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Ram Notebook : Walsh Expects Montana to Be Ready Sunday

Times Staff Writer

The question of who plays quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday becomes a headache any way the Rams look at it. Joe Montana or Steve Young? Pick your poison.

Montana has had some career days against the Rams. Young played the first half of last year’s finale and threw for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns. Montana worked the second half and tossed 2 more touchdowns. The 49ers won, 48-0.

For now, though, it looks as though Montana will get the start in Sunday’s showdown at Anaheim Stadium. He bruised his ribs in Sunday’s 16-13 overtime loss to the Denver Broncos but is expected to be ready.

“In this case we will more than likely start Joe if he can get a full practice in at least Friday,” 49er Coach Bill Walsh said Wednesday. “And I think we will, to be honest. I think we’ll be all right.”

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Montana did not practice Wednesday, but Walsh was hopeful he’d be back on the field today.

Walsh, though, didn’t rule out bringing Young in to counter the Rams’ aggressive pass rush. The Rams lead the NFL with 36 sacks.

“He can run exceptionally well,” Walsh said of Young. “And scramble very effectively. He would probably do better against a big blitz than Joe. But Joe, on the other hand, is cool under pressure and knows just where to throw the ball in case he does get that all-out type blitzing. So, you measure one against the other and still, I think Joe would have the edge.”

All things considered, the Rams would rather see third-stringer John Paye.

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Absolutely the last word on retired wide receiver Ron Brown--until tomorrow. With Tuesday’s trading deadline passed, Brown’s only options now are to sit out the season or return to the team’s offer of $220,000, pro-rated this season.

Brown, who worked out on his own at Rams Park after Wednesday’s practice, said he might be coming back.

“I’ll have more answers tomorrow,” Brown said.

He said his agent, Steve Arnold, has initiated discussions with Rams management

“But no decisions have been made,” Brown said.

Coach John Robinson said Brown would be welcomed back, though he admitted Brown could pose a potential disruption on a team that is 5-1 without him.

It’s not as though Brown hasn’t had his chances, either. He retired last spring to pursue a track career after contract negotiations broke down with the Rams.

After he failed to make the U.S. Olympic Team, the Rams packaged Brown in a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for second- and fifth-round choices. Brown declined the offer, preferring to play for a contender.

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“It’s not obscure,” Robinson said of the situation. “He wanted a $400,000 raise from last year. He had an OK season (26 receptions). Then he decided to try out for the Olympics, had some injuries. We tried to trade him, it didn’t work out. It’s not obscure. If he came back, we’d be happy to have him back. But he has to prove he’s better than the other guys.”

Brown has been working out frequently at Rams Park, coming in after practice and taking throws from an automatic ball machine. Brown said he would discuss his future with Robinson today.

It makes sense to theorize that the Rams invented the Eagle defense this season to stop the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams’ rivals from the north and Sunday’s opponent.

It’s no secret that quarterback Joe Montana has had some of his best days against the Rams’ soft zone defense.

To win the NFC West, the Rams knew they had to put more pressure on the quarterback. So far they’ve done it.

There’s only one thing wrong with the Stop-the-49er-Theory: Robinson says it’s not true. The Rams didn’t create the Eagle to stop Montana.

“In a general context, yes,” he said of the new defense. “but in the specific context--that we have to do something to stop the 49ers--no. The guy (Montana) is a good passer. And we got the crap kicked out of us (last year), but we’re just trying to do better against (all) teams with good quarterbacks.”

It appears the race for the NFC West title will be a 3-team race to the wire between the Rams, 49ers and New Orleans Saints.

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No team has any easy road to the title.

After Sunday’s game against the Rams, for instance, the 49ers face the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings in successive weeks.

“It’s gross, to be honest with you,” Walsh said of the schedule.

The Saints, though, appear to have the toughest schedule of the 3 teams. You be the judge. Here’s a look at each team’s final 10 opponents.

New Orleans--Seattle, Raiders, Rams, Washington, Rams, Denver, New York Giants, Minnesota, San Francisco, Atlanta.

San Francisco--Rams, Chicago, Minnesota, Phoenix, Raiders, Washington, San Diego, Atlanta, New Orleans, Rams.

Rams--San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco.

Ram Notes

Linebacker Kevin Greene became the third Ram in 6 weeks to win the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week award. Greene had 3 quarterback sacks and an interception in his team’s 33-0 victory against the Atlanta Falcons. . . . Other Rams who have won the award this year are linebacker Mike Wilcher in Week 2 and lineman Gary Jeter in Week 3. . . . Linebacker Mel Owens (ankle) didn’t practice Wednesday but is probable for Sunday’s game. . . . As of Wednesday afternoon, the Rams were just 200 tickets shy of selling out Sunday’s game at Anaheim Stadium. The game must be a sellout by 1 p.m. today in order for the local television blackout to be lifted. . . . Punter Dale Hatcher (knee) won’t return to the roster this week, as some had speculated. Hatcher is still a week away, at least. . . . Tailback Charles White ran with the first team offense at Wednesday’s practice, but only because Greg Bell took the day off to rest a sore shoulder. Bell should be back today. The Rams released wide receiver Rey Nicholas (knee) off injured reserve. . . . Coach John Robinson is 3-7 lifetime against Bill Walsh.


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