With the 1988 Summer Olympic Games approaching and contract negotiations with the Rams failing, wide receiver Ron Brown announced Tuesday that he is retiring from professional football after four seasons to resume a career in track and field.
Brown, a football free agent and former world-class sprinter, made the decision after concluding that he and the Rams were headed for a messy and lengthy summer training camp holdout.
"That had a lot to do with it," Brown said at his news conference in Beverly Hills. "I've been there for four years now and had the opportunity to see how Rams management deals with other players such as LeRoy Irvin, Henry Ellard and Eric Dickerson. Because of that, it makes me feel like it was my turn.
"I take life and business serious. A holdout? I don't want to be a part of that. A controversy? I don't want to be a part of that. We tried to negotiate but, unfortunately, we were unable to come to terms. It's time for me to move on."
Brown, who turned 27 in March, won a gold medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as a member of the 400-meter relay team.
His amateur status was reinstated last week in London by the International Amateur Athletic Federation, and Brown plans to return to track as early as this weekend, in the Mt. San Antonio College Relays.
Ram Coach John Robinson issued a one-sentence response to Brown's retirement announcement: "Ron Brown is a very good football player and we're sorry to see him retire, but if his decision is irrevocable, we wish him well in any future endeavor."
The Rams signed Brown four days after the 1984 Olympics to a 4-year contract that paid him $200,000 in 1987.
Brown's agent, Jerome Stanley, said that the Rams' final offer was for less money than the original 4-year deal.
"It was a substantial cut over the first 4-year average," Stanley said. "It was an insult. It had a lot to do with his getting back in track and field. He thinks he's the fastest man in the world. He wants to prove that."
Brown, who twice won the National Football League's Fastest Man contest, had a football career that was largely one of potential unfulfilled. Even so, he provided spectacular moments. In 1985, he returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and was named to the Pro Bowl as a special teams player.
For all his speed, though, Brown never caught more than 26 passes in a season and was plagued by injuries, both nagging and serious. He also dropped his fair share of passes, although he improved considerably in 1987.
Brown was also sensitive to criticism, but said he holds no bitter feelings for the game or those who report it. "It's part of the game," he said. "You get that, you have your critics. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. I enjoyed the game a lot. I learned a lot."
Brown said his plan now is to resume rigorous training in the hope of joining the U.S. track team in Seoul, South Korea, and defeating Ben Johnson, the world record-holder in the 100-meter dash.
"I think my chances are good," Brown said. "I feel better now than I've ever felt. I've been running faster than I ever ran before. All these factors were in my mind. Last year, I had an opportunity to watch (Johnson) put his race together at the World Championships. I was excited for him. He's now known as the fastest man in the world and holds the record at 9.83. I wondered what it would feel like to put a race like that together."
So this isn't just a negotiating ploy to put a rare squeeze on the the Rams? Brown's football days are really over? Honest?
"It's an absolute done deal," Brown said.
Ram Coach John Robinson told cornerback LeRoy Irvin this week that Irvin would not be welcome at training camp this summer without a 100% commitment to the team. Robinson said that if Irvin arrived still complaining about his contract, he will again be suspended. Since the end of last season, Irvin has fired agent Ernie Wright and hired Eric Dickerson's agent, Charles Chin, in an effort to facilitate a trade. Irvin, however, is under contract through 1989. . . . The Rams have signed free-agent wide receiver Thomas Henley of Stanford, nose tackles Greg Roskopf of Northern Arizona and Guy Teafatiller of Illinois, and linebacker James Seawright of South Carolina.