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Harrah Is Hurting but Not Talking Retirement : But From the Look of Monday's Practice, He'd Have More Than Limp Excuse

December 15, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

It's not official and no news conferences have been scheduled, and if you even mention the word (psst, it's retirement ) to Dennis Harrah, he's likely to "rap you upside your head."

But it was hard not to wonder as Harrah limped through Rams Park Monday whether he had played his last game as a Ram one day earlier.

You could attribute the hitch in his walk to either a chronic back problem that makes him "walk like a woman" or, more recently, a muscle tear in his left calf that will probably sideline him for the remaining two games of the regular season.

"It doesn't look good for the next couple of weeks," Harrah said. "If we were to slide in the back door (and make the playoffs), I might be ready. But I can't run. I never could run anyway. I could shoot it up (with painkillers) and play, but I would risk further damage. If we made the playoffs, I could shoot it up, but I don't even know if the doctors would let me."

More threatening than the calf injury, however, is the back problem that has kept him out of two games this season and has forced him to split time at right guard with Duval Love.

Harrah will be 35 in March. Last year he made the Pro Bowl for the fifth time in 12 seasons and was named a first-team all-pro by both the Associated Press and United Press International. But when Harrah returned for his 13th season, his back didn't.

"I haven't made any statements," Harrah said of retirement. "But my back's not good and that's my No. 1 concern. My back's not in good shape. It went out again just limping around here. It's not stable. It would be hard to play 20 years on my back. But I'm not making any statements on retirement."

Harrah said he will meet with Coach John Robinson in the off-season to discuss the situation.

"I'll let him make a decision," Harrah said. "Hey, they'll probably sit down and sign me for five more years to a no-cut contract, and then I can go tell coach to run 47-Gap."

Harrah was kidding, about the contract at least.

He said that the Rams' success in recent weeks will have no bearing on his decision, though he admits playing football has been different in recent weeks.

"I've enjoyed playing now more than I've ever enjoyed playing," he said. "I hate the season to end like this. I'm enjoying it more now than ever because I don't have the pressure of the playoffs. If we make them now, it's just a plus. This is pressure-free winning."

Harrah won't be in the lineup next Monday night against Dallas, although he promises not to go unnoticed.

"I'll get my pompons out and party down at the game," Harrah said.

So is Charles White really a different runner now than he was for five years with the Cleveland Browns in the early 1980s, when he gained a total of 942 yards?

Robinson says yes. It all has to with teaching and environment.

"I think he's improved," Robinson said Monday. "When he came here (in 1985), he had been away from that kind of running. I think we have a specific style of running. Charlie had been away from that a bit, maybe running sideways.

"Our running tends to be straight at you. If we run around end, we run sideways, but then we turn left and run straight after you and try to knock you down if you get in our way. We step on you, do anything to move forward. Charlie was one of the ultimate runners at that."

Robinson said that his philosophy for turning out National Football League rushing leaders is simple and brutal. Here's what Robinson told Eric Dickerson week after week and now, what he's telling Charles White:

"Ultimately, as a game wears on, these guys are all going to hit you and there's going to be these horrible collisions, but they (the defenders) are all going to die because of it. And if you're that kind of runner, then you're going to lead the league in rushing."

White does, with 1,213 yards and a 236-yard lead over Dickerson with two games to go.

It's no job for the squeamish.

"Charlie is maybe the ultimate at coming after you and saying, 'Well if you're 260 pounds I'm 190 and if you and I run into each other 20 times out here, you'll eventually collapse and I'll score a touchdown. That's straight fact.' "

Of course, as the saying goes, those who can't do, teach.

"I'd never do any of the things I asked them to do," Robinson said of his runners.

Ram Notes

Left guard Tom Newberry may have played his best game as a Ram in Sunday's 33-0 victory over Atlanta, Coach John Robinson said. "It was one of those games that when you retire, you'd like to have that film to show your kids. He was knocking them down and jumping on them. There were some real pins."

Robinson swears he doesn't even know what mathematical chances his team has to make the playoffs. "Don't tell me, I prefer stupidity," he said. "I'm very serious about that. I don't want to think about anybody. I just want to find a way to beat Dallas."

With two safeties already lost with injuries and backup Frank Wattelet pulling a hamstring Sunday, Robinson said the Rams may be shopping for a defensive back this week. . . . Jim Everett's quarterback rating during the last five weeks is 102.5. In the five victories, he has completed 63% of his passes and thrown for 985 yards and 7 touchdowns with 3 interceptions. Everett's rating before the St. Louis game Nov. 15 was 50. It's now 70.7 overall.

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