ANAHEIM — Milan (Mickey) Dukich has invested 38 years as a Rams employee, running the team's video and game-film operations. For him, it's difficult to imagine the Rams playing somewhere else after next season.
"I started in 1956, when Elroy Hirsch, Tank Younger, all the legends were playing here," he said. "I've always felt that the Rams were part of L.A., and L.A. was part of the Rams.
"I would really hate to see them go."
But Dukich knows that could become a reality.
Today, the Rams will invoke the 15-month escape clause in their Anaheim Stadium lease, allowing the National Football League team to entertain offers from ownership groups in other cities. Baltimore, St. Louis, Memphis, Hartford and San Antonio have shown interest.
The club also began preparations for the coming season, perhaps its last in Anaheim, with the NFL draft and a three-day mini-camp that ended Sunday. But the topic of discussion at Rams Park often turned to the team's possible move.
The coaches and players say they will go wherever the club goes, but what will happen to employees such as Dukich, who has lived in Southern California almost 40 years?
"I like working," Dukich said, "and this job is all I know. If the team moves, I'll probably retire, maybe take a part-time job on a golf course somewhere. They say you have to stay active when you retire."
Rod Perry, Rams defensive backs coach, said he understands that moving is part of coaching and playing football, yet he wonders how his oldest son, Rodney, a Mater Dei High freshman and a standout athlete, would handle an adjustment should the family have to move.
"You would like to stay in one place and get your children through high school," Perry said. "But if and when that time comes, if the team moves, then we'll have to sit down and talk about it more seriously."
"My other son, Ryan (age 8), is still young enough that he can adapt easily to a move. And Rodney hasn't talked that much about it, but he would like to stay at Mater Dei and would love to finish out his senior year there."
With the Rams coming off four consecutive losing seasons, interest in the team is at an all-time low. A rally to support the Rams, organized by the city last weekend, drew only 200 people. Season-ticket sales are down 13%.
Dukich wonders whether Anaheim could lure another team, should the Rams leave. He has been with the team through winning and losing seasons but can't remember a time when the stands were so empty.
"You have to realize it's not like it was 20 years ago," he said. "We have two hockey teams now, two basketball teams, two baseball teams. There's the beach, volleyball, skiing. There's a lot of competition for the sports dollar today."
Dukich said friends and neighbors often ask him about the team's plans.
"I tell them I have no idea what's going on," he said. "I really don't know what the front office is doing with this. They are hiding their emotions quite well."
Perry said he hasn't had time to contemplate the possible move and the approaching deadline. He has been too busy with the draft and the team's mini-camp.
"You just try to do your job and let (the front office) work this out," Perry said. "You have to go where the employment is. The nature of this business is that you'll move every three or four years.
"You know that coming in."