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Chandler to Start Ahead of Miller for Rams : Pro football: Lingering effects of concussion on Miller are concern.

November 08, 1994|MIKE REILLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ram Coach Chuck Knox broke from tradition Monday and named Chris Chandler the starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Raiders, demoting Chris Miller to a $3-million-a-year backup.

Knox normally doesn't make personnel decisions on Mondays, but named Chandler the starter for the second consecutive week based on his play Sunday in the Rams' 27-21 victory over Denver.

But Knox has wavered between Miller and Chandler all season. As late as Sunday, Miller was still being bothered by a concussion he suffered in a game Oct. 23 at New Orleans. So is the starting job Chandler's to keep, or lose?

"I don't think anything is ever etched in stone," Knox said. "He had a big game yesterday and we'll go on from here."

So he has won the starting job?

"He'll start this week," Knox said. "What is 'won the job'? I don't know what you're talking about. That's a categorical statement."

The Rams are 4-5 and need a victory over the Raiders to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Does having one starter down the stretch give the Rams continuity they need on offense?

"Yes, it's obvious that Chandler has got the work," Knox said. "We had the bye week and Miller was injured. Chandler got the work and played very well."

Chandler said he thought he had won the starting job after filling in Sunday for Miller. Chandler completed 19 of 25 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns against a Denver secondary that ranks last in the league, and improved his record as the Rams' starter to 2-1.

Chandler suffered a mild concussion himself when he hit, helmet to helmet, Denver's Steve Atwater on a quarterback sneak. Chandler said Monday that he felt fine, but Miller said he needs more time to recover from his concussion.

"Sure there's some disappointment, but I understand why," Miller said of his demotion. "Chris played well and my head still isn't healed all the way. That's no excuse. This just gives me more time to get it right."

Miller denied an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report that he was considering retirement because of the concussion.

"I haven't said that to anybody," Miller said.

Knox is a known to be a strong Chandler supporter, and injuries have kept Miller from starting an entire NFL season, which is why the Rams pursued a proven starter such as Chandler. The team originally courted Chandler as a starter, but brought him back as a backup after signing Miller to the three-year deal.

"We've always liked Chandler," Knox said. "We liked him coming out of college at Washington. Our staff had him at the Senior Bowl.

Chandler lost previous starting jobs with Tampa Bay and Arizona, but views this situation as the perfect opportunity to establish himself as the permanent starter--and land a contract extension with the Rams.

He becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season and expansion teams in Charlotte and Jacksonville will be seeking experienced quarterbacks. Although Chandler could probably seek more money elsewhere, he said he would like to re-sign with the Rams.

"In a perfect world, once you're established in this system, you really wouldn't want to leave it," he said.

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