Reserve Quarterbacks Compete for Ram Job : Pro football: Herrmann, Long and Rick Johnson all hope to have backup role. The question is whether team will keep two or three quarterbacks.


Quarterback Mark Herrmann said he was "shocked" when he learned that the Rams had acquired Detroit Lion quarterback Chuck Long. Imagine how he feels now that they have signed yet another quarterback.

Rick Johnson, a five-year veteran of the Canadian Football League, will be another candidate for the Rams' backup quarterback job . . . or jobs. While with Calgary in 1986, Johnson led the league in with 4,379 yards and 31 touchdowns, but he threw for only 3,221 yards and 18 touchdowns in his other four seasons combined.

If the Rams decide to keep only two quarterbacks again this season and Herrmann ends up losing his job, at least he won't have to look back with any regrets. No one can say he blew his chances.

In San Diego, he was supposed to be the heir apparent to Dan Fouts. He started four games in 1985 and passed for more than 300 yards in three of them. But a month after Fouts retired in March, 1988, the Chargers traded Herrmann to Indianapolis.

The Rams signed him later that summer after he was released by the Colts. In the seven games the Rams have asked him to step in for Jim Everett, Herrmann has completed eight of 10 passes for 97 yards.

"It's a little disappointing," Herrmann said after Long was signed. "I've been around this game long enough to know that the younger guy usually gets a better look in these kinds of situations."

Herrmann is 31. Long, who is in Detroit, where his wife gave birth to the couple's second child Monday, is 27. Johnson is 29.

Ram Coach John Robinson said age is not a factor in this case, adding that he will give a great deal of consideration to carrying three quarterbacks in 1990.

"A lot of it comes down to a look at how the total squad shapes up, of course, but there's a definite possibility of going with three," Robinson said. "It's clearly something we want to do. In baseball parlance, we'd look at Mark Herrmann as a short reliever and look at Chuck Long as a long reliever."

Herrmann certainly wouldn't be demanding a trade if that scenario were to pan out. But just in case it comes down to a one-or-the-other situation, he's hoping that his knowledge of the Ram offense and his relative "youth"--in terms of wear and tear, anyway--will work in his favor.

"I'd like to think I'm a young 10-year guy," said Herrmann, who has played in only 30 games since coming into the league with the Denver Broncos in 1981. "I still think I can play, and when I've been called upon I've done the job for this team. But there are always external factors that you don't have any control over.

"I'll just have to give it my best."

Ram Notes

Quarterback Rick Johnson calls himself "an absolute longshot" to hang on with the team, but says he will stay in the L.A. area regardless and pursue an acting career if he doesn't make the team. "I've had three movie roles and a spot on Dallas, and I wasn't going to go back to Canada," said Johnson, who played the last five seasons in the Canadian Football League after spending two years in the United States Football League. He also said his acting career had taught him a lesson about persevering in the face of overwhelming odds. "The deck is stacked, but I won't let it get me down," he said. "And I have a little extra incentive here, too. Chuck Long and I went to the same high school (Wheaton North in suburban Chicago) and every time I go back there, all I hear about is Chuck Long, Chuck Long. They even have a Chuck Long Day at the high school. "I was the first guy from that school to make it to the pros, even if it was only the USFL. Chuck graduated two years after me." Asked to list his strengths as a quarterback, Johnson said, "I have a quick release and I used to think I had a strong arm . . . until I saw Jim Everett throw today."

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