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Rams Hope Their Faith in Robinson Will Finally Pay Dividends

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Based on results, you would have to say defensive end Gerald Robinson is a stiff.

Three disastrous years in Minnesota, two forgettable campaigns with the Chargers, and consider last season: The Rams paid Robinson $1.3 million and received three sacks in return.

There have been no charges of extortion or blackmail filed against Robinson, but still you wonder just what he has on these teams to remain employed for nine years in the NFL.

“I love the guy,” said George Dyer, Ram defensive coordinator. “This is a guy who will throw his body around. He’s not a guy who wants to live forever. He knows he’s paid well to give it up and he will give it up.”

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So what’s the problem--poor aim? He throws his body at the quarterback all the time, but just misses? The guy’s primary assignment during his career has been to tackle the quarterback, and to date he is averaging 2.4 sacks--a year.

“My career has been very disappointing to me,” Robinson said, “and I’m quite sure it’s been very disappointing to other people, too.”

No excuses, Robinson said, his career careened off course from almost the beginning, but he has not surrendered.

“If I start the whole year at right defensive end,” Robinson said, “I know I will be a double-figures sack guy.”

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You have to scoff--until you spend the time to talk to the big stiff, ah, guy. Dyer has tried to explain it: “I know what you’re saying, but I’m telling you the guy’s tough, real tough, and I think he’s capable of having a big year. Talk to him, you’ll see, there’s something special there.”

Dyer made his pitch on behalf of Robinson before the Rams’ exhibition opener with Green Bay, but then no one was paying attention. Two sacks against the Packers, however, put Robinson in the spotlight.

“I know I’m a player,” Robinson said. “I’ve just been asked to do things that haven’t always been in my best interests as a football player. It’s been very frustrating, but I’ve just sat back and prayed to God that I’ll get my chance one day.”

Fred Stokes’ wrenched knee early on in training camp provided Robinson an immediate chance to impress. And now that he’s on the right side, the side that suits his skills the best, he has the opportunity to change the opinions of his critics.

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“I don’t like to complain,” Robinson said. “People talk, and you can’t say it doesn’t bother you, but they don’t know the whole story.”

Robinson, who was the 14th player selected in the 1986 draft, suffered a broken leg his rookie season in Minnesota. A year later he tore a knee ligament, which required him to spend an additional year recuperating on injured reserve.

His first three years in the game were a waste, and after being dumped by Minnesota, he was confined to injured reserve and then the bench in San Diego. Misfortune might have driven him from the game had he not been supported by his own fan club.

“I’m the baby of 12 kids,” Robinson said. “I can call somebody at any time of the day and hear a friendly voice. That’s important to me; we’re a very close group.

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“To be truthful, the reason I stayed with this game when everything was so tough was to take care of my mom. My mom had 12 kids and nothing else in life, and so those days when I thought about quitting, I thought about my mom and worked harder. I wanted her to have the best things in life.”

Robinson’s father died when he was 14 and so his mother, Annie, became his biggest fan during high school and college.

“She didn’t want me to play football in high school,” he said. “I told her I was staying after school for band until one day someone told her, ‘That son of yours is going to be a pretty good football player.’

“She was there for all my games, though, and when I got hurt, she wanted me to give football up. I was coming off injured reserve and getting better and then she died.

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“That’s when I was going to quit. I made my decision. My mother and I were so close, she was gone and there was nothing to play for anymore.”

Robinson’s brother, Willie, however, talked him out of it, and so he played on and eventually joined the Rams.

“I had lost a lot of drive with my mom’s passing,” he said. “Things were not going well and I had been treated like a piece of meat after being hurt in Minnesota. But I came here and George Dyer put his faith in me and that meant so much.

“Now that I’m playing, I just wish I could walk out of the stadium and see my mom. She only saw me play in one professional game in person, and if she was still here, I’d be flying her in here all the time.”

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And damn the stats and the critics, he said, there would be no doubt about how his mother felt about his game.

“You know how you are to your mom,” he said. “You’re the best in the world.”


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