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RAMS : Reed’s Days in Camp May Be Numbered

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Less than a month after Coach John Robinson declared that there was “zero” chance of Doug Reed wearing a Ram uniform this year, the defensive lineman was suited up and practicing Tuesday afternoon at UC Irvine.

He probably won’t be around for long, though.

Reed, who turned down an offer of $550,000 in January and has been asking to be either waived or traded since, settled for a one-year, $200,000 contract Monday night.

Robinson would not say if the Rams intended to trade Reed, but unsigned players cannot be traded under league rules and the nine-year veteran became infinitely more marketable when he agreed to the Rams’ low-ball offer.

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“We’re at a place where him making a deal on his own didn’t work out and us creating a deal for him didn’t work out,” Robinson said. “So now he needs to work and have an opportunity. There may be an opportunity for him here. There may be an opportunity for him somewhere else.”

Robinson said Reed would get plenty of playing time during Monday night’s exhibition game against the San Diego Chargers at Anaheim Stadium. The Rams then will evaluate Reed’s performance and “make a decision early next week as to our plans and his plans,” Robinson said.

Reed’s agent, Peter Funsten, said the chances of Reed remaining a Ram beyond next Monday or Tuesday were “a longshot.” If Reed isn’t traded by then, he might be released.

“Basically, we have some sort of understanding as to some basic parameters (for the timing of a trade or Reed’s release),” Funsten said. “But whether that will happen remains to be seen.”

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Actually, Reed could fit nicely into the Rams’ new defensive puzzle as an inside lineman designated to stop the run, his forte during his career with the team. Last year, Reed recorded 27 tackles and two sacks in 16 games.

“We’re looking for a defender against the run inside, so he could fit in,” Robinson admitted. “We’re going to take it day by day and see how it goes, see if he fits into what we’re doing and see if we have a positive environment. Then we’ll move forward.

“We would like to say that the new defensive staff and he started out from scratch.”

That certainly seems to be the feeling of defensive coordinator Jeff Fisher.

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“I told him to put his hat on backward, come in here like a rookie and show me what he’s got,” Fisher said. “He seems excited to get going and I’m excited.”

Reed, who held out until the week before the season opener last year, then signed a one-year contract, was not protected by the Rams during the off-season. He failed to sign with another team during the Plan B period.

Funsten said Reed would “conduct his business in a professional manner, but he isn’t necessarily happy.” Reed declined to comment.

To make room for Reed on the roster, the Rams released Greg Harris, a free-agent receiver from Troy State.

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The battle between Michael Stewart and Anthony Newman for the starting strong safety job is heating up, and the Rams clearly like it hot.

“Michael’s more of a physical attacker, although Anthony can attack,” Robinson said. “Anthony’s probably a little better in space than Mike, although we used to think of Mike as a linebacker-type of safety but we don’t see him that way anymore.”

Fisher described Stewart as “a very good cover guy.”

Newman is listed as Stewart’s backup on the club’s depth charts, but his play in Saturday’s exhibition against the Atlanta Falcons opened some eyes.

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“All the things we had hoped for, in terms of closing and making the play, he did,” Robinson said. “Let’s just say he’s starting to realize the expectations that everybody had for him. He had always been a guy who looked like there was something holding him back. Maybe he was just trying too hard, but (Saturday) he played with a freedom that was very impressive.”

Robinson said both players will be on the field during obvious passing situations Monday night and would probably share the rest of the playing time. The battle for the starting position could “go back and forth, back and forth,” he said.

“I feel we’re really starting to get our head above ground at that position,” Robinson said.

Add battle: The fight at middle linebacker also rages, with Larry Kelm, Frank Stams and Glenell Sanders going head-to-head-to-head.

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When it comes to heads, however, Kelm might have the edge.

“Larry Kelm will be everything Jeff Fisher ever dreamed of in terms of a man to execute a game plan,” Robinson said. “Whether he can execute the game plan and make the tackle and stand in there and do it, we’ll have to see.”

Another player eliciting rave reviews in recent weeks has been guard Joe Milinichik. Milinichik is throwing his weight around on the practice field these days. And we’re talking about more than 300 pounds.

Milinichik, who came to the Rams via the Plan B route from Detroit last year but missed much of last season with a broken thumb, doesn’t want to talk about the frustrations of the past. He just wants to concentrate on making a contribution in 1991.

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“My goals are to improve each and every day and let things work out the way they’re supposed to work out,” he said. “Sure, I want to start and do all kinds of things, but I’m going to keep my eyes on the path rather than the goal.”

Robinson says Milinichik’s approach has put him in a good position to earn a starting job.

“He fits in well, he’s been here every day and he’s extremely physical,” Robinson said. “He’s the strongest man on our front line. The Joffrey Ballet is not going to steal him from us, but he’s a powerful, powerful man.”

Notes

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Safety Anthony Newman was poked in the eye during Tuesday’s morning practice and sat out the afternoon workout. He’s scheduled to return to practice today.


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