The Rams’ summer-long prospect of opening the National Football League season without Eric Dickerson became reality Wednesday.
Coach John Robinson said that Dickerson, who is holding out for a guaranteed contract extension, would not play Sunday against the Denver Broncos at Anaheim Stadium, even if he reported today.
Robinson could not say when Dickerson would play, or if he would play at all this season.
All Robinson would say was: “The door is not slammed forever.”
That may have been optimistic.
In a 27-minute press conference before Wednesday’s practice, Robinson also said that:
--He had called Dickerson in Sealy, Tex., to ask him to rejoin the team under a $1 million disability policy while others negotiate but that Dickerson had referred him to adviser Jack Rodri, who rejected the proposal.
--Ram negotiator John Shaw had met with Rodri late Tuesday, with no apparent progress.
--The Rams offered to make an exception of their policy not to negotiate extensions when a player has more than one year remaining under contract (Dickerson has two), but only if Dickerson would report first.
--Dickerson will continue to be fined at the maximum rate of $1,000 a day. The meter hits $39,000 today, and Dickerson also has forfeited a $150,000 reporting bonus. That money, however, could be negotiated back into a settlement.
--Barry Redden will start at tailback Sunday. The condition of his sprained right ankle “looks promising,” Robinson said.
Rodri and Shaw met Tuesday in Westwood for about an hour and 45 minutes.
“We got nowhere,” Rodri said. “I thought we had an understanding for an hour and 40 minutes, then he pulls the plug.”
Rodri said that Shaw had told him to bring Dickerson back, then they would talk about the extension. But Rodri said he wants more assurance that the Rams will continue to talk productively. He said that Shaw offered no time limits for arriving at an agreement.
“That does not sound like a guy that is anxious to come to an agreement,” Rodri said. “We can’t afford to break Eric’s heart. If Eric is back playing football, where is your leverage?”
If Dickerson were to report and negotiations later broke down, he wouldn’t be able to walk out without becoming subject to the so-called John Riggins rule.
Inspired by a holdout by the Redskins’ running back, the rule stipulates that a player under contract who walks out after reporting can be ordered to report within five days or be automatically suspended for the season.
Dickerson never reported so isn’t yet subject to the rule. All the Rams can do is fine him.
As for insurance, Dickerson already has a policy protecting his 1985 and ’86 salaries in case of a disabling injury. The Ram offer would provide for $1 million on top of that, which did not impress Rodri.
“They’re still talking about the insurance deal,” he said.
Rodri countered by offering to tear up the remaining two years of Dickerson’s contract, consider this his option year and negotiate a new agreement to start in ’86.
Shaw rejected that, Rodri said, as well as Rodri’s proposal to talk again Wednesday.
“There ought to be a high and low figure, for one thing,” Rodri said. “And is it to be guaranteed or not? Shaw said he would take (the proposal) to (owner) Georgia (Frontiere) but would recommend against it. He called me back at 10 o’clock last night to say they had rejected it.
“Eric would have been in camp tomorrow if John (Shaw) would have agreed to that today.”
Rodri said he had talked to Dickerson Wednesday and that Dickerson “feels on that basis that he can’t return to camp.”
Robinson said: “We have to assume that, like Jack Youngblood, Eric is not on our team.
“I think we have created a conversation process that will continue. I do believe the Rams’ position is fair, and we’re willing to negotiate a future contract with him. We have to go on the assumption that we’re all failing until we find a resolution.
“The key issue is what kind of progress would negotiations have. We have said we would begin negotiations in good faith. We’d like him to fly in and get started.”
Robinson has sought all summer to suppress the Dickerson issue so it would not affect the morale of the team.
“I’ve tried my best to put our team in a frame of mind not to worry about it. I’ve told them, ‘Don’t get caught up in things you can’t control.’ This issue will not affect our football team in any manner. We intend to win every game we play, and if we don’t we won’t have any excuses.”
Ram Notes Running back Lynn Cain, who played for John Robinson at USC and was cut by Atlanta last week, worked out for the coaches Tuesday and watched Wednesday’s practice in street clothes. “We’ve worked out terms of a contract,” Robinson said. “I think we’ll activate him tomorrow, but I’m not certain yet.” . . . Robinson had said he expected some resolution of the situation of unsigned nose tackle Greg Meisner Wednesday, but he had nothing to announce. . . . Robinson said he has two backup quarterbacks, that either Jeff Kemp or Steve Dils could go in for Dieter Brock in an emergency. “I’d look at the opponent and see what kind of style would fit,” Robinson said. “Dils is a little better against a zone defense, dinking the ball. Jeff is a little better against a club where you can push the ball up the field.”