Charger Notebook : All Things Considered, Laufenberg Is Just Happy to Get His First Start

Times Staff Writer

The legend of Babe Laufenberg grows. Laufenberg is the longshot quarterback who won the Chargers' starting quarterback job this summer by doing all the right things.

Now he's saying all the right things.

The Charger-Raider regular-season opener Sunday will feature the league's lowest-paid starting quarterback--Steve Beuerlein--against the league's third lowest-paid starting quarterback, Laufenberg.

Not to worry, Laufenberg insists: "I'd rather be a low-paid starter than a high-paid backup."

When was the last time you heard a professional athlete say anything like that?

Beuerlein's base salary in 1988 is $110,000. He already has received a $10,000 bonus for making the roster. Laufenberg's base salary this year is $175,000. He received a $5,000 roster bonus this week.

The second-lowest paid starting quarterback in the league this week will be Pittsburgh's Bubby Brister, whose 1988 base salary is $170,000.

Neither Laufenberg nor Beuerlein has thrown a regular-season pass. Brister is 25 of 72 in two seasons for a career quarterback rating of 20.2.

Laufenberg, represented by his brother Jeff, a Los Angeles attorney, signed with the Chargers last April when few people dreamed he would beat out Mark Malone for the first-string job.

But Jeff Laufenberg was smart enough to build in playing incentives that will push his brother's 1988 income much higher, if Babe keeps his job and stays healthy.

"I just hope the Chargers can shore up their offensive line," Jeff Laufenberg says. "I hope Babe doesn't have to generate quite as much enthusiasm as he's had to the last couple of weeks."

The average starting quarterback base salary in the NFL is approximately $600,000. Jeff Laufenberg declined to be specific, but sources say if Laufenberg stays healthy and has a good year, he will earn close to $500,000.

"I'm not thinking about it," Babe Laufenberg said. "If something happens, fine. I just want to play and play well. The rest will take care of itself. If a player gets concerned with the business aspect of football, it can affect his play on the field."

The chances of holdout linebacker Chip Banks agreeing to terms with the Chargers get smaller by the day.

There was a glimmer of hope Monday when Banks' agent spoke with Chet Franklin, the Chargers' director of player personnel.

Turns out the agent, Harold Daniels, talked to Franklin about another Daniels' client, wide receiver Timmie Ware. Ware was cut Monday.

Daniels said he talked to Banks Tuesday and advised him to return to the Chargers. "I told him it was 'time to come on in and make some money,' " Daniels said.

According to Daniels, Banks responded by saying: "Stop bugging me. I'm going on vacation."

Daniels said he did not know where Banks planned to spend his vacation.

The Chargers made several roster moves, none of them unexpected. They placed running back Barry Redden (hand) and offensive lineman James FitzPatrick (back) on injured reserve.

Then they re-signed tight end Albert Reese and claimed offensive lineman Darrick Brilz. The Chargers cut Reese Monday but got him back when nobody claimed him. Brilz was cut Monday by the Redskins.

Redden and FitzPatrick must miss at least four games. If the Chargers had placed them on injured reserve before their final cut, they wouldn't have been able to reactivate them for six games.

The Chargers probably will reactivate defensive lineman Joe Phillips this week, which means they will have to find somebody else to cut or place on injured reserve.

Redden's biggest problem with the hand injury, according to Coach Al Saunders, is pass protection. FitzPatrick reportedly hurt his back weightlifting Monday.

The Chargers are still waiting for a doctor's decision on rookie linebacker Cedric Figaro, who has been diagnosed as having a "lumbar strain." The team placed Figaro on injured reserve Monday. Team officials fear Figaro might need surgery that would end his season.

Charger Notes

The injury report for Sunday's game at the Coliseum: Defensive end Les Miller (ankle) questionable; inside linebacker Gary Plummer (thigh) questionable; and outside linebacker Billy Ray Smith (calf) questionable for the Chargers. Raider wide receiver Willie Gault (groin) is questionable.

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