Getting smacked by the Bus; Bettis says no to L.A. return


Former Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was making the media rounds on Tuesday and it can only mean one thing -- he's making a comeback to the NFL. And since reboots dominate Hollywood these days, who says that he cannot join Tiki Barber to remake the "Over the Hill Gang?"

So what do you say, Jerome, are you coming back to the NFL?

"(Laughter) Absolutely … not," Bettis said. "I wish."

Wait, what? You want to be back in the NFL?

"For the money they are making now, sure."

Well, you might want to ask Peyton Manning about that Jerome, he had to take a paycut to $90 million, so they are not exactly rolling in dough.

L.A. Football Story

Southern California has been the home of many professional football teams, from the L.A. Buccaneers in 1926 (a traveling team that never actually played in Los Angeles) to the XFL champion L.A. Xtreme in 2001. The Avengers were the last active team in L.A., but they folded in 2009.

Teams that have called Southern California home
Years Team League
1926 Los Angeles Buccaneers NFL
1940-45 Los Angeles Bulldogs PCPFL
1940-42 Hollywood Bears PCPFL
1943 Los Angeles Mustangs PCPFL
1944-45 Hollywood Wolves PCPFL
1946-1994 Los Angeles Rams NFL
1946-49 Los Angeles Dons AAFC
1960 Los Angeles Chargers AFL
1967 Long Beach Admirals Continental
1967-68 Orange County Ramblers Continental
1974-75 Southern California Sun WFL
1982-1994 Los Angeles Raiders NFL
1983-85 Los Angeles Express USFL
1988 Los Angeles Cobras Arena
1996-97 Anaheim Piranhas Arena
2000-09 Los Angeles Avengers Arena
2001 Los Angeles Xtreme XFL

But alas, there is no comeback to his NFL career. And he quickly dispelled rumors that he was going to leverage his cameo in The Office to taking over for Michael Scott on the NBC hit. Instead, Bettis has become a proponent of concussion testing and has teamed with Dick's Sporting Goods to spread the word on concussion testing as part of the Pace Program, which will provide baseline concussion testing for middle and high school athletes.

Adding further irony, Bettis doled out his share of concussions during his days as the "The Bus." Or as he was known during his early days in the NFL as the "Battering Ram." That's right, Anaheim Stadium was the place to be in 1993. Bettis was the NFL Rookie of the Year. Tim Salmon was the American League Rookie of the Year. A young writing prodigy named Adam Rank was covering both for the Orange County Sports Page. Oh, it was heady times.

Those Rams fans were some of the best. The team never won more than five games a season during Bettis' time in Anaheim as management was plotting a move to Baltimore one year, and eventually St. Louis, but the fans still came out.

So Jerome, do you recall those times with fondness?

"Absolutely," Bettis said. "They gave my opportunity to play tailback. I was a fullback at Notre Dame. Nobody thought I could play tailback, but they gave me a chance. It was special to me. My finest work. Though, I was more a fullback in a running back's body because I tried to hit everything."

And the NFL should totally return to Los Angeles right?

"I would probably say no," Bettis said.

Wait, what?

"Los Angeles is a transient town," Bettis explained. "A huge amount of those people have loyalty to another team. To try to develop fans, that would be difficult for a new team to do."

I am willing to cut Bettis some slack here because, as he told me as part of work with the Pace Program, the NFL really didn't do baseline concussion testing while he was playing. Because how else can you explain the regurgitation of some of the same tired stereotypes, because somehow the Angels, Lakers, Kings, Clippers, Ducks and Dodgers find a way to bring fans in on a nightly basis. Not to mention the huge crowds that USC brought in during the Pete Carroll era.

This is why you should never talk to your heroes, kids. It only ends in disappointment.

Oh wait, that's right, my hero Magic Johnson wants to help bring a team back to Los Angeles. But Bettis' point on Los Angeles as a sports town actually makes for a more compelling case for the Rams to return home because there is an existing fan base.

But I guess we can agree to disagree for right now.

Despite his views on the return to Los Angeles, I still believe that Bettis deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bettis did not make the final cut this season during his first year of eligibility, despite ranking fifth all-time in rushing yards, five spots ahead of this year's enshrinee Marshall Faulk.

But in any event, Bettis says that it is an honor just to be nominated, and if he doesn't, he will be happy knowing that he played "the right way."

Just don't expect a real warm reception if he's added to the new Los Angeles Rams' Ring of Honor.

Adam Rank still owns a child's medium-sized Jim Everett jersey. Make fun of him via Twitter or via Facebook. Oh, and be sure to catch the latest on the Dave Dameshek Football Program.



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