INDIANAPOLIS — Last Tuesday, Blair Kiel was in Canada trying to revive his football career.
Five days later, he was in the Hoosier Dome and more concerned with self-preservation than professional rejuvenation.
Kiel, who was cut by Indianapolis three weeks ago, was working out with the Edmonton Eskimos when he got word that Colt quarterback Gary Hogeboom had separated his shoulder.
By Tuesday evening, the former Notre Dame star was back in Indianapolis and signed as the back-up for rookie Jack Trudeau.
But when the fourth quarter rolled around Sunday, Kiel was behind the center--and almost as often, under half of the Rams' defensive front--as the Rams smothered the Colts, 24-7.
Kiel was sacked four times, one more than Trudeau, who was forced to leave the game with a sprained left knee after linebacker Mel Owens twisted him to the ground on the Colts' last play of the third quarter.
"That's about as bad luck as you can have," Ram Coach John Robinson said. "Lose your quarterback, lose your next quarterback and go in with guy who hasn't even gotten a chance to move his things into town."
Kiel was feeling right at home, however, when he stepped onto the field and received a rousing ovation.
The Rams' welcoming committee was considerably less cordial, however, and it wasn't long before Kiel felt like the only girl at the USO the night the fleet came in . . . everybody wanted to put their arms around him.
He stopped short of saying he wished he'd stayed in Canada. But he did admit that his dream-come-true debut in front of many of the same fans who cheered him on in college, had more than a few nightmarish qualities.
"I forgot how hard they hit up here," said Kiel, who played in 10 games with Tampa Bay in 1984. "And that was something I didn't really want to remember."
The 5-foot 10-inch Kiel, who was surrounded by groups of Rams as soon as he touched the ball, was slammed to the artificial turf on almost every down, even when he managed to get a pass off.
"The Rams were just laughing and loving it," he said, rubbing a golf ball-sized knot on his right ankle. "I said, 'Hey guys, you're knocking the bleep outta me. Relax a little.' "
The Ram defense, which has carried the team for much of the past two seasons, doesn't think they are allowed to relax until they are in the shower. After all, it's been a long time since they had a lead with more than a few seconds left on the clock.
The Colts grabbed a 7-0 advantage after Ron Brown fumbled the opening kickoff and the defense figured they were in for another typical Sunday afternoon.
So they went after Trudeau, and later Kiel, with the usual determination.
"Them starting a rookie quarterback sort of scared me," said defensive end Gary Jeter, who led the Rams with 2 1/2 sacks. "He hasn't played against the Rams, didn't have that much pressure on him and was just going out there to have fun.
"I didn't want to be part of his highlight film. I wanted him to be part of mine."
The only reason Kiel might want to view the films of this one is to see how he managed to complete four passes.
Trudeau didn't need to see the game films to know what went wrong, though.
"We were out of sync offensively and we just kept putting ourselves in a bad situation," he said. "It seemed like it was always second and 10 or third and eight or third and 12.
"I don't think they did anything we didn't expect. It's just hard for our line to block a bunch of guys who are down in a sprinter's stance."
Trudeau, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on the same knee in January, said he was scared after the injury, but thinks he will be able to play next week.
If not--and if the Colts can't find another quarterback somewhere--it will Kiel starting and punter Rohn Stark at backup.
Stark, when asked if he was ready to go in had Kiel been unable to crawl out from underneath the pile of gold and blue jerseys, didn't have to think long about his answer.
"No way," he said, smiling.
He obviously had no intentions of entering the Rams' Tunnel of Doom.
"Yeah, we had 'em throwing out of a tunnel early," Jeter said. "It looked like there was a bag of groceries right behind the quarterback and everyone was going for it."
As it was, the Rams settled for chewing up a couple of young quarterbacks.