PRO FOOTBALL / DAILY REPORT : RAMS : Top Pick Bettis Getting Closer to a Deal

The agent for running back Jerome Bettis said Wednesday that the Rams have agreed to his request for an escape clause on a five-year contract.

C. Lamont Smith and the Rams had been at odds on the length of a deal for Bettis. Smith wanted four years, the Rams five. By accepting Smith's escape clause, the Rams have agreed to drop the final year of the deal if Bettis meets certain criteria.

"We got that commitment at about 3:45 in the morning my time," said Smith, who has been negotiating from Washington via the telephone with Jay Zygmunt, Ram senior vice president. "Now it's a matter of structure and how the money is going to be paid."

Smith said he hopes to complete the deal in the next two days.


The Rams will take a look at quarterbacks T.J. Rubley and Jamie Martin in a rookie scrimmage with the Chargers at UC San Diego today at 10 a.m.

Coach Chuck Knox said he would also like to focus on the team's offensive line and its wide receivers.

The Rams lost tackle Darryl Ashmore for several weeks because of a knee injury earlier this week. In Wednesday's practices, the Rams' lack of depth at tackle became all too obvious. Defensive end Warren Powers, who will have to work hard to make the roster, was impressive, consistently breaking free to harass the quarterbacks.

Russell White, the Rams' third-round pick, will be given a full shift at running back, and Knox said fullback Tim Lester will also carry the ball.

"We know he can block," Knox said.

The outcome of the scrimmage apparently will not be decided by a field goal. The Rams released their only kicker in camp, UCLA's Louis Perez, to make room for tight end Troy Drayton, who signed a three-year contract Tuesday night.

"We had to get to 80 and we weren't going to do anything with the field-goal kickers in the scrimmage," Knox said. "It was the more expedient thing to do rather than a lack of ability or confidence we might have had in him. We could bring him back in a couple of days."

Tony Zendejas, who has connected on 38 of his last 43 field-goal attempts, will report to Cal State Fullerton along with the remainder of the team's veterans tonight.

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