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RAMS : Michael Young Cuts Out Middleman, Negotiates Own Contract

July 22, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

Ram receiver Michael Young may make minor sports history sometime this week when he signs a two-year contract having not, repeat not, solicited or even desired the services of a sports agent.

The thought of the 25-year-old Young facing the Rams' stone-wall front office without counsel is chilling enough, given the Rams' reputation for, uh, handling player negotiations.

But Young, acting on his own, is about to accomplish what holdout Henry Ellard has been unable to do in more than a year--cut a deal.

"I'll tell you what," Young said. "I think it worked out well. I don't think an agent could have gotten me more. Plus, I saved the agent's fee."

And Young figures that will amount to almost $12,000 on a deal that will pay the receiver $142,500 this season and $162,500 in 1988. Young, who made $90,000 last season, could earn an additional $35,000 each year in incentive bonuses.

Young said his worst fears about facing Jay Zygmunt, the team's general counsel, were never realized. In other words, there was no Ram rough stuff in the form of choke holds, half Nelsons or water torture.

"I felt like they were fair," Young said. "They didn't try to take advantage of my inexperience. Jay was patient and explained a lot of things that I didn't understand. And he returned all my calls."

Young, formerly of UCLA and starting his third season with the Rams, said he avoided what can sometimes become an adversary relationship between management and a player's agent, which at least partially explains the impasse in the Ellard non-negotiations.

Of course, Ellard's and Young's contract situations are about as different as their tax brackets.

Still, the theory deserves consideration.

"Sometimes it's trouble when you get two guys with egos," Young said. "A player can get caught in between. I can't say that Henry should have gone in and done his own contract."

But should Young ever reach stardom and Ellard's financial position, he probably will still think twice about hiring an agent.

"Agents have done a lot of good," he said. "But in a lot of situations, they're unneeded. And that means more money in your pocket."

One Ram veteran who is definitely not holding out is third-year linebacker Kevin Greene, who actually checked into camp a week early and is mildly upset that the coaching staff won't allow him to put on a uniform until the veterans arrive Sunday.

"I am kind of storming around here," Greene said. "I wish I was out there kicking some butt, but I don't want to wear myself out."

Greene also has his mind set on taking Mike Wilcher's starting spot at outside right linebacker.

Wilcher, because of contract problems, may not be in camp on time.

"I hope Mike Wilcher will be a holdout," Greene said. "I hate to say it, but in the game of football--regardless how you get there, you get there."

Greene also has an opinion on the seven Ram draft choices who have decided to stay out of camp because of contract disputes.

"This is their chance to make an NFL team," Greene said. "If their agents are telling them to hold out, it's the rookies' fault. I'd take $1,000 less to be here and make the team."

A fifth-round pick from Auburn, Greene said the key is to make the team first and ask for money later.

"I made it clear to my agent that I wanted to be in camp," Greene said. "Maybe he took less, but he knew I wanted to be in camp."

So on what side of the fence does a coach sit when the people who pay him to coach a team to the Super Bowl have not yet signed seven draft choices and eight key veterans to contracts?

If you're John Robinson, you straddle it, trying to look diplomatic.

There apparently is not a sticky situation that Robinson cannot shape and then resolve in a manner that comes out sounding acceptable.

Robinson was at his best recently when trying to fend off questions about a possible rift between the coach and his front office over the lack of player signings.

There was levity: "If I was the GM, all these guys would be in camp and Georgia (owner Georgia Frontiere) would be flying coach to London."

And compromise: "I do get frustrated, certainly, but sometimes they probably look at me and get frustrated at me as a coach."

And separation of powers: "I would never expect management to say, 'Why don't you give Eric Dickerson the ball more?' I think they know how I feel, but part of the responsibility is to respect others in the organization."

And exerting pressure: "The reality is that unless (the draft choices) come in soon, they lose their chance to play during the year. Once the veterans come in, they can go so fast that sometimes it's overwhelming."

Ram Notes

If you were handicapping the chances of the Rams' unsigned eight reporting on time Sunday in the form of a standard NFL injury report, it might read like this: Henry Ellard, out. Mike Wilcher, very doubtful. Irv Pankey, doubtful. Mike Lansford, Tony Hunter, Duval Love and Vince Newsome, all questionable. Michael Young, probable. . . . Defensive line coach Marv Goux, who recently underwent prostate surgery, has been a spectator at training camp the last two days. He's hoping to be back to coaching in less than a month. . . . Coach John Robinson has expressed some interest in wide receiver Tony Hill, released recently by the Dallas Cowboys. . . . Among the few recognizable faces in camp is Mike Schad, last year's first-round pick who is being converted from offensive tackle to guard. And Robinson says that Schad might not be a bust after all. "There was concern whether we made a colossal error," Robinson said. "But based on the last two days, I'm sure we haven't."

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