The chances of Doug Flutie starting in Monday's U.S. Football League playoff game against the Baltimore Stars appeared greatly improved today, and so did the New Jersey Generals' humor, after the rookie quarterback's first workout since breaking his collarbone four weeks ago.
Flutie ran and threw with his usual flair in a two-hour practice at Giants Stadium, where the Generals will play the Stars Monday night at 9. Flutie's throwing was strong, he said he felt no pain and his timing was good. But whether he would start was the question of the day.
"What if I said no?" he said, jokingly. "It's still a little up in the air. I felt 100 percent. It's just a matter of whether I can take a hit."
The Generals did not want to risk further injury to Flutie's collarbone. He encountered no contact in the workout, which he split evenly with backup Ron Reeves.
"Maybe we should put him on the seven-man sled and see how it goes," Coach Walt Michaels joked.
Flutie will have one more X-ray taken by team physician Mark Schottenfeld before a decision is made. Broken collarbones usually take about six weeks to heal, so Flutie is ahead of schedule.
"Hopefully, it will come down to my decision after the X-ray," he said. "But he might say I'm not ready, in which case I'll probably crawl over and die."
Flutie was cleared to practice earlier in the week by Schottenfeld, who said that medically, Flutie is virtually recovered, leaving the decision to Michaels and the quarterback. Michaels said he would not make an announcement until an hour before game time.
Michaels expressed concern that Flutie might be trying to return too early. He recalled the 1980 season he spent with the New York Jets, when quarterback Richard Todd returned from a collarbone injury sooner than expected and immediately broke it again.
"I'm not a medical man," he said. "I'll wait until Monday to make my decision. He's got to get back in the swing of things in practice."
Flutie had been throwing lightly on the sidelines for the last week and attending practice regularly. But he said the time off had done him good, and he looked more rested than he has since joining the Generals straight out of Boston College.
"I've been with the team mentally, I haven't taken a vacation," he said. "I know what to expect from the Stars -- they're physical. I'm ready to play -- that's what I'm most excited about."
The Generals would be grateful to have him. Reeves was just fair in his three games since taking over for Flutie. He threw five interceptions as the Generals went 1-2, losing the Eastern Conference championship to the Birmingham Stallions.
Stars Coach Jim Mora said he was preparing for both Reeves and Flutie. The Stars had mixed success this season against the Heisman Trophy winner. In their first meeting, Baltimore sacked Flutie three times and held him to six yards rushing in a 29-9 victory. But he beat them with a last-minute touchdown drive in the second, scoring on a six-yard scramble for a 10-3 victory.
"Getting ready for Flutie is not totally different from Reeves," Mora said. "The main thing is to contain him."