Rams' Alvin Wright Crosses the Line, Will Play Sunday

Times Staff Writer

Reserve nose tackle Alvin Wright became the first Ram player to cross the picket line, returning to practice Wednesday.

"This is my job," said Wright, who will start Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. "The more I lay out, the more out of shape I get. It's just a matter of coming in to get back in rhythm."

Wright, a second-year player from Jacksonville State, said he made the decision about three days ago and that it was not easy.

"You've got a bunch of guys you play with," Wright said. "To make a decision to cross the line they have is tough."

Carl Ekern, the team's player representative, said one defection would not break the Rams' union strength. He also said he spoke with Wright earlier this week.

"I explained to him some important points to consider," Ekern said. "I've told all our guys in meetings that every guy has to make his own individual decision. Everyone will go through some soul searching, and as long as they've done that, you've got to respect that decision."

Are there other strikebreakers on the way?

"No, no," Ekern said. "I personally think we've got a majority of players who will stand behind the union."

Wide receiver Henry Ellard, making his first picket-line appearance, agreed with his player representative.

"I don't plan on coming in," said Ellard, who was embroiled in an 89-day contract holdout last season. "I'll stand my ground and back the union 100%. Hopefully, no one else will go in."

Ellard's holdout last season was caused by free agency, the key issue in the strike. Ellard was technically a free agent after the 1985 season, but because of the league's heavy compensation policies, no other team claimed him. The Rams refused to sign him for what he thought he was worth, resulting in his bitter holdout.

Still, Ellard said he won't ostracize Wright once the strike is settled.

"I wouldn't hold any hard feelings against someone who crossed a picket line," Ellard said. "As for other players, I can't speak for them."

Wright said he's prepared for anything.

"The way I look at it is that I have a family and this is my job," he said. "If they can't respect that, that's a problem they'll have to deal with."

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