Rams Coach Jeff Fisher insists Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson is welcome to be around the team. Dickerson says he holds no ill will toward Fisher.
But neither man gave ground Tuesday in their feud, one that has plunged the struggling NFL team into controversy.
Fisher said Dickerson could not simultaneously criticize the Rams publicly and expect to receive special favors such as sideline passes.
Dickerson said he was not lobbying for anyone to be fired, but is holding fast to his promise to boycott games while Fisher is coach.
All this in a week when the 4-7 Rams travel to New England to play Tom Brady and the 9-2 Patriots.
“I don’t know where it got off course as far as he’s concerned,” Fisher said after practice. “He’s welcome here. He’s a Hall of Famer. I have great respect for his career, and his jacket, and what he represents.”
The tempest stems from a situation that began about two weeks ago but did not come to light until Monday.
Dickerson, who has been critical of the Rams on his radio show, had requested multiple pregame sideline passes for friends for the Rams’ Nov. 20 game against Miami at the Coliseum. Fisher called him and told him he could not expect favors when he criticized coaches and players. Dickerson said Fisher told him the players and coaches were uncomfortable with him on the sideline.
The dustup flared Monday after Dickerson revealed some of the back story on his radio show. It erupted in the evening after Fisher’s weekly news conference when Dickerson told his side of the story to multiple media outlets, including The Times.
Although Fisher said he had moved on, nearly every post-practice question he fielded Tuesday concerned the situation. Fisher was under the impression he and Dickerson had patched things up in their Nov. 17 phone call.
“I got a text from him moments after saying, ‘Thanks for the conversation, best of luck, have a good night and go Rams,’” Fisher said. “I don’t know what took place between then and now. But I’m on to New England now — we’re moving forward.”
Dickerson, on business in Canton, Ohio, said he is not mad at Fisher.
“I don’t hold a grudge against him,” Dickerson said. “I don’t have a vendetta against Jeff at all. My thing is, when he said to me that I make his players uncomfortable and his coaches uncomfortable, I don’t want to make anybody uncomfortable. That’s not my job. I want my team to play football.
“I know the players aren’t saying, ‘Oh, wow! That’s Eric Dickerson! We can’t concentrate!’ They’re not worried about that kind of stuff. But I don’t even want that distraction.”
Dickerson said he had received support from former NFL players and others via phone calls and social media, including a suggestion from a Hall of Fame linebacker.
“Lawrence Taylor said, ‘If he’d have called me, I would have put my [New York] Giants uniform on and run out on the field.’” Dickerson said, laughing.
Dickerson has said he believes Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer, was behind the decision to ban him from the sideline.
“Very disappointed in Kevin Demoff,” Dickerson said on ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter.’ “I told Jeff Fisher this at the beginning, I said ‘This didn’t come from you, this came from Kevin Demoff.’ And he started laughing. So I said that’s how I feel about this whole situation.”
Demoff told The Times: “I’ve reached out to Eric to address any concerns he has. It is important to all of us that he always feels welcomed and valued.”
Rams punter Johnny Hekker said players were not uncomfortable with Dickerson on the sideline.
“He’s a legend,” Hekker said, adding, “You see him on the jumbotron and it’s great for the fans. When the fans make noise it’s good for us as a team.
Players said they expected the situation to be resolved — “Eventually, they’ll hash it out,” defensive lineman William Hayes said — and that it was not a distraction.
“On game day you don’t worry about too much else except your assignment,” Hekker said.
Other than having to “answer this petty talk,” safety T.J. McDonald said, “we don’t put too much thought to it.”
Former Rams quarterback Jim Everett, a teammate of Dickerson’s in the 1980s, said the controversy stemmed from frustration.
“This whole thing is a product of losing,” Everett said. “You get frustrated. On Eric’s side, he’s speaking about what he sees and calling it out. There’s nothing wrong with having a voice.
“The Rams have the right to [withhold] sideline passes. It’s just unfortunate all this frustration came out on each other.
“I mean, can’t we all be grownups?”
Staff writer Lindsey Thiry contributed to this story.