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Laufenberg Still Starting for Chargers . . . for Now

September 13, 1988|BRIAN HEWITT | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Babe Laufenberg is still the Chargers' starting quarterback. For now.

Laufenberg completed 2 of 8 passes for 5 yards in the Chargers' 34-3 loss at Denver Sunday. Mark Malone replaced him early in the second quarter and finished with 11 of 22 for 115 yards.

But Laufenberg still is the starter. For now.

"As of right now Babe Laufenberg is still our quarterback," said Charger Coach Al Saunders.

"I would think at this particular time he's still the starter," offensive coordinator Jerry Rhome said. "Unless we change our mind."

"Today's Monday. He's our starter. Now if we change our mind Wednesday, he's not."

While not exactly providing Laufenberg with a ringing endorsement, Saunders and Rhome both suggested the offense's problems weren't all Laufenberg's fault.

Three of the four top Charger wide receivers are rookies. And the fourth--Jamie Holland--caught only six passes last year.

"There are two rules for the receivers if any passing game is to be effective," Saunders said. "No. 1, never ever fool the quarterback. And the other is be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there."

Rhome said opposing defensive backs are "getting on top" of the Chargers' young wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and making it tough for them to release.

Added Rhome on Malone's play in Denver: "He didn't set the house on fire either."

Another starter in danger of losing playing time is tailback Gary Anderson, who rushed for 16 yards in nine carries, all in the first half, against Denver.

The Chargers replaced him in the second half with Curtis Adams, their leading rusher in 1987. Adams led all Charger rushers against the Broncos with 35 yards on six carries.

"Curtis is a very effective normal down-and-distance guy," Saunders said. "If he can provide us with a spark, then certainly he has an opportunity to play."

While both Saunders and Rhome played verbal cut-and-run with the quarterback situation, Rhome was blunt about another issue.

"You gotta be careful through the years of being satisfied with your team and not having younger guys being developed and getting better and being ready to step in," he said.

"And what has happened through the years with this team is they didn't develop the younger guys, for whatever reason. And then a bunch of guys got old, retired and were gone. And then all of a sudden, you gotta replace 'em and you got young players and they come in and they're not gonna set the house on fire right away."

In two games no Charger linebacker or defensive lineman has registered a sack.

"Yes," Saunders said when apprised of that statistic. "And because of our nature of being a pressure defense, we put a tremendous amount of pressure on our secondary if we can't create any sacks."

The Chargers announced their final season-ticket sales total for 1988 as 40,328. That's almost 8,000 less than last year's total of 48,114.

This was predictable. The Chargers lost their final six games last year, didn't sign a top quarterback to replace retired Dan Fouts and lost their first two games this year.

It marks the second-biggest sales drop the team's 29 years. In 1973, the Chargers announced 40,341 season tickets sold, followed by 30,174 in 1974.

Backup safety Pat Miller underwent surgery Monday for torn medial collateral ligaments in his knee. Saunders said he will miss six to eight weeks. Miller was injured Sunday.

Saunders said the status of outside linebacker Billy Ray Smith's pulled calf muscle was unchanged. Smith didn't play against Denver and only played in the first quarter of the season opener against the Raiders.

"His condition at this time is doubtful for next week (Seattle)," Saunders said. "We won't know if he can practice until Wednesday or Thursday."

Safety Jeffrey Dale has a slight hamstring pull and will be listed as probable.

According to Saunders, the Chargers would like to sign a "cover corner" to replace Miller on the roster.

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