SAN DIEGO — The Chargers added another linebacker to their roster Wednesday, giving them 14. At least six of them will be gone before the regular season opens, and there may be more new faces added to the mix before the lineup is set.
In a trade that sent the rights to former Charger quarterback Ed Luther to the Atlanta Falcons, San Diego acquired linebacker Ronnie Washington, nicknamed "Clubber" for the crunching tackles he delivers. The problem was, he didn't deliver enough of them to suit the Falcons, who started him only once in 1985, his rookie season.
Luther, the former backup to Dan Fouts, had signed with the Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football League last year.
Washington became the second Atlanta linebacker obtained by the Chargers this summer. Earlier, they had picked up Thomas Benson in exchange for a conditional sixth-round draft choice next year. That pick was returned to the Chargers as part of the Washington deal.
Linebackers coach Mike Haluchak said he hopes Washington pans out as well as Benson, who has earned a starting job, at least for the moment.
The Chargers are still looking for more help, Haluchak said.
"We still want that big, dominant type of inside linebacker," he said. So far, trade talks have failed to procure anyone like a Mike Singletary or Lawrence Taylor, and Haluchak isn't counting on getting such a player.
Haluchak said he has been pleased with the play of Billy Ray Smith, Fred Robinson and Benson, but that doesn't prevent the team from continuing to search for help.
"I'm sure it's unsettling to the players here (that new personnel is still being sought), but that's something they have to understand," Haluchak said. "This is professional football. We have to do all we can to get better."
At the moment, the linebackers will be deployed this way:
Left outside--Billy Ray Smith, Fred Robinson, Fred Smalls.
Left inside--Shane Nelson, Mark Fellows, Tommy Taylor, Ronnie Washington.
Right inside--Thomas Benson, Derrie Nelson, Ty Allert.
Right outside--Woodrow Lowe, Carlos Bradley, Mike Douglass.
Mike Guendling has been injured all summer, hasn't practiced and isn't listed on the depth chart.
"We hope somebody will really come through and rise to the top and help us," Coach Don Coryell said. "We think it's better to keep looking than to just sit on our hands."
The Chargers must trim 19 or 20 players from their roster following Saturday's exhibition game with the Philadelphia Eagles in order to make the National Football League's Tuesday limit of 60.
Accordingly, they will take an extended look at players on whom a decision must be made, Coryell said.
Quarterback Dan Fouts won't play more than a few series, and backup Mark Herrmann may not play much longer, meaning that Tom Flick and Wayne Peace will play much of the night.
Running back Lionel James, expected back at practice this week from a knee injury, won't play this week.
Buddy Ryan, the Eagles' new coach, said that being in charge is no different from being an assistant coach. "You get more money and a bigger office, but you handle people the same," he said.
The former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator said he hasn't read Mike Ditka's new book, and doesn't plan to. "I don't read much, except for the Bloodhorse (a book of thoroughbred records)," he said. "I'm not interested in helping him sell his book.
"I doubt I'll talk to him (when the teams meet this year). I didn't talk to him while I was there."