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Rams Risk Losing Miller : NFL: But Ortmayer says quarterback won’t be chosen in expansion draft.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Get used to it, St. Louis.

The Rams signed quarterback Chris Miller to a three-year, $9-million contract before last season; benched him in favor of journeyman Chris Chandler; said Wednesday that based on last season’s results Miller would have to be considered the team’s starting quarterback in 1995, and then announced they were making Miller available to Jacksonville and Charlotte in next month’s re-allocation draft.

Confused?

Meet Steve Ortmayer, the Rams’ new vice president of football operations. In San Diego, Ortmayer held a similar post but lost it in part because his credibility suffered after responding routinely to questions about personnel with double-talk.

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Wednesday, in his first official act with the Rams, Ortmayer said the team submitted the names of running back Howard Griffith, linebacker Chris Martin, wide receiver Richard Buchanan, running back Tim Lester, defensive end Gerald Robinson and quarterback Chris Miller to the league for the Feb. 15 re-allocation draft.

Why Miller?

“I think that everything we did and thought through and talked through was a function of where we are in history,” Ortmayer said. “This has not occurred since 1976. The situation here is we’ve been given certain perimeters limiting who is available in the expansion draft.”

Why Miller?

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“That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” Ortmayer said. “Within the perimeters of what we were able to do, who to choose from, at this point in time we put on the list a player with a large contract with an injury history over the last couple years that might make him a very safe player to put out there at this time.”

Do the Rams think Charlotte and Jacksonville will pass on Miller?

“We don’t think they will take him,” Ortmayer said.

Do you want him back?

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“Absolutely,” Ortmayer said.

Then why expose him to the expansion teams?

“We have to decide where we are willing to take a shot and where we are not willing to take a shot. With his recent injury history and significant (contract) number, this is a place where we could take a shot.”

If Charlotte or Jacksonville selects Miller, they might be doing the Rams a favor. If the Rams release Miller, something that had been discussed earlier, $600,000 in remaining signing bonuses will be attached to their 1995 salary cap. If Charlotte or Jacksonville take Miller, the $600,000 will count against their cap, as well as his $3 million salary next season.

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Haven’t the Rams indicated that they have lost interest in Miller?

“That’s totally inaccurate,” Ortmayer said.

Miller, who ranked 19th in the league, completed 173 of 317 passes (54.6%) for 2,104 yards with 16 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. Miller came to the Rams with a reputation for getting hurt and lived up to it, missing three games because of injuries and being forced from three others with injuries.

Coach Chuck Knox, who was recently fired, favored Chandler after Miller began making excuses for his poor play. Chandler, who earned $600,000 last year, also had to be replaced in three games because of various injuries.

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Despite the number of injuries to Miller and Chandler and the team’s poor record, the Rams declined to experiment with Tommy Maddox. But Ortmayer mentioned Maddox’s name several times, and suggested he might figure in the team’s plans.

“Maddox will be given every opportunity to emerge,” Ortmayer said.


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