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This Comeback May Be the Last for White : Running Back Returns to Rams, Faces a 1-Year Suspension If He Slips Again

Times Staff Writer

Ram tailback Charles White made another comeback Wednesday, one in a series during his life of relapse and rebound.

This comeback promises to be his last in football. There is no room left on the ledge for White. There are no more policies to protect him.

He returned to the team after a 30-day suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy--alcohol, in this case.

Another violation of any kind results in White’s expulsion from the National Football League for a minimum of a year. The rules could not be more clearly defined.

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Again, White returned remorseful that he had lost so much of what was gained during 1987, when he returned from cocaine relapse to win the NFL’s rushing title.

While he was away, Greg Bell stepped into his spot and has rushed for 467 yards, second-highest in the conference. White faces a fight to get his job back.

And he may never recoup the financial losses. White, married with 5 children, lost $56,250 in salary during the 4-game suspension. And who knows how much more in an incentive package that earned him $250,000 in 1987, a package that tied directly to games started, touchdowns scored and yards gained?

But White said the losses would have been much greater had he not been caught. Yes, he was only drinking this time, but booze for him has long been the warm-up act to cocaine.

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He has no problem with the seeming paradox of his suspension and the NFL’s partnership with alcohol in television advertising.

“My situation is different,” he said. “You’re not going to stop the advertising business from selling beer, because that’s America--when you’re watching a football game, or a baseball game, people want to drink their beer. But for somebody that has a problem, well, what they did for me was, more or less, saved me from something.”

White hopes he has finally learned his lesson, though his problem is more complex than simply wanting and succeeding.

“I have no remorse or resentment toward what the commissioner has done,” White said of Pete Rozelle’s actions against him. “I think it’s a great thing that he’s trying to clean up the problems we are having. I hope a bunch of people out there can learn who are faced with this problem. There’s no room for it in this game.”

White’s road back this time is difficult, but nothing he hasn’t been through before. The frustration comes in knowing that the opportunity he had grabbed and clung to after Eric Dickerson’s trade last year has been lost, at least for the moment.

“In a sense, I feel like I’ve blown it,” White said. “But look at it this way: I could have been out the whole year, or been kicked out of the league for my conduct. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to come back and do the things I’m capable of doing.”

White said he spent his 30 days at home in El Toro. He worked out 3 times weekly at a local high school, running 10 sets of 100-yard sprints.

His counseling program was not varied or expanded because of the latest episode. For more than a year, White has received counseling every Tuesday at the West Covina offices of Dr. Forest Tennant, the NFL’s drug adviser.

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Oddly, White said he never met with Tennant during his suspension.

“He’s always been out of town on the days I’ve been down there,” White said.

He said he will meet with Tennant next week. White is still being drug-tested three times weekly.

White wasn’t allowed on the grounds at Rams Park during the suspension, and stayed away from home games as a spectator.

Gil Haskell, the Rams’ running back coach, sent game film to White’s house for study.

How much White will play this Sunday at Atlanta has not yet been determined, but Robinson headed off any thoughts of a brewing tailback controversy by saying both White and Bell will be listed as starters.

“They’ve both earned the right to start,” Robinson said. “We played Green Bay that way and the preseason that way.”

Robinson, though, wants White in football shape before the comparisons begin.

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“I don’t want him to come back and not be 100%,” Robinson said. “It’s obvious the competition will be scrutinized. I want them to feed off each other. Greg is playing very well right now.”

The Rams have a 1-week roster exemption for White.

Ram Notes

It appears that defensive tackle Gary Jeter (knee, ankle) will miss Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. There was speculation that he might return much earlier from the injury suffered Sept. 25 against the New York Giants. . . . Dale Hatcher may be close to punting again “We’ll put him in a competitive situation this week and see how he responds,” Robinson said. Hatcher has been out all season with a knee injury. . . . Safety Vince Newsome (neck) and wide receiver Aaron Cox (ankle) missed Wednesday’s practice. Both are expected to play Sunday.


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