Running back Joe Washington arrived in Baltimore yesterday for a physical examination but the fate of the Colts in their National Football League opener could rest in the hands of a quarterback who has not thrown a pass in a regular-season game.

Third stringer Mike Kirkland, rushed into action because of injuries to starter Bert Jones and No. 2 quarterback Bill Troup, has been the only Colt passer physically able to practice the first two days this week.

The Colts open against the Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys Monday night in Dallas (9 p.m., WJLA-TV-7).

Jones, who suffered an "incomplete separation" of the right shoulder in the game Saturday night against the Detroit Lions, has been saying all along that he will be ready to play Monday. But the five-year veteran, who passed for 41 touchdowns the last two seasons, watched yesterday's practice at St. Mary's College in Catonsville wearing a sling.

Jones suffered a similar injury in 1973, missing three weeks.

Troup's ailment, a bruised shoulder also suffered in the Detroit game, is not as serious. In yesterday's practice, Troup tossed a few passes' on the sidelines.

"Troup has made a great deal of improvement," Colt Coach Ted Marchibroda commented. "He should be ready to play Monday."

The four-year veteran, Jones' backup for the past two years has thrown 20 passes during regular-season play, completing eight with two interceptions.

Jones and Troup were examined by the Colt team physician yesterday, but the results were not released. The two are listed as questionable Monday.

Marchibroda said Washington reconsidered his refusal to report to training camp.

Washington was dealt to the Colts by San Diego in a trade for running back Lydell Mitchell. Marchibroda said he was looking forward to Washington's joining the team today but that he would be worked into the lineup gradually.

The Colts announced the release of veteran running back Larry Watkins, free-agent wide receiver Dexter Feaster and defensive tackle Ken Novak, the team's top draft choice in 1976. Novak had not received much playing time behind starters Joe Ehrmann and Mike Barnes.

Monday, they released defensive back John Henderson and linebacker Dan Dickel. Veteran defensive back Tim Baylor and rookie linebacker Calvin O'Neill were recalled yesterday. Defensive back Dwight Harrison, picked up from Bauffalo for a draft choice, passed his physical and practiced with the team yesterday.

Cornerback Nelson Munsey, missing for a week because of personal problems, has been made a "roster exemption," meaning he does not count on Baltimore's official roster, now at 45.