Just when Eric Dickerson appeared to be running for daylight Wednesday, the Rams threw him for a loss.
Dickerson, apparently moved by Coach John Robinson's strong suggestion that he was letting down the team, held a press conference at which he said he had dropped his demand to have a guaranteed contract extension signed before he would rejoin the team.
All he wanted, he said, was "a good-faith offer" that could be negotiated while he played.
That seemed to meet the Rams' earlier demand about halfway--that Dickerson must report before any negotiations take place.
But the Rams, told of Dickerson's proposal by reporters, flatly rejected it.
Robinson, speaking for the organization, said: "The things that were said today were just a bit of semantics and really do not change the issues. They (would) have a right to decide what is good faith and what isn't."
Good faith, Dickerson and his advisers indicated, seemed to be in the area of the $3.7 million, four-year agreement that Marcus Allen recently signed with the Raiders.
Robinson pointed out that Dickerson is under contract for two more seasons and said: "We do not believe it is a proper position--in fact, almost blackmail--(for Dickerson and his advisers) to say, 'We won't honor this contract until he signs the next contract.' "
Jack Rodri, one of Dickerson's advisers, told of Robinson's response, suspected a breakdown in communication, for Dickerson's proposal had been communicated to the Rams only through the media.
"Maybe there's a play on words here (and) I should talk once more with John Shaw," Rodri said, sounding discouraged. "But I'm at the end of my rope for today. I'll leave that for tomorrow."
Dickerson said the good-faith offer could even be extended by Shaw, the Ram vice president who has come to be regarded as his mortal enemy, as long as owner Georgia Frontiere confirms it.
"If he calls right today and makes a good-faith offer, I would go and play Sunday," Dickerson said. "I'd have to take Georgia backing him up on that. That's the only way I would take his offer.
"He has something to prove now, maybe, 'cause he feels like he can bring me to my knees. I trust Georgia's word, but Shaw is in total control of the financial situation. I don't trust Shaw."
Apparently, Dickerson also trusts Robinson, although the coach failed to show up at a meeting among the principals on Monday, then all but denounced Dickerson on Tuesday for leaving the Rams in a fix.
Wednesday Robinson said that Dickerson's backup, Barry Redden, probably will not play at Philadelphia Sunday because of a sprained ankle.
Robinson also said that Dickerson was getting bad advice.
"I understand his position with the football team," Dickerson said. "John has his own personal feelings. He has a team to run. I know they're in a spot, but I'm in a spot, too. John must understand that, also.
"I don't think I'm getting bad advice. I think my advice has been very good. First of all, I'm my own man. I'm the boss. Jack (Rodri) and David (Epstein), they do what I tell them. They follow my orders. So I may be giving the bad advice."
Rodri, president of the Ken Norton Personal Management Agency that has Dickerson as its only client, indicated privately that Robinson's emotional remarks of Tuesday had some influence on Dickerson.
"A lot," Rodri said. "Also, Eric's teammates (are a factor). He does feel obligated to his teammates. He does feel terrible that the team doesn't have Barry to depend on. Eric doesn't want to become the fall guy for the failure of the team."
Rodri also indicated that Dickerson's demand that an extension be guaranteed was now negotiable.
"We will not insist on anything but a good-faith offer, and then we'll negotiate a contract and worry about whether the contract is guaranteed," Rodri said.
Wednesday morning, before the press conference, Rodri and Epstein discussed the new strategy, which Epstein termed "a major concession. They (the Rams) described themselves as having made concessions previously, and I'm saying we now have made a major concession."
They explained the concept to Dickerson, who agreed to try it.
"Undoubtedly, they (the Rams) would come in lower than they planned to end up," Epstein said. "But at least it's a start. If they want to negotiate, they start with an offer and he'll go right into camp. Until you have an offer, there is nothing to negotiate."
Dickerson denied a report in the Boston Globe that he would demand a three-year contract extension (through 1989) at $2 million a year.
"That's false," he said. "Nobody in the NFL makes $2 million a year. I would never ask for a phenomenal number like that."
But he said he would hold firm for the going rate or stay out all season.
"I hope it doesn't come to that, but if it's necessary, yes, I would sit out the whole season," Dickerson said.