In their opening losses to Chicago and Los Angeles, the Washington Federals were outscored, 48-10. And if statistics measured bad luck and disruptions, the margin would triple. Things have been that bad.
Following Monday night's 20-3 debilitating loss to the Express, the Federals invited quarterback Joe Gilliam, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints, for a three-day tryout. He worked with the team yesterday but it is unlikely he will be able to solve all of Washington's problems--soon or otherwise.
Although the Federals have by no means set any offensive records in the past two weeks, injuries to three key players are sure to make matters worse. Running back Craig James (compression fracture of the upper dorsal spine), quarterback Mike Hohensee (fractured sternum) and wide receiver Reggie Smith (dislocated foot) all will miss at least the next month.
The team also has had to deal with a disturbing incident last week in which running back Buddy Hardeman was arrested and charged with assaulting a District police officer. A few days later, the team returned from a workout to discover that the locker room had been burglarized.
The Federals may be running low on quality players but there has been no shortage of dark omens. Coach Ray Jauch shook his head, eyes lowered, feet shuffling: "It's been a disconcerting couple of weeks."
"I can't ever remember a team getting decimated like this," said General Manager Dick Myers. "The key to success is not only talent, it's good fortune, and we haven't had any."
Myers and Jauch have decided to bring in a number of players to fill in for the injured players and to bolster the team, especially on offense.
Gilliam, 32, tried out for the Denver Gold but Coach Red Miller released him in camp in favor of Jeff Knapple and Kenny Johnson. Myers had been interested in signing Gilliam since January.
"We don't know what Joe's got left," said Myers. "We know he can still throw, but we want to see what else there is. We've heard that he's been problem-free for the past two years."
Myers was referring to drug problems Gilliam experienced while in the NFL. In his years with the Steelers (1972-1976), Gilliam was known for his extraordinarily strong arm but played behind all-pro Terry Bradshaw.
Shortly after joining the Saints in 1976, the former Tennessee State star was arrested for possession of cocaine and a weapon. With his NFL career at an end, Gilliam played with the Baltimore Eagles of the Atlantic Football Conference. In August 1979, two men were charged with attempting to murder Gilliam in Baltimore in a drug-related incident.
Arriving from his home in New Orleans only minutes before the start of yesterday's practice, Gilliam told Jauch he wanted to wait a day or two before he spoke to the press.
"Joe has been through a lot," said Jauch. "I hope all is well now and he'll be able to help us."
Kim McQuilken, who started against the Blitz and then lost his job to Hohensee, will open Sunday's game against the Boston Breakers, Jauch said. Eric Robinson will open at halfback.
Others trying out are quarterback Ron Meehan of Towson State, linebacker Reggie Oliver of Northern Michigan, wide receiver Mike Harris of Purdue and running back Clarence Norwood of Pittsburgh. Chris Garrity, a quarterback from William and Mary who was released by the Federals after training camp, also rejoined the team for a tryout.
Myers said he may bring in additional "promising" players this week.