The UPI Wire
September 19, 1981
Written by RICH TOSCHES
Quote: "Dryer, Rams At Odds Over "Retirement"
LOS ANGELES - Franklin Roosevelt initiated the New Deal in 1933 and the industrialists complained. Harry Truman's Fair Deal of 1949 brought howls from banks and big business.
Now it's 1981. And the Los Angeles Rams have hit Fred Dryer right between the eyes with what he sees as the Raw Deal. The story began six years ago. Dryer became a free agent and hawked his talents on the free market. He was offered huge sums of money by another team to jump from the Rams, but he was dedicated to the Rams and wanted to finish his career with them.
So Dryer and owner Carroll Rosenbloom worked out a five-year contract that guaranteed him a spot on the team's 45-man roster for the next five years. Rosenbloom had that much confidence in the standout defensive end.
In return for that guarantee - unheard of at that time - Dryer signed for considerably less money than he could have gotten from the other team. He says he lost about $700,000 over the course of the five years.
When the contract expired at the end of last season, Dryer sat down with head coach Ray Malavasi to discuss the future.
"Ray asked me what I wanted to do," Dryer said, "and I told him I'd like to play two more years, then retire. Ray said, 'Great, we want you on the team. I know what your contract is and we'll just extend it.'"
And the Rams extend the same contract for one more year. They said they'd handle 1982 when the time came. All appeared fine.
"I worked my butt off in camp," Dryer said. "I had the best camp I'd had in three years. I was really at the top of my game."
Then, as the pre-season schedule began, Dryer was approached by defensive line coach Frank Lauterbur.
"We're going to go with Cody Jones at right end," Lauterbur told Dryer. "You two graded out so closely, Ray decided we're going to go with him."
Then Lauterbur dropped the bombshell. "Also, Fred," he said, "Ray wants to talk with you after practice. Something about retirement."
From there, the story became a jumble. The Rams changed their story several times. Dryer clung to his belief that he'd been railroaded.
His teammates openly blasted Malavasi, Rams owner Georgia Frontiere - Carroll Rosenbloom's widow - and General Manager Don Klosterman.
A tranquil, apparently happy football team was turned into a chaotic mess.
"Ray told me he decided to go with seven or eight defensive linemen," Dryer said. "I told him that’s b.s. I said, 'You know damn well how many you're keeping, don't you?" And Ray said, 'Yeah, we're keeping seven."
"I said, 'Let me guess, I'm the eighth, right?' Ray said, 'Yup.'"
The 35-year-old Dryer is in his 13th NFL season. He was the first-round draft pick of the New York Giants in 1969, was traded to New England in 1971 and two months later was traded to Los Angeles. In nine seasons with the Rams, the 6-6, 230-pound end used his lightning quickness to make up for the pounds he gave away to the offensive linemen each week.
In 1979, his nine quarterback sacks was the second best individual performance on the team that led the NFC West in that category. In 1980 his sacks dropped to six, but he continued to earn the respect of his peers with his all-out, aggressive play and his nearly flawless performances against running plays.
This year he was expected to be among the league's best at defensing the run.
But, more important, Dryer was the heart and soul of the Rams. He was the field leader and the off field leader. He provided the guidance and the incentive for the younger players.
Then, in one sudden and shocking move, he was fired. Frontiere, Malavasi and Klosterman eventually regrouped, conceding that Dryer's contract prohibited his being cut.
So the Rams decided to solve the problem their way. They ordered Dryer back to the team, telling him by letter that by missing several practices he was in violation of his contract.
The Rams told Dryer the whole thing was his fault. So now Dryer is back on the team. Sort of.
After starting 118 consecutive games, Dryer was reduced to a sideline ornament in the Rams' season opener, a loss to Houston. Jones, his replacement, played the entire game and made two tackles.
And as the home crowd of nearly 70,000 began a roaring, stomping cheer of "We Want Fred," Dryer responded. He waved. He blew kisses. And he got Malavasi, Klosterman and Frontiere – who missed the game because she was in London — real angry.
They may get angrier as the season drags on. Dryer admits his presence is a distraction to the team. But he also points out that all his teammates are on his side.
One of them, another older player, commented, "If those (bleeps) try this with me a few years down the road, I swear I'll burn the place down. And I'm not kidding."
Dryer doesn't want to stay, but he's a man of principle. The Rams are not simply going to embarrass Fred Dryer off the team.
Dryer says the Rams can get him off the team for a $200,000 penalty on top of the $200,000 salary he's guaranteed for 1981. Some may think it's a simple case of greed. Not so, says Dryer.
"They asked me what I wanted to get out," Dryer said. "I figured it this way. I gave them an awful lot of emotion, energy and love - not to mention about $700,000.
"In return, they told me to go on, get out, take a hike. How much was all that worth to me? I decided $200,000."
No matter what happens, Dryer knows his NFL career is over. And he's sad about the way it ended.
"The things that mean a great deal to me are friendship and loyalty," he said. "I've been very loyal to the Rams for nine years. And for them to do what they've done to me is a breach of that loyalty. And it's terribly insulting.
"My whole life isn't football. I have other interests - acting, television movies, TV series. But when you have a large part of you ripped away like that, it hurts.
"It really hurts. I'll always be hurt over the way this whole thing was handled and money can't fill the hole that's in your heart.
"Ten years from now when I look back on my career I should be able to see the happy times. The good games, the championships, the Super Bowl in 1980. But I won't see those moments.
"When I look back, this is what I'll remember. T he way they got rid of me. And that's kind of sad."