Dan Lloyd is running out of time and teams. Like all the hopeful players who have been in camp on three-day tryouts with the Federals--a 325-pound Samoan-born lineman, a misunderstood running back, a stream of journeymen at every position--Lloyd's task has been to prove he has overcome the liabilities that forced him into unemployment.
Lloyd arrived here Wednesday. After his departure from the New York Giants and the NFL in 1982, he has searched for work as a professional linebacker. He was willing to sign "a bare bones $20,000" contract with the New Jersey Generals, but was released before the start of the U.S. Football League season.
"This is one hungry guy you're looking at," he said after a workout. "I know what I'm up against, but I have to have it."
If his tone is dramatic, even desperate, it is with reason. In 1980, he discovered two lumps in his neck. The diagnosis: lymphatic cancer. Lloyd's wife was pregnant and he was 26.
In the two years of chemotherapy that followed, Lloyd was no more willing to relinquish his ambition to return to professional football than life itself. While his hair thinned from the painful, debilitating treatments, Lloyd continued to practice and hope. The hope, at least, has paid off: his cancer has not recurred and he no longer needs treatment.
"It (football) was like that Rocky Graziano movie," Lloyd said. "I had to have it." But three days after camp opened, he injured his knee.
"I went down," he said. "It was like someone had shot me."
Lloyd tried to return to practice five days after knee surgery and, while favoring his healthy leg, tore ligaments in his ankle. Lloyd said the Giants, for whom he had played since being drafted out of Washington in 1976, tried to give him every chance, but with one of the NFL's premier linebacking quartets, the future in East Rutherford was bleak.
Lloyd called around the NFL and later the USFL. He is grateful for the meal money, his temporary lodging at the Branch Avenue Motor Lodge and, above all, the chance.
"We know Dan is a very intelligent player," said Coach Ray Jauch. "But football is a physical game, too. We have to see if he can hit and stay with the receivers."
In practice this week, the coaches are most concerned with preparing for the Michigan Panthers game Sunday. They could not always be watching the new players, some of whom they may sign at the start of next week.
Dan Lloyd has had three days to make an impression.
In an effort to bolster the roster and cover for the recent injuries to quarterback Mike Hohensee, running back Craig James and wide receiver Reggie Smith, General Manager Dick Myers has continued to send Jauch players "for a look-over." Jauch has not always been able to keep track of the new faces and names, and when James made his first appearance at a Federals practice since his injury 10 days before, he looked astonished.
"I don't recognize half these people," James said.
Since James suffered a spinal compression fracture in Washington's loss to Los Angeles, the Federals have traded for guard Mike Wilson and receiver Mike Harris and signed quarterback Joe Gilliam and linebacker Jeff McIntyre after tryouts.
Now the tryout list includes Lloyd, kicker and punter Dana Moore of Mississippi State, former Kansas City Chiefs running back Horace Belton, guard Eric Cunningham, who was cut by the Stars, and Tony Aloia, a 325-pound offensive lineman who played under Frank Kush at Arizona State and, briefly, in Baltimore. Another of this week's tryouts, former Giants running back Billy Taylor, has already been signed.
The Federals have tried the Samoan-born Aloia at the center position. As he squats over the ball, he is reminiscent of one of the broader structures in Arches National Park.
Once, when he executed a beautiful slam of a block, his opposite number reeled as if hit with a natural disaster. Those who stood safely on the sidelines cheered madly.
"When they cut me at the Colts they tried to blame it on my weight," said Aloia. "But that wasn't it."
"He seems to hit pretty hard," Jauch said of Aloia. "I might like to see him take off a few pounds. He isn't exactly Roger Bannister."
Aloia, too, has had but three days.
If the Federals are likely to keep another of the tryouts besides Taylor it would be Moore. Washington's running and punting games were miserable against Boston last week.
While Obed Ariri is likely to remain the kicker, Moore needs only to outdistance the inconsistent punting of reserve quarterback Mike Forslund.
As for Taylor, Washington fans probably remember his game-winning performance against the Redskins on Nov. 25, 1979. He gained 126 yards on 27 carries, and on the Giants' winning touchdown drive he carried the ball on 13 of 14 plays for 75 yards and the clinching score. The final was Giants 14, Redskins 6.
The Giants released Taylor in their 1982 training camp, as did the USFL Boston Breakers in February.
As if the RFK practice field were not populated enough, the occasional figure, trying to catch the glance of a coach, goes sprinting purposefully along the out-of-bounds area.
Greg Lucas played running back for UDC until 1979 and since then has played semipro ball with the Metro Buccaneers. For three weeks now, he has executed wind sprints while wearing a leaded vest.
"They haven't promised me anything yet," Lucas said. "But there's always a chance."
As they did with Gilliam and McIntyre, Myers and Jauch will probably decide who stays and who departs after this weekend's game. For Lloyd and the rest, the chances and teams may run out at last.
The Federals activated four players in addition to Taylor: guard Vaughn Harman, McIntyre, Forslund and tight end Phil DuBois.
Washington also deactivated tight end William Wall and running back Mark Sanford, and announced that Gilliam will dress for the game as the inactive quarterback.