Don’t look now, but the role as the Rams’ primary tailback is beginning to slip out of Cleveland Gary’s hands as swiftly as those footballs have been the past three weeks.
After Gary fumbled one away in Sunday’s first quarter--his third lost fumble in three weeks--Coach John Robinson yanked him in favor of little-used Gaston Green, and then after the Rams’ 38-23 victory over the Browns, the coach had much praise for Green.
Robinson didn’t have quite so many kind words for Gary, however, who saw limited post-fumble time.
“That’s what you call on-the-job training,” Robinson said of the Gary hook. “He can’t fumble the ball.
“I’ve been negligent, I guess you’d almost say, in (not) playing Gaston. And he has earned the right to play on this football team.”
Green, who had only 31 carries all season before Sunday, rushed 13 times for 57 yards and caught one pass for a 16-yard touchdown.
“I really haven’t had the chance too much in my career, so it felt good to get in there early and get some carries,” Green said. “Coach Robinson decides who plays when, and I just wanted to do everything I could in this opportunity.”
With Gary’s fumbles bothering Robinson, could Green begin to challenge for the starting spot?
“I think they’re both good players,” Robinson said. “I don’t want it to be one of those teeter-totters where one’s up, the other’s down, but they’re both good players. Gaston has proven that he can do some things.”
Kevin Greene said he was just as surprised as everybody else when the referee waived off his apparent forced fumble on a sack of Bernie Kosar, Browns quarterback. Greene came at Kosar from the blind side, and the ball appeared to spring loose on impact. It was recovered by defensive tackle Alvin Wright, but the referee ruled Kosar was in Greene’s grasp and blew the play dead as a sack.
“In the grasp?” said Greene, who had three sacks Sunday. “I hit him. I hit him. OK, I can understand if I was pulling him to the ground and then he fumbled. OK. But I thought I put a pretty good shot on him.”
The Rams and Browns were involved in some pushing and shoving in the final moments of the game when the Rams were deep in Cleveland territory and trying to get their newest running back, Marcus Dupree, an NFL touchdown.
After Dupree dived into the line, several Browns appeared to take swings at him in the pile, and one player seemed to be twisting his leg after the play was blown dead.
“Man, I was saying, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’ ” said Dupree, who got his first playing time since the Giants’ game and gained eight yards in two carries. “I had to get up fighting, get a little respect,” he said.
Bud Carson is gone, fired as the Browns’ coach four weeks ago, and in Cleveland they’re campaigning for a similar fate for owner Art Modell.
Two T-shirts were making the rounds at Cleveland Stadium Sunday. One read: Losing Is A Work of Art. The other featured mug shots of the Three Stooges with the following inscription: Larry, Curly and Moe-dell.
Bigger messages were reserved for the bedsheet banners hanging all over the stadium. A sampling:
Art + Modell = 2 and 9.
Dear Santa, We Want A New Owner.
Art Must Go.
Hey Art, Stop The Maddness.
Hey Dawgs, check your spelling.
Times staff writer Mike Penner contributed to this story.