Ray Jauch stood against the locker room wall and watched his players limp by. The Washington Federals had just finished losing, 24-12, to the Denver Gold Friday night and the price for their 10th loss in a row, and 13 in 14 games, had been higher than usual.
Quarterback Mike Hohensee wore a calf-to-thigh brace to steady his severely twisted left knee. Wide receiver Joey Walters said he was just fine, but two sprained, swollen toes had him limping and he could not help but clutch his bruised lower back.
Wide receiver Mike Harris came out of the shower with a plastic bag covering his heavily taped left hand; in practice he suffered a compound fracture of his pinkie. Kick returner Eric Robinson wore a blue canvas sling to ease the pain from his bruised right shoulder.
And a third receiver, Vince Kinney, playing for Mike Holmes, was in the training room with a serious knee injury that will keep him out of action for the remaining four games of this long, long season. Kinney underwent surgery yesterday for torn ligaments and will not play again this year.
Hohensee injured the meniscal cartilage in his left knee and was examined by team physician Tony Rankin. He will be checked again Sunday; a team spokesman said it was too early to tell if he would play this week. The status of Robinson and Walters also will not be known until later in the week.
Jauch went around and asked each player about his particular ailment. As athletes will, they said, oh sure, it's all right, no problem, ready to go next week.
Next week. The Federals have a remarkable ability to face the endless "next weeks" that this unforgiving season has provided. Next week they play in Arizona, the next in Michigan, and the last two weeks at RFK Stadium against Los Angeles and Philadelphia. The one team the Federals have beaten, the Michigan Panthers, are easily the league's most improved. And so, with prospects good of finishing 1-17, it must take enormous fortitude to play at all, much less injured.
"I can never complain about our guys' effort," Jauch said. "They keep battling it out."
In fact, regarding the team's performance, Jauch had less to be upset about than usual. The offensive performance was especially warming, as the Federals outgained the Gold, 416 yards to 266.
With 90 yards on 21 carries, Craig James had his best day as a professional, and Billy Taylor ran for 63 yards and caught 10 passes for 71. Harris had six catches for 100 yards.
Perhaps the most surprising perfomance came from Kim McQuilken, who came in when Hohensee left midway through the second quarter. McQuilken, who had not played since May 8 in Chicago, threw 28 times for 22 completions and 156 yards.
But Washington failed to score when it had the chance. Led by fullback Larry Canada's 116 yards rushing and touchdowns of five and 24 yards in the fourth quarter, Denver scored when it had to.
Washington, under Hohensee and then McQuilken, had drives of 66, 82 and 65 yards that penetrated the Gold's 20-yard line but resulted only in two field goals by Sandro Vitiello.
Washington's touchdown came in the fourth quarter when Leroy Robinson blocked a punt and Mike Matocha recovered in the end zone. The score narrowed Denver's margin to 17-12 with 1:49 left.
Canada's 24-yard run through the center of the erratic Washington defensive line with 41 seconds left put it out of reach. So a delighted crowd of 40,671 saw Denver Coach Craig Morton get his second victory in as many games. Morton replaced Red Miller, who was fired by owner Ron Blanding.
Although the Gold appeared to have won the game by moving on the ground, it should be noted that the Federals' secondary did little to limit the passing game of Fred Mortensen, who played the first half, and Craig Penrose, Morton's former backup with the Broncos, who played the second. Denver dropped so many passes, a couple of which might have gone for long scores, that Morton wondered aloud if the USFL permitted the use of stickum.