Baylis has nose for experience

April 07, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Jearld Baylis says experience is his greatest asset as a football player. In that case, it's not hard to understand why he is one of the Canadian Football League's best.

The 6-foot, 245-pound nose tackle has played on a team (New Orleans Breakers) that relocated, in a league (USFL) that folded. He has retired and been traded and released in the CFL in a two-year span. And he developed gangrene when his appendicitis went undetected three years ago.

Experience? There isn't much he hasn't seen as a pro, on or off the field.

Now Baylis is set for a different experience. He will join the Baltimore CFL Colts' expansion team this summer in what figures to be the final chapter of his career. He does not expect it to be a typical expansion-like experience, either.

"This will be a very competitive team," said Baylis, 31, who will sign a two-year contract with a one-year option tomorrow in Baltimore. "We should make the payoffs this year. . . . The opportunity is great for one, two, maybe three Grey Cup rings in Baltimore."

Baylis is the second significant free-agent signing for the Colts' defense in two weeks, after the addition of outside linebacker O. J. Brigance. Baylis was the CFL's Defensive player of the Year in 1993, and Brigance ranked second in sacks with 20. Quarterback Tracy Ham, a free agent from the Toronto Argonauts, was signed as the team's marquee player in February.

"Our commitment is on defense," team owner Jim Speros said. "We got Tracy on offense. I think we have two marquee names on defense -- Brigance and Baylis. That's not to overlook Ken Benson [a free agent linebacker from Toronto]. Those three will be our cornerstones on defense.

"Without question, Jearld is the best defensive player in the league. He demands a double team. He'll be the anchor of our defense."

Baylis, a native of Jackson, Miss., spent the past two years with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. In Baltimore, he'll be reunited with Don Matthews, his coach in Saskatchewan. Last year Baylis had 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage to lead the CFL, along with 11 sacks.

His contract will reflect his emergence as one of the league's dominating players under Matthews. He will average $95,000 in base salary during the three years, with incentives for $30,000. He will get a $10,000 signing bonus. That's a leap from the $72,000 in Canadian currency he made last season.

The package, said his wife and agent, Lucy Baylis, makes him the league's highest-paid defensive player, surpassing linebacker Willie Pless of the Edmonton Eskimos. A clause in Baylis' contract will keep him the team's highest-paid defender.

"I've been impressed with Baltimore from Day One," Lucy Baylis said from Regina, Saskatchewan. "Ever since Baltimore made its final offer, I knew if the Riders didn't say 'marquee,' nothing would happen here."

Baylis' winding pro career began with New Orleans in the USFL in 1984. A year later the Breakers were in Portland, and a year after that the league folded. Baylis moved to Toronto in the CFL in 1986. Traded to the British Columbia Lions in 1990, he abruptly retired with a wrist injury. He returned to B.C. in 1991, had a severe case of appendicitis and was released at the end of the season. He signed with Saskatchewan as a free agent in 1992.

"There was several reasons [for choosing the Colts]," Baylis said. "No. 1, being a Christian, this is where God put us. Financially it was better, too."

NOTES: Speros wants to bring former Baltimore Colts back to Memorial Stadium for the CFL team's home exhibition debut against the Shreveport Pirates on June 29. "We want all the ex-Colts to be a part of what we're doing," he said. There will be a golf outing and a dinner for the former players the day before the game. . . . CFL Colts hats and T-shirts are on sale at the club's merchandise store at Memorial Stadium.

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