Eric Dickerson can start practicing with the Indianapolis Colts this week, but don't expect Albert Bentley to put out the welcome mat.
Dickerson is eligible to come off the club's non-football injured list on Oct. 17 and could be in uniform when the team resumes play their next game - Oct. 21 against Denver."I haven't thought about it that much at all," Bentley said about Dickerson's return. "I've been trying to focus on what I need to do to get us turned around."
Bentley, second in the NFL with 1,578 all-purpose yards in 1987, became almost an afterthought once Dickerson was obtained from the Los Angeles Rams in 1987 as part of a three-team trade.
Colts owner Robert Irsay has said he planned to meet with Dickerson or his attorney Arn Tellum as early as this week to discuss a possible contract extension. Dickerson, who failed a physical with a hamstring injury after reporting to the team 11 days late in August, was under contract to receive $1.45 million this year and stands to lose more than $600,000 due to fines and his injury.
While Dickerson, the seventh-leading rusher in NFL history, remained at his California home, Bentley has been the workhorse of the offense. He has four of its 10 touchdowns, made 73 of its 92 rushes and leads the team with 20 receptions.
Bentley, who had rushed only 45 times in '88, expressed his unhappiness with the situation by reporting to training camp late last year and is leery about a future that includes Dickerson in a Colts' uniform.
"It all depends on how I'm played after that point," said Bentley, who has nearly matched his production of last year in just five games with 275 yards rushing and 258 receiving. "If I'm still given a chance to get in there and compete, Eric would definitely be an asset to our team. If not, of course, I'm not going to be happy."
Bentley scored twice in Sunday's 23-19 victory over Kansas City, extending his 5-foot-11 body to its fullest to get the ball over the goal line on a 9-yard pass play with two tacklers pulling him in the opposite direction and then twisting away for a 10-yard score to put the Colts ahead with 5:33 to play.
"It's really hard once you get inside the 10 to get over the goal line and every chance you get, you've got to make the most of it. I saw the flag and thought I could get the ball stuck in there," Bentley said.
"The second one, there was kind of a wall of guys there and they were all waiting to see which way I was going to break. I decided to give them a fake and kind of muscle it in," he added.
Bentley needs only three carries against Denver to top his '89 total of 75 when he had 299 yards rushing with career-highs of 525 yards on 52 receptions.
"Albert and his 213-pound body packs a lot of explosiveness. He is an incredible player," Indianapolis coach Ron Meyer said. "What's so absolutely fantastic about Bentley is, as good a football player as he is, he's is an even better person. He is truly a leader."