Dickerson’s comments, made during a phone interview with The Times on Monday night, came at the end of a day in which the Hall of Fame running back said on his radio show that he had received a call from someone in “upper management” who told him that he made players uncomfortable and was not welcome on the sideline.
Dickerson later said that person was Fisher. Dickerson said Fisher said he did not want the Hall of Famer around the team if he continued to publicly criticize coaches and players who are part of a team that is 4-7 and has lost six of its last seven games.
Fisher told The Times that Dickerson had every right to be critical of the team but could not expect favors in return. He also said he wanted Dickerson to be around the team as much as possible.
Dickerson is among the Rams’ most popular former players. He holds several NFL records, including most rushing yards by a rookie and most rushing yards in a season.
Dickerson had requested multiple sideline passes for friends who planned to attend the Nov. 20 game against Miami at the Coliseum. A Rams representative initially didn’t respond but Dickerson said he was later told the team was uncomfortable with his public criticism and that General Manager Les Snead or Fisher would be calling to explain.
“I see a 314 number calling in. So I get on the phone and say hello. He says, ‘Hey, Eric, this is Jeff Fisher.’ I said, ‘How you doing, Jeff?’ He said, ‘I just wanted to call you. I want to tell you a few things here. I don’t have time for this, but I’m going to tell you. You’re not going to be talking about the football team, talking about our team, talking about my coaches, expecting to get things from this football team. We’re not going to give you anything. We’re not going to support you in anything. As long as I’m here as coach, we feel uncomfortable with you coming on the sideline. The players are uncomfortable with that. So as long as I’m head coach here, I’m just going to let you know it’s not going to happen.
“So I didn’t say one word. That’s how I was taught. If somebody’s talking, you listen. Because two people can’t talk. So I sat there and listened to what he had to say. I said, ‘Jeff, are you finished?’ He said, ‘I’m finished.’
“I said, ‘Jeff, thank you for the call. I appreciate it. I heard somebody might call me. But, Jeff, I want to say this to you: I am a grown … man. I am not a little kid. I do not work for the Los Angeles Rams.’ I said, ‘I don’t give a damn what you think. My thing is, I want my football team to win. That’s all I care about. I don’t care whose feelings I hurt.’ I said, ‘Jeff, I’m all about the Los Angeles Rams. I want to win.’ I said, ‘You think I’ve been sitting around waiting for the Rams to come back? Jeff, anybody who knows me knows about Eric Dickerson. I don’t have my hand out. If y’all feel like I owe you something, send me a bill in the mail. Send me something and I will pay it. I don’t want nothing from you guys.’ My mother taught me this: When you go to somebody’s house, don’t you go eating up everything. You come home and eat.
“I said, ‘Jeff, and by the way, you can coach the Rams, you can go back to the Titans, you might coach the Browns, you can go to ’SC… I will always be Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams. That’s why I have that gold jacket. I’m a player first, and I will always be a player. Always. I’m always for the players. Know that.
“So he said, ‘Eric, man, that’s not what we want. We want you to come around. Jackie Slater comes over. Jack Youngblood. ... Then he goes on and says, ‘I want you to be around. I want you to be part of the team.’ I didn’t say nothing. I just listened. I said, ‘Jeff, I’m going to say this much to you. It’s my last thing. First of all, I like [former Titans running back] Eddie George. Eddie George speaks very highly of you. I give you a pass because of Eddie. But I’m going to say this to you, Jeff: You never ever have to worry about me at a game again at the Coliseum as long as you’re coaching. I’m not coming ever again. I don’t want nobody to feel uncomfortable. Most definitely I don’t want the players to feel uncomfortable. I don’t care about your coaches feeling uncomfortable. I’m all about the players. You never have to worry about ever seeing me again.
“He said, ‘Eric, that’s not what we want.’ I said, ‘As long as you’re coaching, you won’t have to worry about ever seeing me again.’ I said, ‘Jeff, I want to thank you for having the [guts] to call me. … You have a good night.’ And that was it.
“That was two weeks ago Thursday, right before the Dolphins game. They haven’t reached out to me until [Monday].”
On Monday afternoon, Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer and vice president of football operations, tweeted that he had reached out to Dickerson “to see where a miscommunication may have occurred & to clear up any confusion over his presence at games.”
During his Monday news conference at Cal Lutheran, when asked about Dickerson’s comments on the radio, Fisher said, “I don’t know where that’s coming from.” He said he “had a really good conversation with Eric last week” and that Dickerson was always welcome. “I’d welcome him in the building. I’d love to have him come in. I’d love to have him come to practice. I’d love to have him in the meetings. Eddie George has been in my meetings more than Eric Dickerson has. I’d love to have him here.”
When read Dickerson’s comments to The Times on Monday night, Fisher did not address the specifics of Dickerson’s account, but did say:
“I had a discussion with Eric and it was brought to my attention Eric wanted some things from the organization and it was shortly after he had been critical of us, of me, of the players and of our quarterback coach.
“And there’s a natural conflict there. He has every right to be critical because we’re all frustrated with the respect to the season and he has every right to comment and to be critical. But there’s a line that has to be respected, when you on one side criticize the organization and come back and ask the organization for something.
“And so we had a conversation about it and I wanted Eric to understand that this organization wants him to be part of our future, no differently than Jackie Slater or Jack Youngblood, who came out to practice. We want Eric to be part of our future and that’s how we left it.
“The conversation was good and that’s how we left it. I offered him whatever he needed, no different than any of our alums. But there’s an understanding, and I think it’s a logical understanding, that if you’re going to go over here, which you have every right to do, and then come back and ask for this — it doesn’t work that way.
“When the conversation was over, I wanted on behalf of the organization to afford him every opportunity to become part of what we’re doing…. There was no way, on behalf of the organization, that we wanted to alienate E.D.
“We want him to be a part of this organization. That’s what we stand for. … In no way shape or form do we want to eliminate him. We want to include him. If Eric took it as if we were eliminating him, it was a misunderstanding, just as Kevin said in his tweets. We want Eric to be a part of it and we still want Eric to be part of it.
“I have engaged every single player to the best of my ability to be a part of this. If Eric has an issue with the organization, that’s Eric’s issue, not ours. We welcome him with open arms. Eric happens to be the only player that has gone on the record and been critical of what we’re doing, but that’s OK. He’s entitled to his opinion. This is a new experience for us and this is a new Rams family and we want to include all the former Rams in our future.”