YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Eric Takes His Money and Runs to Indianapolis : Rams Land Six Draft Choices and Two Backs

November 01, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

The Rams once traded 11 players to the Dallas Texans for the rights to linebacker Les Richter.

In 1959, they sent nine players to the Chicago Cardinals for Ollie Matson.

In 1974, the team and league's Most Valuable Player, quarterback John Hadl, was shipped to the Green Bay Packers for five draft choices.

But no trade in Ram history will likely compare to the one officially consummated Saturday, when the team sent disgruntled star Eric Dickerson to the Indianapolis Colts in a three-team deal of blockbuster proportion.

Dickerson immediately signed a four-year contract for an estimated $5.6 million.

To complete the deal, the Colts sent unsigned rookie linebacker Cornelius Bennett to the Buffalo Bills.

In return, the Rams received three first-round draft choices, three second-round picks, running back Greg Bell of the Bills and fullback Owen Gill of the Colts.

The Rams will get both teams' first choices in 1988, plus Indianapolis' second-round pick. In 1989, the Rams receive Buffalo's first-round selection and both teams' second-round choices.

Including their own draft picks, the Rams will own 10 of the top 112 draft choices in the next two seasons.

The price they paid for such a future was the most gifted runner of his generation, Dickerson, who perhaps still hasn't reached his prime at 27.

In the end, though, the Rams figured they couldn't afford to keep him.

"In my view, the trade was necessary after the disruptive influences of the last three weeks," Ram Coach John Robinson said.

He was, of course, referring to Dickerson's all-out war of words with Ram management, Dickerson going so far as to suggest that Robinson run the football in his place.

"After Dickerson said the coach could run 47-Gap, I knew he'd be running it someplace else," guard Dennis Harrah said.

The Dickerson move will perhaps trigger others. Cornerback LeRoy Irvin, who has been on Dickerson's negotiating heels all season, will apparently follow the tailback out of town before Tuesday's trading deadline.

Irvin, who missed three days of practice this week because of the flu, was placed on the team's inactive list Saturday. That list served as Dickerson's launching pad to Indianapolis.

"That's the word," Irvin said of his imminent departure. "But I don't even know what's going on."

An All-Pro cornerback the last two seasons, Irvin said the team must have interpreted his recent illness as a high-fevered sit-in to protest the team's handling of Dickerson.

"I guess I picked the wrong day to get sick," Irvin said. "Hopefully, if I'm indeed going to get traded, they'll do it soon. I'd like to start over."

If it's any indication, teammates referred to Irvin in the past tense Saturday.

The Dickerson saga was brewing, storming rather, since last May, when the tailback first announced he was unhappy with the terms of the three-year contract extension he signed in 1985.

It suddenly struck Dickerson that while he was running in a class by himself, his employers were handling him like third-class baggage. That was the way it seemed in his mind, at least.

He first cried for a trade in London, in August, but his words then were mild compared to the verbal venom that was not-so-discretely planted in Southland newspapers recently.

Dickerson's final maneuvering through the press came after several negotiating sessions with Ram Vice President John Shaw broke down.

Robinson, who had no real influence on the negotiating process, ultimately saw the core of his team eroding.

Last Monday night, he allowed Dickerson to sit out the entire second half of a game the Rams might otherwise have won. Robinson later found himself on the defensive concerning the so-called thigh injury that kept Dickerson from playing.

"I must tell you that I don't lie," he told reporters Saturday. "We decided not to play him because the leg was sore."

Others, some players for sure, were not so convinced. And Robinson knew that the consequences of showing preferential treatment to a player, even a franchise player, could be fatal.

"The team as a whole is what's important," he said. "This is like a family member who no longer adheres to the way the family behaves. The family is more important than the individual. We understand he's made a lot of yards and is a great player; we're not naive about that. But clearly, we understand now that the group as a whole is more important."

Ram player reaction was mixed. There seemed to be an equal sense of loss and relief.

"We've lost two great players, two players who will be sorely missed," safety Johnnie Johnson said of Dickerson and Irvin. "But why should we be angry? We have no control over that. Even if I wanted Eric and LeRoy back, it couldn't happen. LeRoy was my best friend on the team; we came in the same year. If I wanted to, I could go in and plead and beg, but it wouldn't help."

Instead, most Rams spoke of the need to move ahead, to re-focus attention on trying to salvage what's left of the strangest of seasons.

Los Angeles Times Articles