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Injury to Bettis Stops Ram Trade With Cowboys


FULLERTON — Call it a coincidence, but on the same day the Rams became concerned with an ankle injury to running back Jerome Bettis, they rejected Dallas' offer of wide receiver Jimmy Smith for running back Cleveland Gary.

Bettis, the Rams' No. 1 draft pick, returned to Cal State Fullerton Thursday evening on crutches after undergoing almost four hours of tests at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood.

The Rams said Bettis' right ankle will be placed in a removable splint to allow for daily treatment, and his condition will be re-evaluated in two to three weeks.

"They said it's some outside ligaments that I've hurt by the pressure of a big guy falling on me," Bettis said. "They said about two weeks and I should be back. Two weeks at max, that's what I'm figuring. It doesn't hurt that much now, but they want to be cautious about the whole situation."

Bettis injured his ankle in Wednesday's practice, and initially the team didn't consider it serious. Thursday morning Bettis experienced pain, which would be felt all the way back in Texas.

The Cowboys, who figure to open the season without unsigned running back Emmitt Smith, decided Thursday to go after Gary. The Cowboys pitched Smith, their second-round pick of a year ago, to the wide receiver-starved Rams.

The Rams had expressed an interest in Smith earlier and they put Gary on the trading block. In addition, if the Rams were going to trade Gary, they had to do so by today or Gary would be forced to miss the first game of the season. In that event, the Cowboys said, they would not be interested.

The makings for a deal Thursday were in place and Cowboy officials announced in Dallas that a deal for Gary now rested on the Rams. They said a trade was imminent, and suggested the phone call from the Rams might come during the Cowboys' afternoon practice.

About that time, however, the Rams decided to order additional tests on Bettis' ankle.

The Rams, while waiting for test results, advised the Cowboys that there would be no deal at this time.

"Obviously, we've been talking with them," said John Shaw, Ram executive vice president. "But we're not interested in doing anything but signing Cleveland."

Coach Chuck Knox reacted with irritation when asked about Gary, talk of a trade with Dallas and the impact Bettis' injury might have on such a deal.

"There's a lot of talk going on," Knox said. "When we have something to announce, we'll announce it.

"Why should I discuss anything going on, if anything is going on? What purpose does it serve? What I've said, is I would like to sign Cleveland Gary. I've said that from Day 1.

"We'll see what happens; (today) is the deadline and that's the news. That's public information."

Today's deadline, coupled with Bettis' injury, places the Rams in an awkward position. The Rams, in their dealings with Gary, have been operating from a position of strength with Bettis designated as their prime ballcarrier this season.

Gary was the team's leading receiver and rusher last season, while earning $350,000. He has asked for $1.2 million this season, but the Rams have offered $485,000 with a right of first refusal on future bids from other teams.

Gary's agent, Jordan Woy, has said the Rams' offer remains far too low. He also said that the team's treatment of Gary has bothered his client to the point that he now prefers to play elsewhere.

If Bettis' injury lingers, however, the Rams might have to change their approach to Gary.

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