Eric Dickerson Softens His Stance, Says He's Ready to Return to NFL : Football: Running back says his dispute with the Colts is not motivated by money, but by his frustration at never having played in a Super Bowl.

From Associated Press

Eric Dickerson, who once threatened to retire rather than return to the Indianapolis Colts, said Thursday he's ready to come back to the NFL, even if it means playing for the Colts.

"I love my Sundays, I just want to play football," Dickerson said during an interview at his home in Malibu Canyon. "I feel relaxed here but I'm ready to get back."

Dickerson, due to make $1.45 million this year with an option year left on his contract, will not report to camp until his dispute with the Colts is resolved. At various times, Dickerson has asked to be traded or demanded a new contract.

He said Thursday that he's leaving the negotiations with the Colts to his new agent, Leigh Steinberg of Newport Beach.

Dickerson cleared up one thing during an hour-long interview. He said his dispute no longer involves money but is motivated by his frustration at never having played in a Super Bowl.

"Not getting that ring," is the way Dickerson put it.

"So far my career has been OK, just OK," said Dickerson, who in seven seasons has rushed for 11,226 yards and holds the single-season rushing mark of 2,105. Averaging 1,600 yards per season, it would take Dickerson less than four seasons to break Walter Payton's career rushing record of 16,726 yards.

But Dickerson, who turns 30 on Sept. 2, said that's not his concern--he kept coming back to "the ring," worn by some of his friends like Roger Craig of San Francisco and former SMU teammates Reggie Phillips (Bears, 1985), Byron Hunt (Giants, 1986) and Michael Carter (49ers 1984, '88 and '89).

"I remember running into Reggie after the Bears won--he was just a rookie then and saying to him, 'Hey, man, you got that in your first year, you don't know how hard one of those is to get,' " he said.

That season, 1985, was the closest Dickerson came to a Super Bowl--after setting an NFL playoff record with 248 yards in a victory over Dallas, Dickerson and the Rams lost, 20-0, in Chicago in the NFC title game.

And that, he said, is his principal problem with the Colts, who traded offensive tackle Chris Hinton, wide receiver Andre Rison and two No. 1 draft picks for the rights to take quarterback Jeff George with the first pick in this year's NFL draft.

He said his recent criticism of the team's offensive line wasn't aimed at anyone in particular but was in frustration at the way players were traded. He called Hinton, a perennial Pro Bowler, "one of the two-best linemen I've ever played with." Jackie Slater of the Rams is the other, he said.

"I don't know anything about Jeff George," said Dickerson, sitting in a den decorated with a dozen game balls and helmets from the Rams, Colts and 10 other NFL teams. "He could be the great quarterback people say he can be. But I can't see that team getting to the Super Bowl for at least two years. Tell me a rookie who has taken a team to the Super Bowl?"

The George deal was orchestrated in part by Steinberg. The agent, who has four clients on the Colts, said he would like Dickerson to return to make those clients--quarterback Jack Trudeau, linebacker Duane Bickett, kicker Dean Biasucci and George--look better.

Dickerson said one of the most frustrating aspects of his career has been an almost yearly change in his quarterback.

"Nine in seven years . . . no, make that 10," he said, almost forgetting Rickey Turner, who played in a wishbone goal-line offense with the Colts.

The others? He ticked them off quickly: Vince Ferragamo, Jeff Kemp, Dieter Brock, Steve Bartkowski and a young Jim Everett with the Rams, and Gary Hogeboom, Trudeau, Chris Chandler and Tom Ramsey with the Colts.

So where will he go?

Dickerson, who has been keeping in shape running over the steep, yellow-brown hills near his house, won't say--exactly. But he smiles when the Redskins, Giants or Oilers are mentioned.

"I'm letting Leigh work it out," he said. "I don't rule out the Colts. I'm in shape, I know the system. It won't take me long to get ready."

But then he talked wistfully about Craig, owner of three Super Bowl rings and sent a message to his friend:

"Say hello to Roger for me, and tell him I'm coming after one of his rings."

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