SAN DIEGO — For those trying to forget the six-game pileup also known as the end of the Chargers' 1987 season, Barry Redden has insisted on providing a postscript.
Redden said Tuesday he could not--and would not--live through another year season this one.
The much-ballyhooed Charger running back, who came from the Rams in an expensive summer trade that cost the Chargers two high draft picks and running back Buford McGee, said he has informally requested another trade. He said he will make that request official if his role on the team does not change.
That role is that of the invisible man. Redden was on the second string by the end of training camp and was not even in the photograph by December. For the season, he carried the ball 11 times for 36 yards. He used to carry it nearly that much every game , and that was when the other running back was Eric Dickerson.
"I requested a trade from Coach Al Saunders earlier this year," Redden said, speaking to reporters for the first time since training camp. "I told them I didn't want to stay here if I have to sit the bench. Al asked me to be quiet about it and wait until the end of the season, and if I still didn't want to be here, he would do everything in his power to move me."
Tuesday, two days after a 24-0 loss to Denver ended the Charger season, Redden and Saunders met again. Redden said they will meet once more this winter before anything becomes formal.
"We have discussed things, and I am waiting for a response," said Redden, a six-year veteran. "It is like the ball is in their court."
Saunders was unavailable for comment. Steve Ortmayer, Chargers director of football operations, said he had no idea what Redden was talking about.
"Redden has not said anything to me," Ortmayer said. "Anything you ask me about this is a hypothetical question, because I don't know anything about it."
Ortmayer said, "Barry is another piece in a puzzle of things that all have to be discussed. I am highly disappointed in the amount of production gotten in that trade."
Redden, the seventh highest-paid player on the team with one year remaining on a $325,000 contract, prefers other adjectives.
"I'm extremely frustrated, angry," he said. "It (this season) was a living nightmare. I should not sit on anyone's bench, no matter who they are."
If all of this sounds familiar, check back with the Rams. Weary of playing behind Dickerson, Redden finally spoke out during the 1986 season and asked to be traded. On June 9 he landed in San Diego, feeling happy and free.
"It felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders," he said at the time. "I'm a pretty happy young man. At least now I'll get an opportunity to do what I always wanted to do, and that's run the ball."
Not so fast. He arrived at training camp and found himself in a battle with Tim Spencer, another power fullback who had gained 350 yards in 90 carries (3.9 average) for the Chargers in 1986. Both were given an equal chance--Redden had 28 carries, Spencer 27 in the exhibition season.
But Spencer gained 91 yards for a 3.4 average and 1 touchdown. Redden gained 51 yards for a 1.8 average and no touchdowns. Spencer clinched the job by catching 12 passes for 102 yards, and Redden caught just 4 for 50 yards.
Of course, Redden said that he's not a receiver and that he didn't know the club wanted a receiver. He said, looking back, that he didn't know a lot of things about the team.
"I'm a running back. I don't come out of the backfield for 60-70 passes a year," he said. "My specialty is the running game, the power game. That's what I do best. I hammer people for three or four quarters until they submit. That's why I thought they traded for me. I thought they were going to that type of game.
"But I get here and find out they aren't. And I've been playing that way for five years. It's hard to change your offensive philosophy overnight."
As Redden settled onto the bench and watched the Chargers become the NFL's second-worst rushing offense--with the second-fewest attempts--things only became more difficult.
"You do take it personally,' he said. "It is difficult for this team to turn around from 4-12 and win the division without a balanced attack. I thought we'd make the playoffs, but then I knew it would catch up with us. It always catches up with you."
So Redden is mad, and the Chargers don't understand why or aren't talking about it. What happens now?
"That's a good question," Redden said. "I really think I can get some things done here, but I want to be where my talents are utilized. We'll see what happens."
And if he's not promised more playing time and a trade is not attempted?
"It is inconceivable that they would want to keep someone where they are unhappy," he said. "Hey, L.A. (the Rams) felt that way."