Unless you can talk a mile-a-minute, spew boxing cliches like left jabs, demand a trade every week or so, complain religiously about the San Francisco 49ers’ salaries, or dream up a zany armed forces salute for your defensive coordinator, you can’t really replace LeRoy Irvin at cornerback.
So, naturally, Bobby Humphery isn’t trying. Let’s just say Humphery is moving into the right corner position once rented by Irvin, released last spring by the Rams after 10 seasons of notes and quotes.
In fact, Humphery, acquired on draft day from the New York Jets for a fifth-round choice, has been as controversial as a sunrise, and just about as consistent. The questions concerning Humphery’s cover abilities, or lack thereof, have given way to some answers.
Humphery, 29, has intercepted passes in each of the last two exhibition games, although he said those plays were no big deals in establishing himself as a Ram.
“It may help,” he said, “but I don’t see it that way. I’m just trying to show the coaches and the team that I can contribute to what they have. That’s my ultimate goal.”
The Rams, more than others, have been sold on Humphery for some time, even after one of their own, Flipper Anderson, beat him deep in a game last season. Humphery, in turn, has taken to his new environment with caution.
“It’s like taking a new job,” he said. “You come out and do the best you can and try to do what the company asks you to do, and do it to the best of your ability. That’s the way I’ve looked at that. I’m just trying to let them accept me as a player and trying to do the things they want to see in a player.”
When the trade was made, Humphery was supposed to play left corner and lend veteran leadership to Darryl Henley, the projected starter at right corner.
But since Henley’s hip injury, Jerry Gray has been moved from free safety back to left corner, with Humphery switching to right corner. And that may not be such a great deal for the new corner in town.
Why? Because opponents figured to pick more on Henley and his inexperience than on Humphery, an eight-year veteran. But with Gray, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, back at corner, quarterbacks, given a choice, will probably prefer working against Humphery.
Is he prepared?
“I’m going to have to be,” he said. “I can see why, because he (Gray) is very talented and he’s very smart. I’m trying to get as comfortable as he is. If they want to come to my side, I’m going to be up to the task. I’m going to have to be up to the task.”
Humphery said other teams used the same strategy in the years he played in New York.
“It wasn’t so much that I was the weak link, but it was just because teams are mostly right-handed and that’s the way they chose to attack us,” he said. “I’m used to being thrown at a lot; I’ve got to be up for the challenge.”
Defensive end Gary Jeter, who played six years with the Rams before signing a two-year deal with New England in 1989, was released by the Patriots Tuesday but has told reporters there that he still wants to play.
Given the Rams’ current crisis in the defensive line, might the 35-year-old Jeter return to Anaheim?
“We would probably talk to him,” Coach John Robinson said. “Just to see where he is, see how he’s doing. He had an injury early in camp that’s pretty close to being healed.”
Jeter, suffering from hip and thigh injuries, had not played for the Patriots this summer.
The Rams offered Jeter a one-year contract to remain with the team in 1989, but he left as a Plan B free agent when New England offered him two years and some enticing guarantees.
Jeter received $250,000 in base salary last season and a $200,000 reporting bonus, plus other incentives. His 1990 base salary of $250,000 was not guaranteed, however, leaving the Rams some room to negotiate.
In 1988, his last year with the Rams, Jeter recorded 11 1/2 quarterback sacks, second on the team to Kevin Greene’s 16 1/2.
Mel Owens, the 10-year veteran linebacker, is still bedridden with his back injury. He’s allowed to get up one hour a day for physical therapy. Owens originally injured his back in training camp at UC Irvine. He aggravated it on the long plane ride to and from Berlin, and wrenched it completely in the exhibition game against San Diego Aug. 18. “It was like stripping gears,” he said. “What can you say? That’s football.” There is no timetable on Owens’ return.
New punter Keith English reported to camp and worked out with the team Wednesday. He said he figured something was up with the Rams when the Chargers gave him every kick in the game at Anaheim Stadium. It turns out San Diego was showcasing English, who was a free agent last year and couldn’t catch on with the Raiders. English said he spent a total of three exhibition games with the Raiders but didn’t kick in a game. “It’s kind of tough when you’re a free agent coming out of college and they won’t let you kick in preseason,” English said.
Running back Cleveland Gary’s back is still bothering him, and he’ll make only a token appearance against the Redskins Friday night in Washington, according to Coach John Robinson.