A familiar old bird is getting his wing ready to wave at the Washington Redskins. Quarterback Jim Hart, who bruised a knee Sept. 6, will resume practice today and, if all goes well, will start for the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday at Busch Stadium.
"It's a possibility; we can't say for sure," Coach Jim Hanifan said yesterday. "He's certainly better off than last week. He came out of the Miami game after two series, there was swelling after the game and the next day he had an arthroscopy that showed some little bit of damage.
"They cleaned the knee out on Monday and on Wednesday he came walking right in here. I couldn't believe it."
So believe that at 37, in his 16th NFL season, Hart will do everything possible to get ready for the Redskins, a team that has beaten him nine of the last 10 meetings.
If Hart can't play, rookie Neil Lomax will start for the second straight week. Where some quarterbacks wait years for a good shot, Lomax became the Cardinals' field general in the first period of his first NFL game.
Lomax completed 14 of 30 passes for 151 yards as a relief man in the 20-7 loss to the Dolphins, then clicked on 14 of 41 for 295 yards in going the route as Dallas beat the Cardinals, 30-17.
"Neil didn't have a good completion percentage against Dallas, but he threw for a lot of yards," Hanifan said. "There were at least nine dropped balls and two or three of them were big-play situations that should have happened. He could have had a 400-yard day.
"It was a good game for a rookie quarterback or a veteran quarterback. He's got the earmarks. He's exciting. We were very, very fortunate to get him in the second round."
Lomax, despite breaking virtually every NCAA passing record at Portland State, lasted through the first round of the NFL draft because the competition he faced was suspect.
Like Washington, St. Louis has passed more than it has run the ball this season. Unlike the Redskins, though, the Cardinals' predicament has been dictated by the score, rather than a complete inability to move on the ground.
Ottis Anderson, the Cardinals' big back, has outgained the Redskins each of the past two weeks, 52-44 and 80-65.
"It may have been only 80 yards, but some of those runs against Dallas were something to behold," Hanifan said. "If we could only get him some decent running room, he'd be having a great start.
"I wish we hadn't been forced to throw so much (76 times to 56 rushes), but it's been the game situation. We've fallen behind and had to play catch-up."
Running back Theotis Brown, who squirmed 11 yards to score against Dallas, has been hobbling on a sprained ankle and is questionable for Sunday. He and Hart are the only invalids, as the Cardinals appear in better shape physically than the Redskins.
The Cardinals' receivers have not been sparkling and against Dallas Anderson's four receptions were high. Mel Gray, the man Redskin fans loved to hate as far back as that infamous catch of 1975, separated a shoulder in preseason and no one has filled the hole. John Floyd, cut by the Redskins just before season's start, will get another chance Sunday after failing to catch a pass as a Cardinal starter last week.
This will be the first clash as head coaches of Hanifan and Joe Gibbs. They were assistants under Don Coryell for five years at St. Louis and another at San Diego.
"We were very good friends and we still are," Hanifan said, "but we won't be Sunday. We wouldn't be even if this game didn't mean so much to both of us. Everybody has a lot of friends coaching through the country, but you never have any friends on the opposite side of the field on Sunday."
Hanifan, the offensive line coach, and Gibbs, the offensive backfield coach, often talked about theories of moving the football during those years in St. Louis. Hanifan said they never talked about what they might do as head coaches, though.
"We both thought that was so remote, we never mentioned it," he said.