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Another Ram Failure: Communication : Gary Is Said to Have Been Cut for Making Early Exit--but It Turns Out He Was Ill

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Ram decision to release running back Cleveland Gary on Sunday was affected by his halftime departure from Thursday night’s exhibition against the San Diego Chargers, sources said.

Apparently unbeknown to the Rams, however, Gary was ill Thursday evening, and, after suffering for four days, he underwent an emergency appendectomy Monday night.

Gary, who remains hospitalized in Miami, chose not to tell Ram coaches about his illness.

Coach Chuck Knox, through a spokesman, said the early departure had nothing to do with the decision to cut Gary. However, the subject did come up during Gary’s exit interview.

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After the Rams’ surprise announcement that Gary had been cut, the Dallas Cowboys immediately expressed interest and offered him a contract. They were unaware of his condition Monday night until advised by the media.

“Right now, I’m bummed out,” said Gary, who is expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks. “Without a doubt, had this not happened, I would have worked something out with Dallas.”

The Rams had never mentioned any displeasure with Gary’s performance before his release, and had talked about his value as a reliable backup.

“Whatever happened, at the very least now there’s an understanding why Cleveland had to leave the game early,” said Steve Feldman, Gary’s agent. “He told me he was in excruciating pain Thursday night, and he was already out of uniform because of a shoulder injury. He just wanted to get to bed.”

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Knox had ordered the team’s injured players to attend Thursday’s game in San Diego. On the ride to San Diego, Gary said he became ill.

“It was scary,” Gary said. “The pain was horrible. I just wanted to go home. . . . I’m a team player all the way, and I wouldn’t walk out on the team.”

When it came time to make cuts Sunday, Gary’s departure became a factor, sources said. The coaches decided they had to crack down, and with so much criticism surrounding the team, they wanted to make the point that they were all in this together--with the exception of one player who had chosen to leave early.

The Rams cut Gary, and said publicly they were doing so because of economics--his $500,000 salary--and because of his inability to contribute on special teams.

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But the Rams kept rookie James Bostic in place of Gary, and the coaches had talked freely about Bostic’s poor play. They also kept seldom-used Howard Griffith, and indicated that if Bettis became injured, they would begin a search elsewhere for his replacement.

“It’s just been a horrible weekend,” Feldman said. “It’s fortunate he went to the doctor Monday . . . his doctor said if he had waited one more day, his appendix would have burst.”


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