Dickerson Ends His Holdout, Flies to Join Team : Contract Talks to Continue Under $4-Million Disability Coverage for Ram Star

Times Staff Writer

Eric Dickerson and the Rams kissed and made up Friday. Well, sort of.

The record-breaking running back ended his 47-day holdout Friday and took a plane to Philadelphia, where the Rams will play the Eagles Sunday.

Dickerson’s management firm, The Ken Norton Personal Management Agency, said that the Rams agreed Friday to provide Dickerson with $4 million worth of disability insurance coverage for the 1985 season while negotiations continue for an extension of Dickerson’s contract.


Charles Chin of Dickerson’s management firm said Friday that Dickerson’s advisers and the Rams had agreed to the following statement:

“The Los Angeles Rams and Eric Dickerson announced today that they have settled their contract dispute and that Eric Dickerson has rejoined the team. The Rams have agreed that on Tuesday, Sept. 17, they will commence good-faith negotiations to extend Eric Dickerson’s contract.

“The Los Angeles Rams will cover Mr. Dickerson with a $4-million disability insurance policy for the 1985 football season. Mr. Dickerson will be paid his 1985 contract, and his $150,000 bonus will be reinstated.

“Mr. Dickerson stated that he intends to pay a fine for late reporting.”

At the rate of $1,000 a day, Dickerson’s fine for not reporting had reached $47,000 Friday.

Dickerson, 25, who broke the National Football League’s single-season rushing record last season with 2,105 yards, has been seeking a guaranteed extension of his contract, starting in 1987. It is believed that Dickerson and his advisers are seeking a deal comparable to the $3.7 million, four-year contract that Marcus Allen signed with the Raiders recently.

The Rams, early in the holdout, offered to break club policy and negotiate an extension, although Dickerson had more than one year remaining on his current contract. But the Rams insisted throughout that Dickerson must report before negotiations could begin. Dickerson said for weeks that he wouldn’t report, then relented Wednesday when he said he had dropped his demand to have an extension signed before he would report.

All he wanted, he said, was a good-faith offer that could be negotiated while he played. Dickerson has received $1.675 million of the $2.2 million, four-year contract he signed with the Rams in 1983.

It had appeared that the dispute was close to being settled Monday when Dickerson returned from his home in Sealy, Tex., to meet privately with Ram owner Georgia Frontiere; club Vice President John Shaw and counsel Jay Zygmunt, and his own advisers--Jack Rodri, Ken Norton and David Epstein.

All met together, then there was a 90-minute private meeting between Frontiere and Dickerson.

But nothing came of those meetings. If anything, positions appeared to harden. Coach John Robinson, speaking for the Rams Wednesday, even seemed to accuse Dickerson of blackmail.

After pointing out that Dickerson is under contract for two more seasons, he said: “We do not believe it is a proper position--in fact, almost blackmail--(for Dickerson and his advisers) to say, ‘We won’t honor this contract until he signs the next contract.’ ”

Chin said that the breakthrough occurred Friday at about 1 p.m. in a meeting between Shaw and David Epstein at the Rams’ offices in Los Angeles. “Eric wasn’t present at the meeting,” Chin said. “They (Shaw and Epstein) agreed to conditions of Eric’s reporting in less than an hour. Epstein called Eric, and Eric immediately left for a flight to Philadelphia.”

Although it was not immediately known whether Dickerson will play Sunday, his holdout could not have arrived at a more opportune time for the Rams. Dickerson’s backup, Barry Redden, has an injured ankle. The club was down to its No. 3 running back, Charles White, when it defeated Denver last Sunday, 20-16.

Dickerson’s long holdout brings to mind another Los Angeles holdout story, one that dominated sports pages in the spring of 1966. That was the year Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale formed a two-man union and held out during spring training.

Koufax and Drysdale, key figures in the Dodgers’ drive to the National League pennant and World Series championship in 1965, announced that they were holding out together for much bigger contracts. They’d made about $75,000 each in 1965, and both wanted $100,000-plus contracts for ’66.

The Dodgers’ first offer was $100,000 for Koufax, $85,000 for Drysdale. The pitchers appeared insulted, then spread the word that they might leave baseball for greater riches in the entertainment field.

Drysdale claimed that both were negotiating with a TV production company for a series called “The Warning Shot.” Koufax would play a TV commentator, Drysdale a cop. Drysdale also said that he was considering a seven-year contract offer from ABC.

In the end, of course, the two snickered all the way to the bank. Dodger general manager Buzzie Bavasi raised the offer to $112,500 for Koufax, $97,000 for Drysdale. No deal. Finally, on March 30, 1966, they signed, Koufax for $120,000, and Drysdale for $105,000.