After General Manager Dick Myers announced the signing yesterday of the Canadian Football League's leading pass catcher, Joey Walters, Coach Ray Jauch said he saw no reason why the newest member of the Washington Federals could not be ready for Sunday's opener against the Chicago Blitz.
Jauch, who coached 12 years in the CFL, said, "In Canada I've gotten new players, picked them up at the airport, put them on a bus to the stadium for a workout and played them the next day. We have three days, that's plenty of time."
Walters is a welcome acquisition. The Federals' receivers were unspectacular throughout training camp in Jacksonville.
Walters set a CFL record for most receptions in a season last year while playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He caught 101 passes for 1,670 yards. After graduating from Clemson in 1976, Walters was not drafted by the NFL and signed with the Canadian league. Walters, who is 5 feet 11 and 175 pounds, is a six-year veteran and has been an all-CFL selection for the last two seasons.
After negotiations with Saskatchewan proved fruitless, Walters officially became a free agent Tuesday. As a graduate of Clemson, he is in the Federals' territory; for months, Myers and Jauch had hoped to sign him.
Owner Berl Bernhard said, "Ever since Ray joined the team Joey Walters is the player I've been hearing about the most."
Jauch recalled coaching against Walters: "If past history holds true, he'll do anything to catch the ball. He'll stand on his head to catch it if he has to . . . I remember one game; Joey played offense, defense and returned kicks and punts. He did it all."
Walters said, "I remember that. In the first quarter one of our defensive corners got hurt and so I went in." The Federals will be content if he can complement Craig James' running game.
In Canada, Walters often played in a slot, as well as wide, position. But since Washington has a relatively strong tight end in Phil Dubois and an untested trio of wide receivers in Reggie Smith, Marc Brown and Walker Lee, Walters is likely to play split end most of the time.
"I'm not ready as I'd like to be, but I'm ready enough," said Walters.