Dickerson Gives One-Half-Hearted Effort

On national television Monday night, the Rams put several different backfields in motion. At first, their running back was Charles White, who during the recent National Football League player strike volunteered to play with the replacement players. Later on came Eric Dickerson, who volunteered to be Charles White's replacement player.

For most of the game, the backfield was Me and Buford McGee. McGee was the starting fullback. Of course, as many of us have discovered, Eric Dickerson is such a selfish football player, he could run an I-formation by himself.

Anyway, by the end of the evening, the Ram backfield was a rambling wreck. After a 30-17 pounding by the Cleveland Browns, McGee was being prepped for surgery for a torn right Achilles' tendon, White was wincing from injuries to both hands, and Dickerson rubbing a pulled muscle and counting the hours until next Tuesday's NFL trading deadline, crying: "Freedom!"

You can understand why he wants out. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. And the Rams have very little left to lose. Their season already is damn near a total loss.

The players have lost money during the strike. They have lost everything they sought to gain by striking, like free agency. They have lost patience with their coach, who tried to smuggle 13 illegals into a game before the strike was officially over, and they have lost the interest of Dickerson, who wants no part of the Rams any more.

They also have lost five of their six games this season, and eight of their last nine over two seasons. They have become Eric and the Dominoes, and they are going down, down, down. They are falling faster than blue-chip stocks. The only way the Rams are going to make it to Super Bowl XXII is by driving Interstate 5 from Anaheim to San Diego, which could very well be the only sustained drive they make all year.

Things got so bad here Monday, in the city where the Ram organization was founded, that Dickerson didn't even step onto the field in the second half, and quarterback Jim Everett, betrayed and abandoned by his backs, ended up heaving 50 passes and connecting on barely two-fifths of them. This was what you might call an offensive offense. It stunk.

Oh, White and Dickerson did score a touchdown apiece, and White got another one called back--sorry, Charlie--but before this poor excuse for a pro football team finished work, the Rams were so hard-up for help that they even found themselves handing off twice to Tim Tyrrell, who has been hanging around the NFL for four years now, waiting for a chance. It was the first time anybody ever gave him the ball.

The first time he got it, Tyrrell gained five yards. Dickerson only had one run longer than five yards all night.

The last time he got it, Tyrrell was stopped for no gain.

Perfect.

Made him feel like part of the Ram offense at last.

You know a football team has problems when the NFL's rushing champion not only demotes himself to second-string, but isn't even noticed as missing by the opposing coach when he leaves the game. Dickerson spent the entire second half on the sideline, nursing a charley horse, which left things up to that other Charlie. But Cleveland Coach Marty Schottenheimer insisted: "I don't even know how much he played, frankly. I didn't pay any attention to him."

What? Not pay attention to Eric Dollarsign, the self-proclaimed underpaid millionaire, the man who calls himself one of the three best players in pro football? How could you not notice Mr. Wonderful? What did you think he was doing over there behind Ram Coach John Robinson--sneaking up behind him with a bucket of Gatorade?

If this game had gone on one minute longer, Robinson might have had to activate himself. (Maybe there were 14 names on that list of his.) Dickerson, White and McGee all were hurt, so somebody had to line up behind the quarterback, unless the Rams intended to introduce the empty-house backfield.

There wasn't much the Rams could do about it against the Browns, since the game was pretty much decided by halftime. What the Rams do next, however, should be pretty interesting. They have a few days left if they should care to get rid of Dickerson, in which case we would find out very quickly just how serious that charley horse of his is. A trade to Buffalo just might be the old miracle cure.

A new team and a new backfield could be just the thing for Dickerson. The only other option that comes to mind for the Rams is paying Dickerson the money he wants. All they have to do is give him what they'll save by getting rid of the other 44 players, which might not be a bad idea.

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