Running back Craig James, quarterback Mike Hohensee and receiver Reggie Smith each will be out for about a month because of injuries suffered during the Federals' 20-3 loss to Los Angeles Monday night.
James, the No. 1 draft choice from Southern Methodist, has a mild compression fracture of the upper dorsal spine. Dr. Tony Rankin, the Federals' orthopedic surgeon, said James will be out four to five weeks.
Hohensee, who started Monday, has a fractured sternum. He will be out three to five weeks.
Smith, also a kick returner, has a slight separation of the left foot. He will be out about six weeks.
"I was hoping that with Hohensee and James getting more experience, we'd be making a run for it, winning some games, but this really puts us behind the eight ball," said Federals Coach Ray Jauch.
Jauch said that a number of players, including a linebacker, a quarterback and one or more offensive linemen will begin working out with Washington today. One of the newcomers may be former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joe Gilliam, recently cut by the Denver Gold.
After the team returned yesterday from Los Angeles, James and Hohensee were admitted to Howard University Hospital and Smith was admitted to Providence Hospital.
Coming on the heels of two straight one-sided losses, these injuries to key offensive players are devastating blows to the struggling Federals, who have scored only 10 points in the two games.
Kim McQuilken will replace Hohensee at quarterback against the Boston Breakers Sunday at Boston's Nickerson Field. Buddy Hardeman and Eric Robinson will share playing time at halfback.
Mike Holmes, who signed with the Federals Saturday after a career in the Canadian Football League, caught four passes for 78 yards Monday night and will start with Joey Walters at wide receiver.
"When you talk about players of that kind getting injured, it knocks us right square in the behind," said Dick Bielski, the Federals offensive coordinator. "In the past two weeks we seem to have all the elements for good execution, but there's always been one screwup, a missed block or some bad timing, and we blow it. We depend on Reggie and Craig and Mike for consistency."
Against the Express, Hohensee led the Federals on a nicely executed 15-play opening drive that ended in Obed Ariri's 28-yard field goal, but later in the half Hohensee took a helmet in the chest and came out. Once Los Angeles showed its own offensive power--scoring 17 points in the first half behind Mike Rae's passing, LaRue Harrington's running and Ricky Ellis' two touchdown receptions--the Federals could not stop them on defense or retaliate on offense.
Playing only the first half, Rae threw 14 times for eight completions, 110 yards and two touchdowns. So badly did he fool defensive back Jeff Brown on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Ellis in the second quarter, that, from 18 yards out, he threw the same pass, to the same receiver, for the same result 35 seconds later.
Jauch said he thought the offensive line performed more efficiently on pass protection than it had against the Blitz and Steve Hoffman's punting was markedly improved this week.
Still, the one optimistic comment made after the game that rang truest had little to do with the first two games.
McQuilken said: "It's no fun losing the first two, but I still get the feeling that this league is so embryonic that we shouldn't think, 'My God, we've lost two, we're out of it.' We can't feel that kind of heat yet. As much as I want to win right away, there's the desire to build a winning team over time, over the next few years. That's most important."
The question is whether the public, with an NCAA tournament, a baseball season and pro basketball and hockey playoffs about to begin, will suffer the Federals' growing pains gladly.
The Federals drew 38,010 to their first home game. Part of that crowd may have been there to see Blitz Coach George Allen or small history being made. But Jauch is not concerned that a series of early losses will cut attendance when the Federals return to RFK Stadium to play the Michigan Panthers on March 27.
"People want to see a winning team, there's no doubt about that, so I don't know what the reaction will be," said Jauch. "But I think Washington fans have been loyal in the past. I hope they stay that way."