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Raiders Trade Graddy to Rams : Pro football: Former Olympic runner, 29, sent across town for a draft pick.

August 25, 1993|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He was once a gold medal-winning Olympic runner, but he is 29 and the Raiders decided he couldn't keep pace with their fast, young receivers.

So Tuesday, the team traded receiver Sam Graddy to the Rams for a conditional draft pick, the condition being that he makes the team.

"We have a window until Monday to take a look at him," Ram Coach Chuck Knox said. "He's got world-class speed, which should be a plus for us. It gives us the deep threat. He's very good at beating the bump and run. He's been a kickoff return man and a headhunter on the kickoff and punt teams, so he's more than just a wide receiver."

Merely being a wide receiver would be enough to fill the hole on the Rams left by injuries to their receivers. Jeff Chadwick has a pulled hamstring and Henry Ellard an ankle problem. Todd Kinchen is practicing, but is not 100% after off-season knee surgery.

But Knox wasn't ready to call Graddy the answer for the Rams.

"We're still going to bring people in here," he said.

Graddy might still be wearing silver and black if:

--He had not suffered frequent injuries since joining the Raiders as a Plan B free agent in 1989.

--The Raiders had not assembled a track squad of receivers.

--Graddy had not held out for the first week and a half of training camp, further damaging his chances of making the squad.

"I want to play ball," Graddy said after learning he was no longer a Raider. "I don't see my career ending here. I don't know why I'm out of here, but it's not my team."

*

Graddy, of Tennessee, won a gold medal in the 400-meter relay and a silver medal in the 100-yard dash in the 1984 Olympics.

He figured he could use that speed for an NFL career. The Denver Broncos made that dream come true by signing him as a free agent.

But a hamstring injury in 1987 and a back injury in 1988 limited him to a total of eight games.

Graddy joined the Raiders in 1989, but sat out that season after suffering a broken leg.

He seemed finally ready to claim a spot in the Raider offense last season when he started at Kansas City in a Monday night game. But he suffered a broken arm that night and by the time it was healed, the Raiders had picked up Alexander Wright from the Dallas Cowboys.

"It seemed like he was coming into his own last year," Shell said. "But he broke his arm and that set him back. Now, we've got some young kids who have a chance to be pretty good. It was a tough decision."

It was tough on Graddy because of the competition: Tim Brown, the team's premier receiver; Wright, two-time winner of the NFL's Fastest Man race; James Jett, another former Olympic gold-medal winner; young prospects Daryl Hobbs and Charles Jordan, and veterans Willie Gault and James Lofton.

Graddy's holdout didn't help his chances. After making $367,000 last season, he got a slight raise in signing a two-year deal last month.

"I've seen what happened before to guys who held out here," Graddy said. "I don't know how much it had to do with what happened in my case. But if they wanted me, I'd still be here."

Times staff writer John Weyler contributed to this story.

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