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RAMS : Gary Ready to Grab His Second Chance

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Healthier now, and more than a week removed from his last fumble, Cleveland Gary says he is at peace and making progress.

Gary lost his starting tailback job to Robert Delpino after fumbling his third carry of 1991, and has since watched Delpino pile up three touchdowns and 319 yards from scrimmage.

Gary, who has suffered from hamstring and rib injuries this summer, declined to talk to the media during last week’s preparations for the New York Giant game, but Wednesday emphasized that he can handle the pressure of being labeled a fumbler and the uncertainty of splitting time with Delpino.

“Everybody started writing that I’ve got fumbling problems, and it’s not true,” Gary said. “I went through a whole preseason, no fumbles.

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“I know I don’t have a fumbling problem. That’s what makes me not fumble, because I know that and I’m not going to read the newspapers . . . The media’s been great to me, but that’s what Cleveland has to do: stay focused.”

This year’s fumble, Gary says, was a result of not being able to lock the football onto his sore ribs. The ribs are still a little sore, he says, but not enough to prevent him from playing.

Ram Coach John Robinson last week suggested that Gary was a little tardy getting back to full speed, but this week he has been praising Gary for his recent practices and his five carries for 25 yards in Sunday’s game.

Delpino is still the starter, Robinson said Wednesday, but there’s no question Gary will get lots of playing time Sunday night against New Orleans.

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“Coach Robinson is a genius at the running game,” Gary said. “If guys can contribute to a win, that’s great for the Rams. It’s not a one-man show.

“For this team to win, there’s got to be more than one contributor. It’s a physical man’s game, and you’ve got 16 games, it wears a guy down.

"(Delpino’s) looking good, he’s done a good job and it’s great for this team because I want a Super Bowl ring. When the 49ers win, Montana can’t do it by himself. Roger Craig didn’t win it by himself, Jerry Rice didn’t win it by himself.

“Bobby has picked the team up by stepping in and doing a good job. There may come a time when I have to do the same thing.”

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Robinson says he has noticed a dramatic improvement in the way Gary has approached practice recently. Even though Delpino has sparkled, Robinson says Gary deserves playing time.

Less, not Mora: Jim Mora’s Saints are 2-0, coming off a victory in the decidedly unfriendly confines of Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, and leading the NFC West.

So you would think times are good in New Orleans. If you did, you wouldn’t be listening to Mora.

“Well, I can tell you what hasn’t been working,” Mora said on a conference call with local writers when asked what has. “We haven’t run the ball at all, our running game is absolutely awful. We’re ranked last in the National Football League running the football. We’re just awful running the football.

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“We haven’t protected the quarterback very well. Our kicking game hasn’t been very good other than our kicking aspect of it. We have not done a good job of stopping the pass. We’re ranked I think 24th in the league in pass defense, but we’ve done a good job against the run.

“We could very easily be 0-2, I guarantee you. You know, we win one game by three points (over Seattle) and we hang on for dear life and win the last one by a touchdown. We could very easily be 0-2.”

Plugging a hole: For a relatively unknown player, Ram defensive tackle Chris Pike has had some interesting relationships with teams in his off-and-on NFL career.

The 6-foot-8, 300-pound Pike was originally a sixth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1987 from Tulsa, but never signed a contract, sat out the season, and was soon traded to the Browns, where a knee injury forced him to sit out the next season, too.

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Pike played the 1989 and 1990 seasons in Cleveland under the careful tutelage of current Ram defensive line coach John Teerlinck, but had a habit of missing practices and meetings and was left unprotected by the Browns during the off-season. He signed a Plan-B deal with the San Diego Chargers.

“He went down there for a day,” Teerlinck said with a slight smile. “Things didn’t work out.”

Pike chose not to report to the team who had just signed him, possibly a first in Plan B history, and soon was waived by the befuddled Chargers. Teerlinck was on the phone with Pike immediately, telling him the Rams would be interested in him if injuries started striking.

“We told him if we needed someone to put a finger in the dike,” Teerlinck said, “we’d call him.”

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Last Sunday, when defensive tackle Alvin Wright, the Rams’ only 300-pounder on defense, went out with a shoulder injury, the Rams gave Pike a call.

“He has to be coached a certain way,” said Teerlinck, whose ties to Pike go back to when Teerlinck recruited Pike to come to the University of Illinois, a plan that was scuttled when Teerlinck left Illinois before Pike could play for the school.

“He was here last night at 10:30 and we were walking through the chairs. We set up the chairs as an offensive line and walked through our defenses for a couple hours. You’ve got to be willing to do that kind of thing with him.”

Will Teerlinck be calling Pike every morning to wake him up as he is rumored to have done in Cleveland?

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“If it takes that,” Teerlinck said. “If it takes me to pick him up and drive him here, I will.”


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