ROCKFORD, ILL., JUNE 12 -- Two weeks of practicing on 50-yard outdoor fields was only the first step of adjustment for the Arena Football League's four teams, including the Washington Commandos.
Yesterday, they got the real thing. Before 1,500 in the Rockford MetroCentre, the four newly chosen teams squared off in exhibitions: the Chicago Bruisers played the Pittsburgh Gladiators, and the Commandos faced the Denver Dynamite for two quarters.
Kickoffs bounced off the arena's rafters, a failed 57-yard field goal attempt was returned for 14 yards in kickoff fashion, other kicks bounced off the net, often to players' confusion, and strangely short end zone-to-end zone passes were launched.
Each team dressed just a handful more players than will make the final roster cuts this weekend. The Commandos suited up 21 players; Coach Bob Harrison said a decision on one quarterback and four other players to be cut would not be announced until at least Saturday.
Washington lost the exhibition, 20-18, after a four-yard Denver touchdown pass in the final minute. But Harrison said the result didn't bother him. "I think everyone was just getting used to it," he said.
During their first of two quarters with Denver, Washington led by 15-14, and a few of its players began to stand out.
Eddie Phillips, a 6-foot, 207-pound running back from Iowa who was the league's first player to be signed, made a key eight-yard run to set up Washington's second score. Richard Dupree, a 5-7, 170-pound running back from the University of Washington, squirted down the side to tie the game, 14-14. Dale Castro, a kicker from Maryland, made it 15-14.
Washington played two quarterbacks -- Mike Calhoun, who played with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes in 1983-84, and Rich Ingold, from Indiana (Pa.) University. Harrison said Calhoun likely will be the starter, although he went only three of nine for two yards.
"I have to throw with more touch in this game," Calhoun said. "I was looking for the deep ball early."
Ingold went five for 11 for 44 yards. A third quarterback, Kurt Beathard, the son of Washington Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard, was the only Commando not to play.