In Eric Dickerson's mind, he fits the standard drug profile: He's rich, he's an athlete, he's black, and he likes to party.
"When you do drugs, if you're an athlete, it gets magnified," he said during a wide-ranging interview at the Rams' training camp Thursday. "That's what everybody thinks--that we use all type of drugs. They really believe that, especially kids.
"It's especially bad, myself being black, to see young black guys . . . two young black guys have lost their lives recently with drugs."
He was referring to Don Rogers of the Cleveland Browns and Maryland basketball player Len Bias, who had just been drafted by the Boston Celtics.
"(People) think, 'See, that just goes to show you. Black guys get this money and they go kill themselves with drugs,' " Dickerson said. "That's really sad."
But, he added, it's also partly true.
According to Dickerson, the majority of black athletes haven't had anything most of their lives. "We get some money and we get pulled in by what I call the wrong crowd," he said. "Somebody says, 'Just try it once.' And before long you're hooked."
Worse, Dickerson believes, the Rogers or Bias tragedies won't influence many drug users to stop.
"If somebody's really into it, that won't affect 'em. (They'll say), 'I know when to stop. I can handle it.'
"It's sad that their families have to listen to what everybody says afterward: 'He was on drugs, he deserved to die.' Nobody deserves to die, just because he's on drugs."
Dickerson said he wouldn't presume to tell a peer what to do, but in the off-season he waged his own campaign to nip the problem before it starts.
More than 500 of "Dickerson's Rangers" will be bused from Los Angeles to Anaheim to attend next Tuesday night's exhibition opener against the Houston Oilers. They are members of a youth group organized by Dickerson and the L.A. City Department of Parks and Recreation. Each has pledged not to use drugs.
Dickerson is the National Football League spokesman for the national "Just Say No" anti-drug program.
"This off-season I did spend a lot of time with the drug program because I look at myself as being a role model for kids, and I don't want kids to think that all athletes are drug users," he said.
He said he often is offered drugs by unknowing, casual acquaintances. He said he was stunned when a recent date asked him to give her some drugs, assuming he always had some with him.
"I tell 'em I don't do it," he said. "They're shocked. But they don't pressure me."
He said that if he is at a party where drugs are present, he leaves.
"The chances of a bust are pretty high," he said. "And if the police come, they're going to arrest everybody there. They would love nothing better than to catch me at a party with drugs, or somebody like Marcus (Allen of the Raiders), somebody they could get promoted on."
Dickerson endorses drug testing for athletes, within limits, and said: "I think they should test for steroids, too, but they won't because they probably feel it helps the game.
"It's unfair. The guys that take steroids are so strong that they're superhuman. You can't compete with 'em."
Dickerson said that he stays in condition with conventional workouts.
"I have an edge on a lot of running backs because I'm bigger than most (6-3 and 218) and faster than most," he said. "I want to keep that edge."
Approaching his fourth NFL season, he also would like to return to his form of 1984, when he set the NFL rushing record of 2,105 yards, before slipping to 1,234 after last year's holdout. The Rams' proposed new two-back offense could help.
"It'll keep the defense more balanced," Dickerson said. "With one back, they're unbalanced. They just see where (tight end) David Hill goes and know I'll be going there, too.
"I talked to some (opposing) players after the season, and they said, 'We knew what you were gonna run before you ran it.' It was very seldom we ran something to fool 'em, like play action."
The second back will be Barry Redden or Rob Carpenter at fullback, although the Rams say they are trying to trade Redden, at his request.
"I can understand his feelings," Dickerson said. "He can play for anybody. Nobody wants to sit behind another person.
"I'm getting all the attention. I'm getting all the credit. I really appreciate the fact that he sacrifices his talent to block for me. That's a big sacrifice, because he can most definitely run the football."
Dickerson also spoke of Coach John Robinson's newest assistant, Dick Coury, whose title is quarterback coach.
"Dick is more like an offensive coordinator," Dickerson said. "He runs the offense right now. He knows everybody's assignment. I like Dick. He'll help our offense quite a bit. He's brought some of his plays.
"He runs a swing (pass) to the halfback, like a pitch play, where I come out of the backfield running the ball. It'll work real well. Like if we're playing Chicago, they'd drop their linebackers (back in pass coverage) because they knew we weren't throwing to the backs."
Dickerson remains skeptical, though, about Robinson's promise to throw more passes this season.
"They say it now, they said it last year: 'We're gonna throw the ball,' " he said. "They'll have to show me. We're going to have to throw the ball if we're going to compete. It just won't work running the ball one play after another."
Ram Notes Starting inside linebacker Jim Collins and third-year nose tackle Shawn Miller ended their holdouts Thursday, leaving four players unsigned--first-round draft choice Mike Schad and veterans Mel Owens, Henry Ellard and Doug Reed. The Rams also signed free agent defensive back Lucious Smith, who played for them in 1980-82.