Gary Signed, but Won't Yet Deliver : Rams Don't Want to Rush Top Draft Pick Into Lineup

Times Staff Writer

Those waiting breathlessly for the Cleveland Gary Era to begin might want to take a few more gulps of air. As it stands now, it's going to be awhile before the Rams' first-round draft choice has to worry about grass stains on his game uniform.

A 57-day contract holdout will do that, as will lousy timing. Gary, a versatile fullback from the University of Miami, chose to agree to terms just three days before the start of the regular season. Gary can now expect to become close personal friends with the Rams Park practice field, but not much else.

No use rushing things, Coach John Robinson said.

"It will take him awhile," Robinson said. "It's not going to be a two-week period, and all of the sudden, he's in the midst of it. It's going to take him some time."

For the moment, the Rams simply want to admire Gary's signature on the dotted line. It has been quite a wait.

Gary, the 26th player chosen in the draft, arrived Wednesday evening. He is expected to be at practice today and probably will accompany the Rams to Atlanta for the opener against the Falcons. As for attire, Gary will be in street clothes. No word yet on the following Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

"I just think we have to think in terms of getting him started, developing his skills before we think too quickly about how he would be used in a game," Robinson said.

The Rams used a roster exemption for Gary, meaning that they didn't have to tinker with the roster (yet) to make room for him. For now, Robinson is making few plans for his newest backfield addition.

"I haven't really thought about it," he said of Gary's expected role. "I think he's an excellent receiver and can help us there. I see him as a good runner."

That would be nice, considering that the Rams are forking over $1.8 million during the next four years for Gary.

The preliminary plan is for Gary to see time both at fullback, his natural position, and halfback. But Robinson hedged on making any sort of commitment. "I've just got to see him in hand, see how he fits in," he said.

Whatever the spot, expect Gary to catch his share of passes; it is his specialty.

Only one problem: It won't happen for another week or two.

Ram Notes

Cleveland Gary wasn't the only addition Wednesday. Coach John Robinson announced that quarterback Jeff Carlson, wide receiver Thomas Henley, center Rodney Lossow, running back Mel Farr Jr. and tight end Richard Ashe will join the six-player developmental squad. That leaves one opening, which likely will go to an offensive lineman, Robinson said.

Quick, the lone rookie Ram starter is . . . inside linebacker Frank Stams of Notre Dame. Stams replaces injured Larry Kelm (foot). "Frank is going to be one of those long-term successful players in this organization, one of those guys who has a great career," Robinson said. "He's just a natural football player, that's what he is." The rest of the injury update: linebacker Fred Strickland (knee) didn't practice Wednesday but did undergo another session of weightlifting and strength tests. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game; quarterback Mark Herrmann (ribs) is questionable, and running backs Gaston Green (thigh) and Robert Delpino (shoulder) are probable.

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