Free Agent Bartkowski Will Try Out With Rams

Times Staff Writer

Former Pro Bowl quarterback Steve Bartkowski, a 12-year veteran who has a history of knee injuries, will meet with Ram Coach John Robinson perhaps as soon as next week for a tryout.

If all goes well and Bartkowski signs with the Rams, Robinson said that 1985 starter Dieter Brock and Bartkowski would be placed in a "competitive position."

"I'm not necessarily saying one guy disappears," Robinson said. "We have to accept that we didn't do as well in that area (quarterback) as we would have liked. Yet, in a situation without what people consider an effective quarterback, we won 23 games in the last two years and were one step away. So we don't have to drastically change our concept.

"What we're looking for is people at the quarterback position that can help us evolve somewhat and get us over that hump that gets you into the Super Bowl. And Bartkowski certainly is, at least partially, a guy who might do that."

Bartkowski, 33, is two years younger than Brock. But Bartkowski also has undergone several knee operations and, before he was released late in the season, spent much of 1985 with the Atlanta Falcons on injured reserve or on the bench.

He finished the season with the Washington Redskins, who had signed him for the final two games as a backup, then became a free agent.

The Rams and Leigh Steinberg, Bartkowski's agent, first talked at the end of the season. According to Steinberg, Bartkowski would prefer to sign with the Rams but also will explore possibilities of playing with the Raiders, Redskins, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys.

"All Bart would want is a chance to compete," Steinberg said. "His only limitation is that he's never going to remind anyone of Fran Tarkenton."

Steinberg said that Bartkowski's 1985 salary of $575,000 is negotiable. "If it came to that (contract talks), it wouldn't be a problem," Steinberg said.

The acquisition of Bartkowski, barring any trades, would leave the Rams with four quarterbacks, including Brock, Jeff Kemp and Steve Dils. Dils has one year remaining on his contract, and Kemp's contract has expired.

Robinson said he isn't looking that far ahead and won't make any judgment about Bartkowski until he conducts the workout and examines the results of the quarterback's physical.

"It's a mutual interest," Robinson said. " . . . at this point, we're looking at somebody who has imperfections of some sort, either age or injury or never having played, not good enough to play. Those are the people that are available.

"I find I'm much more enthused about a player who has done it, maybe who still can do it, maybe he can't do it. I would as soon go after a guy who at one point was considered very good as opposed to a guy who has never played before, who has never achieved anything."

Another available quarterback is Redskin veteran Joe Theismann, who has inquired about a trade with several teams, among them the Rams, Raiders, Falcons and another West Coast club.

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