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Flipper Gets a Break He Didn't Need : For Good of the Team, Ram Receiver Plays Despite Broken Bone

October 06, 1994|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Flipper Anderson, a scared but committed Flipper Anderson, played against the Atlanta Falcons last week despite having broken a bone in his back a week earlier in the victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Ram officials, concerned that Anderson might become a marked man for the opposition, kept his injury a secret. When he missed practice a week ago Wednesday, it was announced he had flu.

"The team needed me," Anderson said, discussing the injury for the first time Wednesday. "I didn't do much Sunday, but just by being out there I think I helped open things up for Jerome Bettis."

Anderson, who thinks he suffered the injury in the first quarter against the Chiefs, played the entire game against the Falcons, wore a flak jacket and caught three passes for 32 yards.

"I was scared the first time I got hit, but it didn't hurt, so I just went on with it," he said. "It was a tough decision to play; I saw X-rays to get a feeling of what it was all about, and after warm-ups Sunday I decided to go. It's a scary thing, but I figured I'd be all right as long as I didn't get hit there."

A similar injury to his back in 1991 forced Anderson to sit out four games, but he said the pain this time was not as pronounced.

"He's a very courageous guy; he just sucked it up," Ram Coach Chuck Knox said. "He toldme early in the week he was going to be ready to play, and he put a flak jacket on and went in there.

"It's the transverse process, a fracture of a small bone coming out of (his vertebrae); it's more painful than anything else."

Anderson leads the league with 28.5 yards a catch. In addition to his 11 receptions for 313 yards, including two catches for touchdowns, he has drawn three pass interference penalties.

"I think Flipper has really been misunderstood the last couple of years around here because he hasn't been catching many balls and scoring a lot of touchdowns," said Joe Vitt, Ram assistant head coach. "Playing last Sunday like he did is just another example of how committed he is to getting this thing turned around."

Anderson's dedication has never been questioned--simply overlooked. He doesn't miss practice, runs pattern after pattern while seemingly never needing a rest, and given the chance to go deep and chase a well-thrown ball, he will catch it.

"I had forgotten how fast he is," said first-year Ram wide receiver coach Steve Moore, who had coached Anderson in the Senior Bowl seven years ago. "The other thing I was impressed with was his work ethic and how consistently he caught the ball.

"He's always there for you, and even though he's not getting as many balls thrown his way as he would probably like, there's no pouting. He just goes out and plays like a pro."

And now two words for the Rams to consider as they ponder the question of whether to re-sign Anderson after this season: Henry Ellard.

When Ellard's contract ran out a year ago, the Rams concluded they could do better, prompting Ellard to sign with Washington.

Ellard was the dependable possession receiver the Rams now lack. He had 61 receptions in 1993--24 more than any other player on the roster--and 593 career catches--193 more than any other player in team history. Ancient history, the Rams decided, and so in his place they signed Nate Lewis, Greg McMurtry and Jessie Hester.

Lewis and McMurtry were cut before the season began, Hester has a dozen catches for 159 yards. Ellard, meanwhile, leads the NFL with 587 yards in 29 catches, including four for touchdowns.

"I'm so excited for Henry," Anderson said. "So much for the people who said Henry lost a step. I knew all along letting him go was probably going to be a mistake for us, but life must go on.

"We have a lot of good young receivers now and if they want to call me old at age 29-30 and let me go, it's something I can't control. All I'm going to do is my damnedest to let them see what they have here and give me an opportunity to stay here. I want to stay here--especially if they stay in Anaheim."

Anderson might be one of the game's top deep threats, but his lack of production in recent years and $1-million-plus price tag in 1995 has given the Rams pause to consider alternatives.

"The Rams talked about an extension this past summer, but based on the offer, Flipper decided to play this year out," said Ted Marchibroda, Anderson's representative and the son of the Indianapolis Colts' coach. "I think there will be a pretty good market for Flipper at the end of the season.

"You look back and the tandem of Henry Ellard and Flipper Anderson was pretty good, and even when they had so-so years, it wasn't all their fault. It had more to do with the quarterback (Jim Everett) situation."

Chris Miller was signed in part this year because he throws one of the best deep balls in the game. Chris Chandler also has the knack to throw deep.

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