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PRO FOOTBALL / Week 2 : Rams Try to Concentrate on the Vikings : Players Must Block Out Strike Issues So They Can Block and Tackle

September 20, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

With a player strike looming overhead like a cloud of acid rain, the Rams play the Minnesota Vikings today at Anaheim Stadium with as many concerns about the potential fallout a walkout could bring to the future of the National Football League and the lives of its players.

With a strike approaching Tuesday, there are picket signs to be made and lines to be crossed and decisions to be made. Does a player stay or does he walk? If he stays, does he ask the neighbor to start his station wagon in the morning?

"I haven't made up my mind as to what I'm going to do," Ram running back Mike Guman said. "I don't think anybody has. Right now, I'm backing the union and what it's trying to do. But there's always that reasonable doubt there, too. As an individual, you have to make that decision."

Yes, the thought of crossing a picket line has crossed Guman's mind.

"I don't know how much longer I'm going to be playing this game," Guman said. "I have to look out for myself and my security and security of my family. It's a tough decision. I'm behind the union now, but when push comes to shove, I don't know. I'll have to make a decision."

The hope is that the Rams can push decisions and distractions aside just long enough to come together as a team, something that didn't quite happen in last Sunday's loss to the Houston Oilers.

And while the burden of a possible strike weighs heavy on minds and shoulders, even the most strike-confused Rams insist they can arouse once more their spirit of competition.

"You can't say it isn't a distraction because it is," Guman said. "Guys are talking about it, it's right around the corner. You're talking about people's lives and our livelihood. But as far as football, I don't think it has that much effect. We have a game to play, too. We don't know how many games are going to be canceled so this looms as a very big game for us and everyone in the league."

After the Rams' pratfall in the Astrodome, the need for a win seems paramount. Who knows when the next one will come?

With that in mind, Ram Coach John Robinson has fastened on strike blinders this week, refusing to believe that a labor issue could affect the game.

"The strike doesn't mean anything," he said. "It does Monday or Tuesday, but we're trying to win a game. It's time to play. I refuse to accept that (the strike). If it would affect our performance it would certainly affect Minnesota's, too."

This team's performance suffered enough in Houston, where the Oilers handed the Rams and their newly touted passing game a stunning defeat.

The stun-gun was most often targeted at quarterback Jim Everett, who was shaken by a heavy pass rush and finished the day with 9 completions in 26 attempts for 125 yards and 2 interceptions.

Everett has had little time to think about a strike this week. It's a certain reputation that concerns him.

The Ram offense misfired most of the day against the Oilers, something Everett said won't happen again.

Was all that new offense just too much?

"Our game plan changed to the point of doing things we totally understand," he said. "I'm not saying we're reverting. We're just doing things we totally understand as a unit."

Everett's shaky opener has made him eager to get back on the field.

"All I'm thinking about is Sunday," he said, diverting questions about the strike. "I'm serious about that. I'm keyed into the game and after that, anything could happen. The world could end after Sunday. I have opinions on what I think of everything and after our victory Sunday I can certainly talk about them."

But will victory come that easily? The Vikings, 34-19 winners against the Detroit Lions last week, are a team with playoff aspirations this year. Their opening-day victory was earned despite the absence of quarterback Tommy Kramer, who missed that game and will miss this one with a pinched nerve in the shoulder of his throwing arm.

Kramer's replacement, Wade Wilson, who had three of his first seven passes intercepted last week, recovered in time to throw three touchdown passes in the comeback victory over the Lions.

The Vikings clearly see this game as a way to see how they stack up against some of the better teams, the Rams presumably still being one of those teams.

"We recognize that the Rams are a very solid club," Viking Coach Jerry Burns said. "They have very talented people. Our hopes and ambitions are that if we want to be a playoff team, we've got to play teams like the Rams eyeball to eyeball. We have to line up and play at their level."

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