Brian Jordan, Baltimore's answer to Bo Jackson, figures to arrive at a crossroads in his two-sport pro career early next week, and it has nothing to do with the Atlanta Falcons' visit to Washington.
A prep star at Milford Mill in the early '80s, Jordan makes a homecoming of sorts Sunday when the Falcons meet the Redskins at RFK Stadium (1 p.m., Ch. 11).
On Monday, he hopes to celebrate the birth of his first child. His wife Pam is due then, and Jordan hopes the schedule holds long enough to allow him to return to Atlanta in time for the event.
This week, Jordan admitted he'd like some relief from an arduous schedule that has him splitting time between football, where he is a hard-hitting strong safety, and baseball, where he is a hard-hitting outfield prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals' farm system.
What the Falcons and Cardinals were unable to do, the new baby may be able to accomplish. That is, force Jordan to make a pick-one decision.
"I'd rather do one," Jordan said on the subject of his dual-sport career. "I have a baby on the way, and I want to spend time with my wife and the newborn. You always want to spend vacation time with your family."
As it is, Jordan has spent his summer vacation time in places like Hamilton, Ontario, and St. Petersburg, Fla., and Louisville, where he has toiled on Cardinals farm clubs. The last three winters have been spent in Atlanta, where he has quietly, but forcefully, been building a reputation as one of the NFL's toughest players. Jordan led all NFL defensive backs last season with 193 tackles.
But in more ways than one, Jordan may be nearing a career decision. He will be 25 years old in March. Although he has spent parts of four summers playing pro baseball, he has amassed fewer than 500 at-bats. And while the Falcons know precisely what Jordan can do at their level, the Cardinals can only guess what he might accomplish in the big leagues. In 250 at-bats at Triple A Louisville last year, Jordan hit .264 with four home runs, four triples and 12 doubles. He made the American Association all-star game as an alternate.
"My feeling is that Brian will play in the major leagues," said Ted Simmons, farm director and former All-Star catcher for the Cardinals. "He has major-league ability. He can hit with power, throw, is a competitor and a sensible kid.
"As far as football, I feel essentially that any week it could all be over. I watch Atlanta Falcons games with a great deal of anxiety."
Simmons rates Jordan as one of the top three prospects in the Cardinals' system. He said he will make a strong recommendation to general manager Dal Maxvill that the team protect Jordan on the 40-man roster later this month. But Simmons also admitted that the "clock" is running on Jordan's baseball future.
"Pitchers can make it when they're 27, 28, 29, even 30," Simmons said. "It's rare for a regular player to make it that late. It's getting to the point that something's going to have to give."
Simmons nevertheless said he couldn't in good conscience push Jordan into a baseball decision.
"He has to decide," Simmons said. "I can't say, 'Forgo your [football] lifestyle and come roll the dice with me.' It'd be criminal to do that. All I know is I'll take him any time I can have him. If it's only part time, I'll take it."
For now, football has priority in Jordan's pro life. The language in his Falcons' contract stipulates that he must report to mini-camp and training camp. He makes approximately $30,000 in baseball, while his three-year Falcons' contract has averaged $233,000. Both contracts are up this season, which raises the biggest decision. The Cardinals can't match the football contract until they know he can be an every-day player in the major leagues. And he hasn't been able to convince them in his limited minor-league career.
"Next year in football Brian will be a high-paid player," said Jim Steiner, Jordan's football agent who works out of St. Louis. "The question is, what will the Cardinals do? Will they start him at Louisville and bring him up after 40 or 50 days? And are they going to obtain another leftfielder? If they come up with another leftfielder, it would indicate he's probably locked in at Louisville."
Jordan wonders aloud if he wouldn't be better off in an organization that wasn't as "conservative" as the Cardinals. He admits that football hindered his progress at Louisville last summer, when he was in the top 10 in batting the first month of the season, then had to leave for the Falcons' mini-camp.
"That hurt me," he said. "I was in a groove. When I returned, I had to start all over. My average dropped real quick . . . It's tough for me to understand why St. Louis hasn't noticed the trend, what's going on. I'm doing great, then go to mini-camp."