Anderson's success with Tampa Bay could haunt -- or help -- Chargers

October 28, 1990|By T.J. Simers | T.J. Simers,Los Angeles Times

SAN DIEGO -- Look on the bright side: If the San Diego Chargers still had Gary Anderson, then this coaching staff wouldn't know what to do with Rod Bernstine, Ronnie Harmon and Gary Anderson.

You see -- progress.

Anderson is now Tampa Bay's problem, where he's presently the team's leading rusher, second-best receiver, and with the exception of their kicker, the team's top scorer. Some problem.

"After sitting out a whole year it's good to come back with a bang," Anderson said. "Everything is going right for me."

You know things are going right for you when you get to play the Chargers these days.

"It will be nice to come back and play in the stadium in front of that staff," Anderson said. "I guess you could say they didn't believe in me . . . didn't really give me a chance.

"They wanted to change their offense around to the big back. More like Washington. I don't think I really fit in. So I guess they got what they wanted, and I got what I wanted."

The Chargers got it, all right. They received two draft choices for the game-breaking Anderson. They've already cashed in a third-round pick in last year's draft, selecting linebacker Jeff Mills.

Mills has one assisted tackle to his credit, but then the season is only seven games old.

The Chargers will also get a third-round pick in the 1991 draft. Tampa agreed, however, to give the Chargers a second rather than a third if Anderson gained more than a combined 1,000 yards in rushing and receiving this season.

Tampa, obviously, had no idea that Anderson would one day be matched against Junior Seau.

Anderson missed practice last week because of a calf injury, gained 12 yards in a brief appearance against the Dallas Cowboys, and still leads the National Football League in total yards from scrimmage with 740.

"This is a guy who San Diego thought was a one-dimensional back," said Peter Johnson, Anderson's International Management Group agent. "They paid Ronnie Harmon and Thomas Sanders more money than they would have paid Gary, and one of those guys has been released and the other isn't playing."

Anderson has pronounced himself healthy for his return to San Diego today, and for those who need reminding, the last time he was seen darting and weaving on this turf, he set a club record rushing for 217 yards.

"Tampa hadn't been balanced in the past but Gary gives them a great deal of balance," Charger Coach Dan Henning said. "Gary is running the ball well, and he's catching it, and he's a threat every time he gets it. But that's nothing new to people here, I don't think."

In a recent Pro Football Weekly dispatch, the Bucs pointed to Anderson as the primary reason for their 4-3 start and improved play.

"Our only problem for the last three years was that we couldn't run a lick," Tampa Bay coach Ray Perkins said. "Gary Anderson is a special player."

Earlier this season against Dallas, Anderson caught a short pass, and with the shiftiness that makes him so exciting to watch, turned it into a 58-yard touchdown. It was the longest reception for a touchdown by a running back in the Bucs' history.

Anderson caught 80 passes in 1986 as a wide receiver, then made the switch to running back and gained 1,119 yards behind a crumbling offensive line in 1988. He led the Chargers in all-purpose yardage in 1986, 1987 and 1988.

"I had a good time there, and the people in town were real nice to me," Anderson said. "That's what I still don't understand. I never did anything to get treated the way I did. They gave me a chance to run the ball and I'd like to think I did pretty good. But when it came to negotiate, all that went out the window."

Anderson earned $400,000 in the final year of his contract with the Chargers and was selected the team's most valuable performer. When contract talks stalled the following summer, the team took an unusually hard line.

Steve Ortmayer, director of football operations at the time, went public and suggested that Anderson was being misguided by his wife, Ollie. He also said the club would not entertain trade offers for the running back.

"It was bad enough they sent me a lower contract offer than the first one they gave me," Anderson said, "but when Ortmayer bad-mouthed my wife, that was the last straw."

"It was one person. Steve Ortmayer," Anderson said. "He had messed up so many trades, so that was working against me, too. They were afraid the fans would get on them if they traded me and it didn't work out. I think Ortmayer felt he could wait me out and I'd come in for what they wanted to give me."

Anderson, however, sat out the 1989 season. "We had saved money from our [United States Football League] days with Tampa," he said.

After Ortmayer was fired, General Manager Bobby Beathard met with Anderson in Tampa, and then he delivered an optimistic report to San Diego fans at the prospect of signing him.

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