Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Runaround? No Laugh Track for Bettis

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Runaround? No Laugh Track for Bettis

Article excerpt

It was a deep laugh. A long laugh, involving every one of Jimmie Jones' 276 pounds. The defensive end laughed as if it were one of the funniest things he'd ever heard.

The question:

Pretend I'm Rams general manager Steve Ortmayer. I approach you about restructuring your contract. Maybe we give you a little less this year so we can redo Jerome Bettis' contract? Whaddya say, Jimmie?

Quarterback Chris Miller didn't laugh. But he had his own humorous answer to this imaginary Ortmayer.

"Maybe you better go to the next locker," Miller said.

But Jackie Slater wasn't joking when he said, "Everyone feels like the deal they have is the deal they negotiated, and the deal that they should abide by. So should management."

The Bettis holdout is becoming no laughing matter. On Thursday, it reached one full week. Bettis has missed seven mandatory days of training camp, 13 practices. His wallet is $28,000 lighter - and counting - because of a $4,000 a day fine as specified by league policy. And there appears to be no end in sight. There has been no known dialogue between the Rams and Bettis or Bettis' agent, Lamont Smith, since last Friday.

No one on the team says they have talked to Bettis, training at altitude in Denver during his holdout. Cornerback Todd Lyght, a teammate of Bettis' for one year at Notre Dame, has tried. Unsuccessfully.

"I paged him," Lyght said. "I don't think he's trying to call back any 314 (area code) numbers."

Nonetheless, the issues in his holdout have crystalized in the minds of many players.

"It's easy to see where both sides stand," said Lyght, who says he would consider redoing his contract to free up money for Bettis. "Jerome, I guess, feels he's underpaid for all the things that he's done the past two years. But he's signed to a five-year deal and the Rams feel that he should stick to that. It's hard to weigh that.

"Hopefully, they can figure it out. Because I don't think it's helping our team - him not being here."

Defensive end Robert Young says he sees where both sides might think they have a good argument.

"The man made the Pro Bowl two years in a row. He is very underpaid, because he is amongst the top rushers," Young said. "But then again, the Rams are right in that he did sign the contract. They took a chance with him, and it worked out for them. It's a business. It's all about business.

"Jerome made more in one year than I made in my first three years. My first three years I might have cleared ($500,000 total). I just played. There wasn't anything I could do. There really isn't anything he can do."

Bettis is in the third year of a five-year contract worth $4.65 million. That package included a $2 million signing bonus paid up front, before Bettis had gained one yard for the Rams. Thus Young's point about the Rams taking a chance on Bettis.

After playing for the league minimum for three years, Young cashed in. …

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