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RAMS : Guman Comes Down Off the Fence and Goes Along With His Teammates in a Unanimous Strike Vote

September 22, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

It will go down in John Robinson's log book as "weird Monday," the day he held a press luncheon and no one came to discuss his team's latest misadventure in football.

As the Ram coach spoke, his players were locked in a more important strike conference less than a block away at an Anaheim community center.

At the meeting, attended by National Football League Players Assn. Assistant Executive Director Doug Allen, the Rams voted unanimously to support the union in a players' strike, due to begin today.

Allen said the players will form picket lines outside Rams Park as soon as the team begins practicing with non-union players. Allen said the Rams will be joined in picket lines by members of the local chapter of the AFL-CIO.

"We don't want to do anything illegal, violent or undisciplined," Allen said. "They'll be on the picket line to make a point."

Carl Ekern, the Rams' player representative, wasn't making any guarantees.

"It's sort of the idea behind a picket line," he said of possible confrontation. "They've got to cross it, don't they? I don't anticipate violence, but that's not to say it won't happen."

Monday's meeting also seemed to sway a few Ram fence-sitters, the most vocal having been running back Mike Guman.

"I'll stick with what the team says," said Guman, who wasn't so sure only a few days ago. "We decided as a group that we're all backing the union."

Ekern said only a few Rams, including star running back Eric Dickerson, were not at the meeting. Ekern added that it was no indication of a lack of union support.

Linebacker Mel Owens said there's no turning back now.

"Once one guy goes out, they all go," he said. "It's a union."

Meanwhile, Robinson prepared himself for what he referred to as the dreadful task of assembling a new team of free agents.

"Dread is a good word," Robinson said. "No one is going to say, 'Oh boy, we've got some new guys.' What I'll really dread is these guys coming up to me and saying, 'I can play better than those jerks you've got playing.' "

NFL owners have decided that the season will continue in the event of a prolonged strike. If the players strike, next week's games will be canceled and the season will resume for the Rams at New Orleans on Oct. 4.

Robinson said the Rams have received "commitments" from between "14 and 40" players who would be willing to cross picket lines and join the team in the interim.

"We have a lot of guys who have said, 'Yeah, I'd like to do that,' " Robinson said. "I don't know if that's a commitment. The alarming thing, clearly, is being 0-2 and playing a couple of games with these guys and losing them both. Then you come back and you're 0-4 and you're looking at an insurmountable deficit."

Which means, of course, that it would help if the newly formed Rams were better than the newly formed Saints.

At this point, though, the Rams aren't exactly combing the country for talent.

"We haven't attempted to corner the market," Robinson said. "It's not as though there are good free agents out there. The trick is putting together some sort of unit that functions."

Robinson also would not say that every player on a non-union Ram team will be automatically released once the strike was resolved.

"If we had a guy who played real good, I wouldn't make that decision beforehand," Robinson said. "But would he have a problem with the guys here? Yeah, he might."

Ekern said he hasn't had the chance to meet with any of the free agents who are negotiating with the Rams.

"I'd love to talk with these guys," Ekern said. "I'd like to tell them what affect they're having on the NFL and what we're trying to accomplish."

But Allen said that the formation of new teams and the continuing of a season with fringe players will not weaken the union's position.

"The players will support a strike for however long it takes," Allen said. "It may take a day, it may take a season."

Ram Notes The Rams' front-office staff has held meetings to discuss refunding money to ticket-holders for games played by new players during a strike. There were also discussions about a reduced ticket price for strike games. The team is expected to have a plan later in the week. The first strike game at Anaheim Stadium would be held Oct. 11 vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. . . . Doug Allen, NFLPA assistant executive director, refused a television interview with KNBC's Mike Smith on Monday because the station's parent company, NBC Television, is currently mired in a strike of technicians. . . . Ram defensive end Doug Reed apparently broke up Monday's drab strike meeting by announcing that he knew of a place that was having a sale on chicken legs. "Just so we could store up before the strike," Ekern said. . . . All strike talk effectively diverted attention from the Rams' 21-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. For the record, Coach John Robinson said he's far from giving up hope. "We have to resist the voices of doom, both from within and without," he said. . . . Most of the players cleared out their lockers Monday.

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