The Arizona Cardinals, yet to win and looking for help on offense, gave tryouts Wednesday to runningback Barry Word and quarterback Rich Gannon.
Coach Buddy Ryan said he'd take another look at Browning Nagle, a former New York Jets quarterback who visited team headquarters in May.And, with signs still pointing toward Jay Schroeder becoming Arizona's third starting quarterback when the Cardinals resume play Oct. 2 against Minnesota, the coach gave another indication of his lack of confidence in Schroeder, Steve Beuerlein and Jim McMahon.
Asked to name an offensive leader who could help pull the winless team out of a three-game skid, he came up with Gary Clark, a backup wide receiver.
Clark, a four-time Pro Bowler who caught 68 passes for 818 yards last season despite a groin pull, two weeks ago asked Ryan for more playing time. Clark guaranteed Ryan two big plays or $1,000.
This time, he said, he didn't have to ante part of his salary.
"I don't think Buddy believes that you have to be a starter to be a leader," said Clark, who has six receptions after hauling in 612 passes in nine previous seasons. "I know a little bit about what it takes to get yourself out of it. I've been on teams that started out slow, also."
Schroeder said Ryan probably likes Clark's competitive nature.
At 6-foo-2 and 245 pounds, Word seems to fit into Ryan's plans to improve Arizona's ground game (25th in the NFL). Word said he got positive feedback from the coaches.
A sixth-year player, Word sat out the 1989 season after he was waived by New Orleans. But he bounced back to lead Kansas City rushers in 1990, a 1,015-yard season, and 1992.
He played for Minnesota last season, finishing second on the team with 458 yards.
Word and Gannon both said teams' salary-cap problems have created a reservoir of talented players who are out of work.
"I felt good. My arm feels real lively," said Gannon, who started 23 of 27 games he played in for the Vikings in 1991 and 1992. Last year, Gannon was 74 of 125 for 704 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions with the Washington Redskins.
Ryan won't announce his starter at quarterback until next week, when the Cardinals install their game plan for the Vikings. But he made an offensive-line change, giving Ben Coleman his third chance to start at right guard ahead of Mark Tucker.
More changes are in the works, said Ryan, who called the team in for an extended pep talk at the end of practice.
"I just told them, `What'd the doctor do if you've got a cancer? Cuts it out, right?' And I'm the doctor," Ryan said.
Asked if the team has a malignancy, he shot back: "No, I just want to be sure we don't."