KIRKLAND - Stan Gelbaugh has been called the Rocky Balboa of quarterbacks.
He has been with eight pro teams in three leagues on two continents. He has been cut in NFL training camps and was named 1991 MVP in the World League of American Football with the London Monarchs.
While the theme song from "Rocky" might inspire him, a more appropriate tune might be the Grateful Dead's "What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been."
Now, Gelbaugh is one twisted Dan McGwire ankle from being the Seahawks starter.
Gelbaugh, who started three games for Phoenix late last season, was signed as a Plan B quarterback by Seattle in February.
"He came here for two reasons," said offensive coordinator Larry Kennan. "One, he's good enough to play; two, because he knew our system and I knew he would help the other guys to learn it. He's a real positive, upbeat guy. He's helped Dan a lot."
Gelbaugh, 29, learned patience at Maryland, where he spent time behind future NFL quarterbacks Boomer Esiason and Frank Reich. He got his chance as a junior when Reich, then a senior, was injured midway through the season.
"You learn to be patient behind guys like that," Gelbaugh said. "What all of us learned at Maryland was when Boomer went down, Frank went in and got the job done and we beat Pitt. We all learned from the one in front of us to be ready."
After leading the Terrapins to a 9-3 record as a senior, Gelbaugh was a 1986 sixth-round draft choice of Dallas, the Seahawks' opponent tomorrow.
"I was drafted before the 80-man limit in camps," he said. "There were like 130 guys, a huge, huge number. I just looked around and said, `Oh, my God. How am I going to make this team?' I didn't."
Gelbaugh also has been cut by Cincinnati, Kansas City, Buffalo (he played one game for the Bills in three years) and the Cardinals, where last year he nearly led them to an upset over San Francisco. His Canadian Football League stops were Saskatchewan (1986) and Hamilton (1991), where he was unable to agree on a contract.
Gelbaugh's career was rejuvenated in London, where he got exposure and experience. He led the Monarchs to the league championship in 1991 with Kennan as coach. Gelbaugh and the Monarchs had less success last spring under a new coach.
Gelbaugh had been out of football and was selling FAX machines and photocopiers when he was signed by the Monarchs in 1991.
"I was hating that job," he said, explaining that it amounted to door-to-door selling. He has had more luck getting past linebackers.
His career was rejuvenated before the naive but enthusiastic London crowds.
"They would cheer just to cheer," he said. "They would cheer if you got tackled for a 2-yard loss. They would cheer if you punted."
Gelbaugh's only exhibition-season appearance as a Seahawk came against San Francisco, when he led Seattle on a touchdown drive.
An argument could be made that the experienced Gelbaugh could move the Seahawks more effectively than McGwire, who has yet to throw a touchdown pass in a summer or fall as a pro. But McGwire, last year's first-round draft pick, represents the future and needs to play to improve.
Gelbaugh understands his role.
"I understand what the situation is," said Gelbaugh in February. "They've got two guys (Kelly Stouffer and McGwire) that were drafted in the first round. Those guys are going to be the future here. . . . Hopefully, I'll be able to help those guys out and be a capable fill-in if they need me."
They may need him tomorrow.
-- Andy Heck, who strained his left hamstring Thursday, didn't practice yesterday but said he will be able to play tomorrow.
-- Starting center Joe Tofflemire, who injured his left shoulder in San Diego, practiced with the first unit yesterday.
-- Injured QB Kelly Stouffer watched practice without the sling on his dislocated left shoulder earlier in the week. He is out for four games and isn't on the trip.
-- The trading deadline is Tuesday afternoon and Coach Tom Flores said it is unlikely the Seahawks will make any deals.