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Robinson Isn't Pulling an 'I-Told-You-So' : Coach Almost Lets White's 213-Yard Performance Speak for Itself

November 17, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

Strangely, John Robinson didn't bring up Charles White's name at his weekly luncheon Monday, perhaps sensing it would sound too much like a man bragging about his son.

But, really, could there have been a better time to lash out?

There have been Charles White doubters, you know. He has cleared league waivers twice. He does make a daily visit to a specimen cup. And you've heard he's no Eric Dickerson.

And it was Robinson and only Robinson who stood by his man, defending and protecting White through the darkest hours of an August drug arrest.

So isn't this Robinson's free-shot time? Didn't his man just show everyone up with a his 213-yard rush job on the St. Louis Cardinals?

Perhaps, but it wasn't something the coach was going to offer up for nothing. It took some prodding, but eventually Robinson said what others knew he was thinking.

"I don't know that there was a person on this football team that thought he should be here in his first training camp," Robinson said of White, who was signed as a free agent in 1985 after being released by the Cleveland Browns. "I don't think any of the players did. I don't think anybody connected to the Rams did. Well, one guy did--me. It shows you I can be right every once in a while."

For the coach, Sunday's game was the payback. White's performance was everything Robinson dreamed could happen when he picked White off the waiver wire, convinced that this coach-player relationship could flourish as it had at USC.

There's no getting around it, the relationship is different. Robinson took a tremendous chance on White. He also saw it explode in his face last Aug. 21, when White was arrested on drug charges in Brea.

Robinson risked his reputation when he reinstated White just days later, under the condition that White undergo daily drug testing. But Robinson still insists this is more a struggle of a man than a football player.

"I guess there are some unique qualities about Charlie," he said. "But we all have the struggle in our life, to succeed or not succeed. Maybe we're used to TV shows, where at six minutes before the hour the show's over and the guy succeeds or the team wins. Most of those things don't go on.

"If you're dealing with illness or alcoholism or drug abuse, any of those things, they're a life-long struggle. The normal things are the reoccurences, the falling off the wagon, and fighting up out of the dirt to come back and stagger on, and keep going."

So yes, there are rewards and there is emotion.

"I get very thankful when I see Charlie White do good on a Sunday," Robinson said. "And if ultimately sometime he fails again, and maybe by the nature of our circumstance something has to happen (the Rams have promised to release White on any positive drug test), well . . . I guess I do like it when Charlie does good."

And, with Dickerson out of the picture, White is obviously back as Robinson's right-hand man. White leads the National Football League in rushing with 703 yards and Robinson isn't about to lighten the work load.

"If you separated the one drug issue with this team, he's played real good here," Robinson said. "When you give him full games, and say, 'OK, here's Charlie White playing a full game and the Rams are in a contest where they can run, what does Charlie White average?' Oh, I'd say about 130 or 140 yards a game, something like that.

"I'm not trying to dodge it or be cute about it. I think if you look at the facts about what kind of football player he is, it's obvious. It's obvious to me. But I do know there is a special thing there."

Ram Notes Charles White again refused interview requests Monday. Last week he granted an interview with an Orange County Register reporter who attended school with White at USC, but White said Monday there will be no others. . . . The Rams have acquired tight end Greg Baty on waivers from the New England Patriots. He'll wear No. 84. To make room on the roster, the team put rookie tight end Jon Embree on injured reserve with an elbow injury. . . . Last season, linebacker Mark Jerue got his chance to play when Jim Collins missed the season because of a shoulder injury. This year, though, the luck's been all bad for Jerue, who will have his second knee operation of the season this week.

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