knows the quarterback still has the ball in his hands, it's like a steak," Coach Dick Vermeil said of Carter, who was the sixth pick in the 1995 draft. "He's going after it to take a bite out of it."
San Francisco 49er quarterback Steve Young, sidelined since suffering his fourth concussion in three years Sept. 27, said again this week that he has no plans to retire.
"Anything like that wouldn't happen for a long time, certainly not now," he said. "As far as physically, it's clear I can play for a while. With concussions, you can take time to get OK."
Speaking of time, it might have run out for Lawrence Phillips when he was suspended by the 49ers for refusing to practice and ignoring coaches' directives. Team officials said he won't play for them again.
Said Vermeil, who took Phillips under his wing during the running back's ill-fated stay in St. Louis: "I never saw a flaw in him on the practice field. He was a tremendous work-ethic kid and did everything we asked him to do. The only time we had a problem was when he was hurt. Then he wasn't on the field as much and problems built up. Obviously, he has some problems that he can't overcome right now."