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Rams Cut and Slash to Get Down to Limit of 60 : Pro football: They release their two punters and acquire another one from San Diego.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Summing up a day of general desperation, the Rams painfully reduced their roster to 60 players, gave two punters the boot, hired another, released two defenders they wanted to keep, lamented the loss of cornerback Darryl Henley, who aggravated a hip injury and is out indefinitely, announced that the team had pretty much exhausted its supply of able-bodied wide receivers, and disclosed an operation to repair an offensive lineman’s thumb.

In short, it was an exasperating exercise in cutting and pasting for the Rams, a supposed Super Bowl contender. The team addressed its punting problem by releasing rookie Kent Elmore before Tuesday morning’s practice and then, after practice, cutting veteran Hank Ilesic.

“The two guys we had did not punt very well,” Coach John Robinson said.

Needing a punter, the Rams traded a low-round draft choice to the San Diego Chargers for Keith English, who was backing up John Kidd in San Diego. English boarded a morning train for Anaheim and will get his first kicks with the Rams against the Washington Redskins Friday night.

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What was their first clue on English? Well, he punted well against the Rams in an exhibition on Aug. 18.

“He had great reviews in San Diego,” Robinson said. “‘They were very enthusiastic about him--people we know well.”

The Rams also released defensive linemen Bill Goldberg and Sean Smith, despite the team’s glaring weakness along the defensive front. There were few available options, though.

Smith has an ankle sprain that will probably keep him out six weeks, Goldberg a pulled hamstring that could take two weeks to heal.

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Under league rules, the Rams would have lost both players for the season had they been placed on injured reserve before the final cut. However, NFL teams can’t release players who are injured, so the Rams cut financial deals with both. They gave Smith six weeks’ salary in a lump sum for the estimated time he would miss with the injury.

Goldberg received a two-week settlement. After their contracts expire, the team could re-sign either player, providing they clear league waivers.

“It’s obvious with the shortages at defensive line, that it is something we’d want to do,” Robinson said of re-signing Smith. “He would have made the team, probably, if he would have stayed healthy.”

Henley aggravated a hip injury that has plagued him for weeks and forced safety Jerry Gray back to cornerback.

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“He’s probably out for a while,” Robinson said.

Henley joins a growing list. The Rams will play against the Redskins without their top three receivers--Henry Ellard, Aaron Cox and Flipper Anderson--all out with sore hamstrings.

“Henry’s out, Aaron’s out, and Willie Anderson’s out,” Robinson said. “Everyone else is OK, except for (Tony) Lomack. He’s out (because of a hamstring injury). We have four who can play. (Tim) Stallworth has a sore toe and a sore knee, but he’s going to see if he can limp through it.”

In other surgical news, guard Joe Milinichik had a metal pin placed in his broken right thumb and will wear a cast for four to six weeks. Milinichik, though, is expected to play in the season opener against Green Bay on Sept. 9.

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Ram Notes

Cornerback Cliff Hicks (knee injury) was moved to the physically unable to perform list. Hicks can be recalled after six or nine weeks during the regular season without being subjected to procedural waivers. . . . The Rams released 19 players to reach the 60-man limit.

New punter Keith English is listed as a first-year player though he was in camp with the Raiders in 1989 after leaving Colorado.

Cleveland Gary (sore back) practiced at half-speed, and he’s listed as questionable for Friday night’s game. Out of the game are linebacker Fred Strickland (hamstring injury), tackle Robert Cox (back injury), guard Joe Milinichik (thumb injury) and linebacker Mel Owens (back injury).

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