Ram Notebook : Favorite Suns Had a Lock on Pursuit of Brock

Times Staff Writer

In their pursuit of Dieter Brock, the Rams' edge came with the territory.

Brock, fleeing Canada as a free agent after 11 seasons, also tried out for Green Bay, Buffalo and Cleveland, leaving the Rams with an important edge as the only "warm-weather" team bidding for him.

"This is the best place," Brock said. "We figured we could move out here and live out here year-round."

The 34-year-old quarterback lives in Birmingham, Ala., with his wife Kathy and three daughters ages 2, 5 and 8.

He said: "My daughters are excited about coming to California, but only because they know it's close to Disneyland."

Commuting each season from Winnipeg and then Hamilton during his seasons in the Canadian Football League, Brock has moved 22 times in 11 years.

"It's taken quite a toll on my family," Brock said. "I don't know if I would have stayed year-round in a place like Buffalo or Green Bay, (but) that wasn't the reason totally I chose the Rams."

The quality of the supporting cast also was a factor, he said.

Leigh Steinberg, who represents several pro quarterbacks, said: "If free agency truly worked, quarterbacks would be lined up at the Rams' employment office."

Bill Polian, who negotiated with Brock for Buffalo, indicated that it wouldn't have mattered if the Bills had offered the moon and the stars, because the Rams had the sun.

"The draft is a great equalizer for teams that are not in, quote, glamour markets," Polian said.

"Those of us who are in, quote, non-glamour markets are at a distinct disadvantage in a free market competition, particularly when there is a perception that Buffalo somehow is the pits, when in fact it really isn't. The weather here isn't nearly as bad as people make it out to be. But the perception is there, nevertheless.

"We negotiated in good faith and made what we considered to be a substantive offer. But Dieter's a free agent and it's a free country."

Polian said Brock's agent, Gil Scott, phoned him between 6 and 7 p.m. Monday "to indicate that Dieter had made up his mind. Gil never indicated we'd have a chance to match (the Rams' offer).

"I did make it very clear we would be willing to re-think the situation. Gil made it clear Dieter had made up his mind that he wanted to play in L.A. Whether he made up his mind before or after (he tried out with Buffalo) is immaterial."

Scott said Brock will give the Rams an advantage.

"This guy's played in 30-below, on ice and in broomball shoes," Scott said. "If you ever go to Green Bay in December, he can play."

Brock was the Most Valuable Player in the Canadian Football League in 1980 and '81 but not always the most popular. He walked out on the Winnipeg Jets twice in one month during a contract dispute in '83, before the club traded him to Hamilton. He was booed by the western Canadian fans when Winnipeg beat Hamilton in the Grey Cup (Canada's Super Bowl) game last November.

Wednesday, in a press conference at Toronto, Brock said he had "no ill feelings toward Canada" and blamed the press for blowing the affair out of proportion.

How sure were the Rams of signing Brock?

They had his No. 5 jersey with his name on it made up right after his Monday tryout, the day before he signed. The number hasn't been worn by a Ram since wide receiver Dick Gordon in 1973.

The Hamilton Tiger Cats made no serious offer to keep Brock, according to General Manager Joe Zuger.

"He made it clear he wished to go down there," Zuger said by phone.

Asked about Brock's chances of succeeding in the National Football League, Zuger said: "He's a big competitor (with a) strong arm. He's not very mobile.

"There will be an adjustment with a smaller field, more complicated defenses and bigger defensive linemen . . . more congestion than up here."

At 34, Brock may be the oldest player ever to enter the NFL.

Neither publicists in the league office nor Don Smith of the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Canton, Ohio, could recall anyone older coming into the league.

But Dick Maxwell of the NFL said that Brock officially isn't a rookie because he has played pro football. The official designation will be "first-year player."

Brock has averaged 4,088 yards passing the last five years. The Rams first locked in on him last June when assistant coach Vic Rapp scouted Hamilton's opening exhibition game at Toronto.

Said Coach John Robinson: "We sent him (Rapp) up there for that. We knew he (Brock) was coming out (of the league), but it had nothing to do with some grand design. Just research."

Rapp, who has moved on to Tampa Bay, was head coach of the British Columbia Lions from 1977 to '82.

As Rapp stood next to Scott on the sideline watching Brock warm up, he said: "We haven't got a guy that has an arm like that in L.A."

Scott said Wednesday: "I just kind of filed it away. I thought at that time that (Vince) Ferragamo was their guy."

Last January, with Brock about to become a free agent, Scott sent out resumes to "15 or 20" NFL clubs.

"I didn't send any to San Francisco or Miami," he said.

Brock will play another exhibition game in Toronto next August--for the Rams against the Philadelphia Eagles, their first game outside the United States.

Two weeks ago, the Rams tried out three other of Scott's clients: linebacker Delbert Fowler, cornerback Felix Wright and defensive end Grover Covington.

They, too, are free agents from the CFL, but so far no NFL team has signed them.

Students at Dale Junior High School in Anaheim delivered a 25-foot-long banner to Rams Park Wednesday.

It was addressed to Jeff Kemp and read: "A quarterback who helps kids is the greatest in our book."

Kemp recently spoke at the school as part of an anti-drug program.

The Rams are now trying to trade Ferragamo, but the market may be thin.

The general manager of an NFC Central club said: "I'd be hard-pressed to see anybody give up a first-round pick for him. He has not shown enough consistency or durability as a player."

An AFC West personnel executive said: "The team that trades for him is going to trade with the idea of him being their quarterback, not just a backup."

The Browns seem to be more interested in dealing for the Houston Oilers' first-round draft choice so they can select Bernie Kosar of the University of Miami next month.

Even the Bills don't seem interested, although they just missed getting Brock.

Polian said: "Somehow the perception came through that we were interested in Dieter because we wanted to upgrade the quarterback situation. Because we didn't get him doesn't mean we're in the market for a quarterback."

The Bills still have veteran Joe Ferguson and the inexperienced Matt Kofler and Joe Dufek.

"Right now, no one's offered us Vince Ferragamo," Polian said. "I don't know what we'd do if they did."

The Packers, who also made Brock an offer, have Lynn Dickey as a starter, but he is 35, and backup Randy Wright is coming off knee surgery.

The most consistent rumor has Ferragamo going to Seattle to rejoin Chuck Knox, who was the Rams' coach when they drafted him on the fourth round in 1977.

The Seahawks are believed to be trying to unload left-hander Jim Zorn, who backs up Jim Krieg.

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