Cornerback LeRoy Irvin reported to work at Rams Park Monday only to discover that his belongings had been neatly packed, his mail collected by team trainers, his nameplate removed from his locker and his position shared by a second-year free agent and a rookie.
Irvin, dissatisfied with his contract and longing for a trade, met briefly with Coach John Robinson, with whom he shook hands and said goodby. Irvin, still on the Ram inactive list, was not allowed to attend team meetings and left, cleats and possessions in hand, long before the conclusion of Monday's light workout.
"I'm definitely not in the plans for them this season," Irvin said. "In light of everything that's happened, it wouldn't be a very good situation for me to play (with the Rams) this year."
Robinson said he would have no comment on Irvin's status until Wednesday. But what is there to say? He sent Irvin home and, during his weekly press luncheon, Robinson made it clear that Mickey Sutton and rookie Cliff Hicks will likely inherit the right cornerback position.
Unless a last-minute snag develops in these hurried negotiations, Irvin may have visited the old Ram gang for the last time. As late as Monday night, Irvin's agent, Ernie Wright, and Ram officials were trying to put together a deal that would send the Pro Bowl selection elsewhere.
According to Wright, who received permission from the Rams last Friday to pursue a trade, at least 12 teams are interested in Irvin. The most active of those teams, said a source familiar with the negotiations, are the San Diego Chargers and, surprisingly, the Raiders. That's surprising because Raider and Ram management aren't exactly the best of pals. They have made one deal in the last five years.
Also known to be interested are the Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Jets, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins.
"I'd love to go cross town to the Raiders, but I think I could play anywhere," Irvin said.
But the Rams are said to be asking for a first-round choice, and possibly more, for Irvin. That request may explain why no deal was announced Monday and the list of interested teams began to dwindle.
The league trading deadline is today at 1.
"Now it's up to what other teams are thinking, what they're willing to give the Rams at this point, knowing the trading deadline is (today)," Irvin said. "It's like, 'Why buy summer wear in October for $15 when you can get it in November for $5?' "
Said Wright: "I think if (Ram Vice President) John Shaw gets a first rounder, he'll trade him."
Irvin, 30, was a third-round selection from Kansas in 1980. He earned Pro Bowl honors during the last two seasons and was named the Rams' most valuable player in 1985. When his accomplishments began to overshadow his paycheck, Irvin grew angry.
A slim possibility exists that Irvin could still be a Ram this evening. The Rams could refuse to budge on their compensation demands, Robinson could have a change of heart, Irvin could say he actually likes his present contract. But don't count on it. In all likelihood, the Rams will have rid themselves of two Pro Bowl players--Eric Dickerson and Irvin--within a week.
Irvin, who angered Ram management by calling in sick with the flu last Thursday, became a member of the taxi squad Saturday and didn't attend Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. He showed up at Monday's meetings partly, he said, because he didn't want to appear to be abandoning the team. But Irvin also said that he didn't want to give the Rams any cause for suspending him.
As was Dickerson, Irvin is unhappy about money. His pre-strike contract called for a $250,000 salary this year, along with a $300,000 signing bonus. His salary next year is to go to $525,000; then to $425,000 in 1989 and $350,000 in 1990. Irvin is especially upset with this season's salary. The three-year extension, he said, was tolerable.
Now, said Wright, Irvin's new team will be asked to revise the existing contract and insert some new numbers, preferably zeroes. Wright said he thinks Irvin ought to get double his 1987 salary and about $600,000-$700,000 for each of the next three years.
"The teams that I've talked to don't have any problems with that," Wright said.
But the Rams do, which is why Irvin bade a fond farewell Monday. "The end of an era," he said, before leaving Rams Park.