Rookie Lyght Becomes No. 2 in Ram Salaries

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Todd Lyght signed a five-year, $5.55-million contract with the Rams Friday, ending his 30 days of Los Angeles sightseeing and presumably solving his cash-machine problems.

"I knew I definitely had to sign when I was at the (automated teller) last night and I only had $6 in my account," Lyght said after being introduced by owner Georgia Frontiere at the Boys & Girls Club luncheon at the Bonaventure Hotel.

Lyght became the Rams' second-highest-paid player--only quarterback Jim Everett will be paid more. Lyght's contract includes a signing bonus of more than $2.5 million that is not deferred.

Lyght will not play in the team's third exhibition, against the Seattle Seahawks tonight at Anaheim Stadium.

But the Rams' No. 1 draft choice out of Notre Dame will see action next Thursday at Memphis, Tenn., where the Rams will play their final exhibition, against the Houston Oilers.

Although Coach John Robinson cautioned that Lyght must compete against Darryl Henley, Ram assistant coaches indicated that he could win the starting right cornerback job by the second or third week of the season.

Lyght said that he had been eager to begin playing again.

"I was thinking to myself, man, I don't want it to drag on that long because I wanted to play some football, most definitely," Lyght said. "I was running out of things to do. I've been to Magic Mountain, and I've been everywhere else. Now I was thinking I've got to play some football.

"I thought at the latest it would be last week, but I'm very happy they got it done so I could participate in one (exhibition) game."

Lyght said that he whiled away his holdout by going to Southland beaches and experiencing the night life.

He visited the Rams' practice site several times, once wading into some brush to try to remain inconspicuous.

"We were kidding him because he was out there with binoculars," secondary coach Tom Bettis said. "Somebody thought he was some spy or something."

Robinson, while extolling Lyght's potential to be an "elite" NFL cornerback, said it would probably be three weeks before Lyght was ready to seriously challenge for Henley's job.

"He doesn't have a first-string spot reserved, he's not penciled in at first string," Robinson said. "He's got an opportunity to compete, but I'm sure he knows, and everybody that's ever played pro football knows, he's coming from far behind.

"I just don't want him or anybody to be confused about how competitive it is to play, how much time he has to make up for, and I don't want any of our players to begin getting paranoid that somehow the competition for the position isn't fair.

"He won't play until he is the best corner."

After tonight's game, Lyght will be given a crash course in being an NFL cornerback, spending extra time before every practice privately with Bettis.

"We've got the long span (nine days) between the Houston game and the regular-season opener, so it gives Todd a lot of time to get into the groove," Bettis said. "We'll work him into it."

The last time Lyght played football was last January in the Hula Bowl, and new NFL regulations severely limited the time he could spend with the Rams in the off-season. Lyght skipped the team's July voluntary camp.

"A lot of buddies of mine have been giving me a hard time: 'You playing tomorrow? You playing tomorrow?' " Lyght said. "And I say, nah, I haven't practiced yet. I've got to go ahead and break my equipment in a little bit, then run out there against (Houston)."

Said Robinson: "He's going to work a swing shift here at night, and we're going to put some lights in here, he's going to go out here and get some guys.

"The point I think that is clear is his life changes now. It's just him and us. He's on the team, he has to earn his keep. Got a pretty good keep. But that's the reality of it, and he knows that."

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