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Picture This: Ortmayer Likes Charger Roster

September 29, 1987|TOM FRIEND | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — All 58 of the non-union Chargers, whom Coach Al Saunders calls the "Re-Chargers," posed for pictures Monday, serving further notice that this is a real football team.

Asked to evaluate the team's strong point, Saunders said: "Its anonymity."

Steve Ortmayer, Charger director of football operations, sees it a bit differently.

"Look at our team compared to the other 27 in the league," Ortmayer said of his non-union squad. "You're gonna like this roster."

The striking Chargers took exception to that comment.

"With these players, I'd be All-Pro in the first week," Gary Plummer said.

However, some recognizable names are coming out of the woodwork. UCLA's Rick Neuheisel, the last quarterback cut during training camp, met Monday with Charger officials and also with striking Chargers, just so he could get both sides of the story. The striking players tried convincing him not to sign a non-union contract.

Plummer said: "If he does sign, we have a word for that: He'd be a spineless jellyfish."

Consequently, Neuheisel was struggling with the decision Monday night.

"I can't remember a tougher (decision)," said Neuheisel, who's a third-year law student at Southern Cal. "Deciding between UCLA and Princeton (as a high school senior) was tough, but that doesn't compare to this one."

Tom Flick, another quarterback cut during training camp, was also negotiating with the Chargers Monday. The Rams and the Seattle Seahawks have also contacted him, but he said he's not sure he wants to cross a picket line.

"It's a day-to-day thing with me," said Flick in a telephone interview from Kirkland, Wash. "I'm just taking my time deciding. I'm staying in touch with guys who are striking and guys who have already crossed. I'm in no rush."

As of now, the starting non-union quarterback is Mike Kelley, a 6-foot 3-inch, 195-pounder formerly of Tampa Bay and Memphis of the USFL. He took most of the work with the first-team offense Monday, but said he will continue to hound Neuheisel and Flick.

In the meantime, Ortmayer signed the following players Monday: wide receiver Tag Rome, nose tackle Blaise Winter, running back Frank Middleton and defensive end Tony Simmons, all of whom were cut during training camp.

Another roster addition was center Joe Goebel, an 11th round Charger draft choice this year out of UCLA. Goebel never made it to training camp, saying at the time that he was "burned out" from football.

"I've got my eagerness back," he said Monday. "What an opportunity this is."

And a final roster addition was cornerback Elvis Patterson, a member of last year's Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Patterson practiced with the non-union Chargers last week, had second thoughts and missed practice over the weekend, but practiced again Monday.

Asked if he'll play Sunday in Cincinnati, Patterson said: "Put it this way: I'm a mystery man."

But Ortmayer confirmed Patterson would play.

Twenty-two striking Chargers held another informal workout Monday on the UC San Diego campus. A week ago, at the first informal workout, there were 42 players present. But that number has dropped daily.

"I still feel everyone's 100% behind the strike," said cornerback Gill Byrd, the assistant player representative. "A lot of guys have left town and gone home. If guys were in town and not working out, I'd be concerned. But the fact that they're out of town means they're prepared to go the distance."

Some of the Chargers were particularly upset Monday at Charger management. According to the Escondido Times-Advocate, Pat Curren, the Charger business manager, promised he would let the striking players know the time of Monday's non-union practice if they agreed not to picket over the weekend. The players didn't picket, but were dumbfounded when the non-union practice started an hour earlier than scheduled.

Curren claimed it wasn't his fault because coaches moved up the practice time without telling him. Nonetheless, guard Dennis McKnight gave Curren a piece of his mind.

Anyway, the striking Chargers now plan to split up their picketing. Five players will picket from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; five more will go from 2 to 5 and so on. Some local teamsters advised them to do it this way.

Also, several players will tape a strike rap song today at a local radio station. Some of the lyrics:

We're the NFL players, and we're on strike . We don't care what the owners like.

Free agency, that's our plan. We'll defend it to the very last man.

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