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1985 Bears Coverage: Rams' Jeter set to Dent Bears

Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.

Rams’ Jeter set to Dent Bears

Brian Hewitt

Originally published Jan. 9, 1986

The TV guy wants Gary Jeter to hang around the practice field for an extra hour to do a “live spot.” In exchange, Jeter extracts a promise for a free dinner at a ribs joint over on Pico Blvd.

Jeter is a celebrity in Southern California this week. Last Saturday he sacked Cowboy quarterback Danny White three times in the Rams’ 20-0 playoff victory over the Cowboys. Suddenly he was Richard Dent West.

Then he tackled the chore of sizing up the Bears, Sunday’s opponent in the NFC championship game. “If the Rams and the Bears were toys,” he said, “they’d probably be rock ’em, sock ’em robots. Eventually somebody’s gonna get their heads knocked off.”

For those words, the TV guy should have treated him to dinner at Chasen’s.

Rushing from his right end position, Jeter has collected at least one sack in each of the Rams’ last six games. But the comparisons to Dent make him nervous.

“I can’t hold a candle to Dent,” Jeter says. “He’s just an awesome ballplayer. I mean just awesome. He’s one of the guys I watch constantly during the year. The other is Raider Howie Long.”

Dent, of course, is the scowling blur who sacked Giant quarterback Phil Simms 3 1/2 times last Sunday in the Bears’ 21-0 meltdown over the Giants.

Dent led the NFL in sacks this year with 17. Jeter, who must solve Bear Pro Bowl left tackle Jimbo Covert Sunday, didn’t even lead the Rams. His 11 sacks were second to right outside linebacker Mike Wilcher’s 12 1/2.

But Jeter only played approximately 40 percent of the Rams’ defensive plays. Reggie Doss defends the run from the right end spot. And because the Rams predicate their pass defense philosophy around a zone deployed like a net, Jeter is usually one of only three or four pass rushers. Dent is often one of five. “But, hey,” Jeter says, “I’m just happy to be here. I feel blessed.”

Twice blessed.

Jeter’s first break came when Ram boss John Robinson, his college coach at USC, took him in trade from the Giants where Jeter had toiled seven years. The second occurred when a back disc, herniated on the first day of 1984 training camp, healed.

The injury happened during a pass-run drill with tackle Irv Pankey. “I butted him, I grabbed him with my hands, I threw him to the right, I went to the left and something popped,” Jeter remembers.

Vertebrae had descended, forcing the disc out of position. The result was a pinching of the sciatic nerve that radiated through his buttocks and down his leg before hovering in his ankle. Jeter spent two weeks in the hospital and six more at home recuperating.

When he finally returned, the 6-4, 260-pound Jeter was more of a speed pass rusher than a power guy. “I can still do most of the things I used to do,” he says. “But I’m not like Richard Dent. Richard is tremendously quick. It’s run, run, run. I’m a little more shifty.”

Like most of his teammates, Jeter is relieved the Rams have reached a point where their critics no longer will be able to ignore them if they win. “If anything’s embarrassing, it’s being 10-point underdogs,” he says. “But point spreads are for people with bad habits.”

Point spreads also apply pressure to favorites. “I think we have more to gain,” Jeter says. “The Bears have the Super Bowl Shuffle and a number of other things. And they seem like they’re doing well in the record industry. It looks like they’re doing well in the TV industry, too.

“We don’t have a guy on commercials and we don’t have anybody with a hit record. Hey, we’re just going to play.”