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For the first time in nine years there is no Rosenbloom on the masthead of the LOS ANGELES press book. Steve is in New Orleans, along with four other ex-Ram executives, and his stepmother, Georgia, who owns the franchise, is now Georgia Frontiere. While she was honeymooning in Europe with hubby No. 7, dark clouds were forming over the Rams' new Anaheim Stadium complex.
Four of L.A.'s five Pro Bowl stars, Jack and Jim Young-blood, Dennis Harrah and Larry Brooks, didn't report to camp, although each has at least two years left on his contract. The fifth, Center Rich Saul, told Coach Ray Malavasi that the only way he could protect his 32-year-old legs was to play two quarters a game—pick any two.
The agents for the four holdouts told General Manager Don Klosterman that they would address their demands to Madame Ram when she returned from Europe. Klosterman's repeated answer to queries on the subject is "NFC," which stands for "no further comment." What would he say if the Rams played in the AFC?
"You've got to be firm in something like this," says Klosterman, who fined each of his Fearless Four $200 a day, starting on July 27, "or it will be a happening in every training camp."
The reason for the defections, plus the grumbling of stars such as Pat Thomas and Jack Reynolds, seems to be the $1.1 million package awarded top draft pick Johnnie Johnson, who has yet to beat out Jeff Delaney, a second-year player, in the battle for the retired Dave Elmendorf's strong safety spot. And while the feeling was that sooner or later the four holdouts would report—probably in time to get their timing down for the regular season—young people like Linebacker George Andrews are getting a lot of game experience.
If the clouds disperse, L.A., coming off its first-ever appearance in the Super Bowl, should repeat as NFC West champs. Malavasi is playing a pat hand; rookies have made little impact. Malavasi installed Pat Haden as the No. 1 quarterback despite Vince Ferragamo's late-season and Super Bowl heroics. "You don't take away a guy's job just because he gets hurt," the coach says. A bad start, though, could change that.
Running Back Wendell Tyler, who put some zip into the backfield, dislocated his hip in an automobile accident and won't suit up until October at the earliest; for now his job belongs to Elvis Peacock. In the off-season, Malavasi cleared out his starting running backs of 1978; Lawrence McCutcheon was shipped off to Denver, John Cappelletti to San Diego. And in the preseason L.A.'s most experienced wide receiver, Ron Jessie, was traded to Buffalo.
Even without the four holdouts, the Rams will make the playoffs again. They can't miss; the computer has awarded them a schedule that includes only four games against teams with winning records in 1979.
Now please make the following roster changes on your NEW ORLEANS lineup: from L.A.—Steve Rosenbloom, G.M.; Harold Guiver, assistant G.M.; Dick Steinberg, vice-president for player personnel; Don Johnson, ticket manager; Joe Mendez, area scout. If the Saints could just move some of those Youngbloods east, as well as a Larry Brooks or a Pat Thomas, they'd be in business. It's defense that the Saints need, and it's defense that the Rams have. Until that balance is corrected, the division will line up in the same old pecking order.