Running back Curt Warner was in Ram Park Monday. Running back Greg Bell wasn't. And it appears the same probably could be said about the Rams' starting lineup on opening day: Warner in; Bell out.
Bell, who rushed for 2,349 yards and 31 touchdowns the past two seasons, became the odd man out when the Rams acquired Warner as a Plan B free agent March 30. Ram Coach John Robinson said Bell had been excused from attending the team's four-day mini-camp, which began Monday.
"Our intention is to trade him," Robinson said.
That could happen as early as this week, during the NFL owners' meetings Wednesday and Thursday in Dallas. Bell was out of town and unavailable for comment, but, according to his agent, Steve Feldman, a quick deal would suit Bell just fine.
"We had two conversations with the Rams last week and they're definitely going into the meetings looking to make a trade," Feldman said. "They may not get the kind of compensation they want right away, but at some point, they have to realize it's time to let him go. He's anxious to get into a new situation as soon as possible."
Warner is getting well-acquainted with new situations. Saturday, he was married in Seattle and Monday, he was running out of a new backfield, wearing a new uniform and a new number (21). He wore No. 28 with the Seahawks.
"First, I'd like to thank the Ram organization and Coach Robinson for giving me this opportunity," he said. "I'm especially thankful because things up in Seattle were kind of a blur, but that's all I'll say about that situation."
A year ago, Seahawks president Mike McCormack said he was not "interested in trading Curt unless we could get a blockbuster deal." He described a blockbuster as a trade which involved two No. 1 draft choices or an impact defensive player such as Philadelphia's Reggie White.
Warner, who holds every Seattle career rushing record and is a three-time Pro Bowl starter, led the Seahawks in rushing in 1989 with 631 yards, but he took a mighty fall from grace. He averaged just 3.3 yards a carry, was being supplanted by fullback John L. Williams as the focus of the Seahawks' rushing attack and suddenly became expendable.
Warner, who has undergone two knee surgeries--the latest an arthroscopic procedure in 1988--and three ankle operations, says he feels fine, if a bit disoriented.
"Everything feels a little strange here," he said. "Physically, I feel great. Mentally, there's a lot going on and I'm just sorting things out. Things here are very regimented, very structured. You do what you have to get done, you go hard and then go home."
Warner figures to be battling Cleveland Gary for playing time at tailback, but he says he doesn't mind the competition.
"Once a tailback, always a tailback," Warner said, smiling. "I'm down here to play, but it's up to Coach Robinson to decide how much. I'll do whatever I have to do. If I get to carry the ball a lot, great. If not, I'll do whatever it takes to try and help this team win. That's my primary objective."
After five years as a safety-turned-cornerback, Jerry Gray began his conversion back to free safety Monday. The Rams are hoping the acquisition of Bobby Humphery from the Jets and the maturation of second-year players Darryl Henley and Alfred Jackson will fill the void at cornerback.
"We think Jerry can be a great free safety and he's going to play there through the summer and the exhibition season," Robinson said. "If we don't feel confident at corner, though, then we'll have to be prepared to make the move back."
Gray is taking a wait-and-see approach, but admits he likes the view from the free safety position.
"It's going to be interesting (playing safety) in our defensive philosophy," he said. "Having the freedom to roam will be the biggest adjustment.
"I spent the last five years trying to learn to just watch my man and not the quarterback, and I think I've finally mastered it. Now, I'm going back to watching the quarterback again."
Tight end Pete Holohan, an unsigned conditional free agent, was in camp Monday, but he wasn't risking injury. "I'm staying away from any contact," he said. "Basically, I'm just running my patterns against air." Holohan said he was not concerned about his contract status. "We're not even negotiating, but it's very early," he said. "There's no pressure or anxiety at all." Also in camp but not signed were linebacker Brett Faryniarz and defensive tackle Doug Reed. Linebacker Kevin Greene, nose tackle Alvin Wright and tight end Damon Johnson, also unsigned, elected to stay away this week.
Quarterback Chuck Long was also missing. He returned to Detroit to be with his wife, Lisa, who is expecting the couple's second child. . . . Latin Berry, the Rams' third-round selection from Oregon, made his debut at cornerback Monday. The 5-foot-10, 196-pounder played running back in college. "He looked like he'd been playing cornerback for, oh, 50 minutes," Coach John Robinson said. "But seriously, he looks like an athlete and a competitor and we're excited about the person." . . . Best new name on the Ram roster: General Brown, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive tackle from Savannah State.