A rift has developed between NFL Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, and his former team the Los Angeles Rams. According to Dickerson, the incident stems from Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher telling him during a recent conversation that members of the team haven’t appreciated some of his commentary and as a result, his presence on the sidelines during games could make some people uncomfortable.
That led to Dickerson publicly revealing the conversation on his radio show on AM 570 in Los Angeles. His comments placed a ton of heat on the Rams, and the team has quickly responded by trying to put out the flames.
Rams COO Kevin Demoff said he tried to call Dickerson on Monday, but was unsuccessful in reaching him. Demoff did offer a public response on Twitter, adding: “Everything we’ve done since we returned, Eric has been part of the organization, and that’s what we want to make sure doesn’t change. He’s been part of our efforts to connect to the community. That’s what’s disappointing about any type of miscommunication, no matter how big or small. He’s somebody we want around. He’s somebody who sets a great example for our players, and I think anybody who’s in this business has to have a thick skin to understand that when you lose there’s going to be criticism.”
When told about Dickerson’s comments, Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher claimed he was unsure where the miscommunication was coming from. He acknowledged that the two men had a ‘really good conversation’ a few weeks earlier, and said that the former Rams star was always welcome in the building, and he’d love to have him come in and attend practice and the team’s meetings.
Upon hearing Fisher and Demoff’s comments, Dickerson became even more upset. He felt the team’s upper management was providing a response to the public which was different from what they had told him privately. He made appearances on Fox Sports Radio, FS1 and ESPN, and gave interviews to the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News.
Dickerson said the Rams Head Coach told him “Players feel uncomfortable with you coming on the sidelines. Some of the stuff you said about the team, coaches and the players, as long as I’m head coach, we’re not going to have that. You’re not going to be saying stuff. You’re not going to be coming to the sidelines as long as I’m head coach here.”
After letting Fisher finish, Dickerson says he told him, “I’m a grown-ass man. I’m not a little kid, or the kids you’re coaching. You think I’ve been anxiously waiting on the sidelines for the Rams to come back to town? You have the wrong guy. I’m not here with my hand out. Do you feel like I owe y’all something? Send me a bill.”
He continued, “You can go anyplace else. You can go back to Tennessee, you can go to Cleveland, you can go to SC. Still, I’m going to be Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams. That’s why I wear that gold jacket. I have the right to say what I say. I’m not trying to hurt the players. I’m a frustrated player and a frustrated fan. I watch this every week. I love the players. I’m always a player first.”
And he wasn’t done there. Dickerson told media outlets that as as long as Fisher’s coaching the Rams, he won’t be present at the Coliseum.
With the Rams struggling on the field, and failing to attract local viewers to watch their games in the nation’s second largest media market, getting into a public spat with the franchise’s most popular former player isn’t going to help matters. It also doesn’t help Jeff Fisher’s job security.
Demoff says he understands the frustration but is also aware that winning over fans in the team’s new home city will take time and patience.
“When you lose football games, people are going to be outspoken. I think we all understand that. Everybody believes that Eric’s entitled to his opinion, as a former player, as a Hall of Famer and somebody who’s been part of our family. Certainly, you’re going to listen to what he has to say. But I think we’re all frustrated and disappointed, and I just think Eric’s viewpoints on his show is that. And he has every right to express himself. I don’t think we would ever attempt to silence him or warn him to feel as if he doesn’t have that platform.”
“This is a city that expects its teams to be champions, and to be in the playoffs, and to win consistently. That needs to be our standard, and if we fall short of that, we have to own up to it and go fix it. This was not going to be a ‘snap your fingers and have a change overnight. There’s a lot of work to be done to grow this fan base.”
Only time will tell if the Rams are up to that task on the field. But for now, they can help themselves by repairing the damage that’s been done with one of the team’s all-time greats.