Coach Ted Marchibroda was called away from Baltimore Colt practice today by news that his wife, Henrietta, was injured in an automobile accident on the Cabin John Bridge in Bethesda.
Marchibroda later reported to the team office from the hospital that his wife fell asleep while driving from their home here to their other house in Falls Church and hit the side of the bridge.
The coach said Mrs. Marchibroda was placed in an intensive care unit as a precaution after it was determined she suffered fractured collarbones, cheekbones, a broken nose and cuts.
The Colts practiced for their season-opener on Sunday with Kansas City under Maxie Baughan, the defensive coordinator, after the squad was told about Mrs. Marchibroda. The Marchibrodas have four children -- Ted Jr., Robert, Jodi and Lonni.
The coach asked his staff to conduct practice at the usual time Friday and said he might be able to attend.
The Colts finished the preseason with a 2-2 record after defeating the Detroit Lions here Friday night, 17-7. The Chiefs had a 3-1 exhibition record after a 25-0 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
The Colts and Chiefs had 5-11 records in 1978 and both are expected to improve on those marks.
Sunday's game will be between two of George Allen's former assistants at Los Angeles and Washington. Marchibroda was a quarterback coach under Allen and Marv Levy the special teams' coach.
Baughan, who played under Marchibroada, Levy and Allen, talked about Marchibroda and Levy after today's practice and compared them with Allen.
"Ted is a perfectionist," Baughan said. "He demands the best out of everyone, but he does it in a low-key manner, but then so does Marv. They are a lot alike."
"Ted believes in laying out a program in offense and defense and sticking to it; as a matter of fact, so do I . . . Allen was the same way. He would say if you prepared the players properly, it would be wrong to all of a sudden change something just because maybe the fans or the press or the players wanted you to.
"George would not change something, say, at halftime unless it was absolutely necessary. Ted gets the players to do things his way by showing respect for them."
Another longtime Marchibroda observer said he is different from other coaches because of his unswerving optimism. The Colts slumped badly last season when quarterback Bert Jones missed most of the year with a separated throwing shoulder.
It was a season in which the team also lost running back Lydell Mitchell to San Diego after a salary dispute with owner Bob Irsay.
Marchibroda did not panic. He made a deal with San Diego that brought in a faster running back, Joe Washington, and once the season was over dealt with the Detroit Lions for veteran quarterback Greg Landry, who would have been able to take over if Jones were not fully recovered.
Jones demonstrated in exhibitions that he is strong of arm again and the quarterback predicted the Colts would climb from last place to first in the AFC East.
Marchibroda missed the playoffs for the first time in his four years as coach in 1978 but this season downplayed injuries that caused the loss of six players last year.
If the Colts get past the Chiefs Sunday, they figure to have it easier in the next game, at home against Tampa Bay, before taking on Cleveland and Pittsburgh.