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Ram Notebook : Stram's On-Air Explanation of Ellard Holdout Refuted by Agent

September 29, 1986|CHRIS DUFRESNE and JOHN WEYLER | Times Staff Writer s

During the broadcast of Sunday's game between the Rams and Philadelphia Eagles, CBS analyst Hank Stram said that negotiations between the Rams and holdout wide receiver Henry Ellard have stalled because of Ellard's desire to relinquish his duties as a punt returner.

Sunday night, Ellard's agent, Mike Blatt, refuted Stram's statement.

"I don't know where he got that," Blatt said. "I never heard it."

Ellard, the Rams' leading receiver last year, was also the National Football Conference's leading punt returner, averaging 13.5 yards per return.

Ellard has missed the Rams' first four games in a contract dispute. He made $145,000 last season and has refused a Rams offer of $1.2 million for four years.

Blatt said he doesn't know where Stram got his information about Ellard not wanting to return punts.

"It beats me," Blatt said. "He didn't get it from Henry or me."

Buddy Ryan looked disbelievingly at the broadcaster who had posed the inevitable question during his postgame interview Sunday.

He shook his head and repeated the question.

"Is this the biggest thrill of my life? Well, let's say it's the greatest thing that's happened to me since last January in New Orleans," he said, referring to the Bears' 46-10 Super Bowl victory over New England.

Sunday's 34-20 victory over the Rams was Ryan's first victory as a head coach, but he put that in perspective, too.

"It doesn't matter if you're an assistant coach or a head coach or a ball boy," he said. "All those Ws mean something."

For Ryan and the Eagles, this W means they're no longer W-less.

Veteran Philadelphia tight end John Spagnola, who had lost his place in the starting lineup, was a starter again Sunday and he finished with 4 catches for 48 yards and a touchdown.

Three of those receptions--including the 15-yard touchdown from Ron Jaworski--came on the Eagles' second possession.

"I was encouraged that Ron went to me early," Spagnola said. "Then both wide receivers (Mike Quick and Kenny Jackson) caught touchdown passes and that's very encouraging because when you have a balanced attack, you're that much harder to scout and that much harder to prepare for."

Spagnola thinks the game was a turning point for the inexperienced Eagles and says he felt the change coming during the week.

"Our practices were good," he said. "We prepared for this game the way you're supposed to prepare for an NFL game. We seemed more confident, even a little reckless, which is good because it eliminates the tentativeness which has been a problem for us so far."

There was nothing tentative about the Eagles Sunday. The offense amassed 395 yards and the defense shut out the Rams until the outcome was decided.

Bring on the Trojans: Eric Dickerson wondered afterward if the Rams might be playing out of their league. "I don't think we could have beaten USC today," he said. "I take that back. Make that Occidental. That's how bad it was out there."

A game to remember? Well, maybe not. "This was one of those days that will stick with you for the rest of your life," Ram guard Dennis Harrah said. "Anyone who has an excuse, well, they're making something up. I'm not proud of it."

Reminders of Chicago: With the Eagles leading, 27-0, at halftime, a Philadelphia writer mused: "The Rams look so unprepared today you'd think this was a playoff game."

Instant Boos: Midway through the third quarter, with the Rams driving toward their first touchdown, running back Barry Redden dove over an Eagle tackler, fumbled and Roynell Young recovered for Philadelphia.

The Eagles' offense came on the field--as did the Rams' defensive unit--but play was delayed when Ram Coach John Robinson walked out on the field, waving frantically and pointing up toward the press box.

The officials eventually consulted with their partner, Nick Skorich, watching the instant replays, and he ruled that Redden had fumbled after hitting the artificial turf.

Since the ground cannot cause a fumble, the Rams regained possession and the crowd, predictably, vented its displeasure.

Andre Waters, the Eagles' safety who put the hit on Steve Bartkowski's knee, said afterward that he meant no harm.

"I really feel bad about that," Waters said. "I play aggressively and I'm known as a hitter, but I certainly don't want to end anyone's career. I went over and apologized."

Bartkowski accepted. "The guy was just playing football," he said of the hit. "I just didn't see him."

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