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Chargers' Bieniemy Is Given High Marks Football: Second-round draft choice scores two touchdowns in scrimmage against the Rams. He also exchanged angry words with several defenders.

July 21, 1991|T.J. SIMERS and TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Marion Butts, take note.

The Chargers handed the ball to Eric Bieniemy in Saturday's scrimmage against the Rams, and the body-by-Schwarzenegger running back ran like, well, Marion Butts.

Bieniemy, the team's second-round draft choice, rushed for 42 yards in 16 carries and scored two touchdowns in the Chargers' 24-12 victory in front of an estimated 5,000 Family Day fans. Bieniemy also traded insults and punches with several Rams' defenders.

"It seems like he wants to fight every time some guy tackles him," said Charger defensive end Burt Grossman.

Bieniemy, 5 feet 7 and 204 pounds, sparred verbally with Rams' linebacker Frank Stams, and then after being mugged by 6-2, 230-pound linebacker Vernon Maxwell, Bieniemy bounced to his feet doing the Ali Shuffle.

"He made a great play, but after the play he gave me a little extra hit (on the facemask)," Bieniemy said. "I think that's all unnecessary. I'm a man and I'm going to defend myself."

Bieniemy's feisty debut was reminiscent of the circumstances surrounding Butts' coming-out party two years ago. Butts, a seventh-round draft choice, was projected to be a special teams performer, but he earned additional playing time when Gary Anderson refused to report to training camp.

Butts went on to become the team's single-season rushing leader, and everyone quickly about forgot Anderson. Now, Butts is sitting out and Bieniemy is getting the football.

"I thought Bieniemy ran hard," Charger Coach Dan Henning said. "I like his personality; I like his intensity.

"But that position he plays, he can't afford to be expending too much excess energy in getting involved in action other than the football action. I think he'll tone that down, but he has a personality I would call fiery."

After scoring his second touchdown of the day on a five-yard run to the outside, he was hit hard in the end zone. For a moment, it appeared as if the fighting was about to begin again.

"Most definitely I'm going to tone down," Bieniemy said. "If you keep that type of style of play up, you'll find yourself sitting right next to the coach. Once the yellow flag goes up and you're ejected, it's no fun sitting on the sidelines watching."

While most of the Chargers' veteran players, including running backs Rod Bernstine and Ronnie Harmon, remained spectators during Saturday's scrimmage, Bieniemy worked overtime.

After quarterback John Friesz connected with H-back Terry Orr on a three-yard touchdown pass, Bieniemy added a short touchdown run and a mighty spike.

"I've always wanted to spike an NFL football and it felt pretty good," Bieniemy said. "But that's not my style. I won't ever spike it again."

Chris Samuels, the Chargers' 12th-round pick and an impressive first-week performer in training camp, complemented Bieniemy's performance with a 12-yard touchdown reception to close the scrimmage. Samuels caught a short pass from Bob Gagliano, bounced off Rams' defender Jeff Hammerschmidt and slammed into the end zone.

Gagliano, who is battling Friesz for back-up duty to quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver, had difficulty releasing the ball early in the scrimmage and was sacked several times.

He finished the afternoon seven for nine for 107 yards, including a 45-yarder to rookie receiver Joe Weinberg. Friesz went seven for 10 for 11 yards.

Three Rams' quarterbacks completed 16 of 22 passes against the Chargers for 164 yards. Rams' starting quarterback Jim Everett did not participate, but Chuck Long threw a scoring pass to Derrick Faison.

David Lang, who missed the Rams' training camp last season while spending 120 days in the Arizona State Prison for receiving stolen goods, ran eight times for 32 yards, including a one-yard touchdown leap.

Defensive tackle George Thornton, one of the Chargers' second-round picks, Plan B free-agent linebacker Galand Thaxton and free-agent defensive back Kris McCall earned plaudits from Henning on their play.

A 35-yard pass from Long to Derrick Faison, two sacks by Robert Young and one bench-clearing brawl highlighted the scrimmage.

None of the Rams' front-line offensive players participated in the scrimmage, but, except for a few veterans, all of the main defensive players played substantially.

A surprise visitor to the Rams' UC Irvine practice site was holdout No. 1 pick Todd Lyght, who showed up, grabbed a football, then left. Lyght, who appears to be far away from a contract agreement, had no comment.

Before leaving for San Diego, rookie linebacker Terry Crews was treated to an obscenity-laden scorching from Coach John Robinson after Crews and guard Duval Love interrupted a running drill with several scuffles.

"I think he got the message," Robinson said.

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