Matthews is promising changes in receivers

July 09, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

It was bad enough when Don Matthews lost his swiftest receiver to a freak injury in pre-game warm-ups.

But then Baltimore's Canadian Football League team developed a contagious case of dropsy on opening night, and Matthews was facing double jeopardy.

One day after the CFLs dropped nine passes in a 28-20 victory over the Toronto Argonauts, the Baltimore coach said change is in the wind and reinforcements are on the way.

"This is a cruel business," Matthews said. "It's not like college, where you have three years to help a player improve. These guys may not have 60 minutes.

"The receiver position after [Thursday] night is not solidified. There will be more players coming in."

Specifics will come later. What is known now is that B. K. Williams, a veteran of six CFL seasons, won't play again this year. The 33-year-old slotback ruptured his right Achilles' tendon when a teammate stepped on his heel in warm-ups Thursday night at SkyDome.

Williams, held out of two preseason games to rest a cranky left knee, had surgery yesterday at St. Joseph's Hospital. Team trainer John Lopez said Williams will have surgery on the knee in the near future.

"This [Achilles] injury used to be considered a career-ending injury, but not anymore," Lopez said.

Asked if he expected Williams to return to the team next season, Matthews said, "Absolutely."

Shawn Beals, a four-year veteran, started in Williams' place and caught two passes. Chris Armstrong, the other slot, caught two touchdown passes from Tracy Ham and had six catches for 116 yards overall.

Williams' spot on the roster probably will be filled by rookie Jim Guarantano of Rutgers.

Beyond that, Matthews is contemplating a change at wide receiver, where Joe Washington struggled in his CFL debut. Washington, who had eight catches in two preseason games, came up empty Thursday night and had several drops.

At the other wide-out, Walter Wilson made four catches for 38 yards, had one drop and was denied a spectacular diving catch in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Replays showed Wilson caught the ball, but a trailing official ruled he had not.

If Matthews makes a move, it likely will be to insert Shannon Culver at Washington's spot. Culver, a rookie from Oklahoma State, lost his shot at a starting job in camp when he sprained an ankle.

But against the Argos, Culver returned a missed field goal 91 yards to set up Baltimore's go-ahead touchdown in the first quarter. What started out as an error in judgment became one of Baltimore's biggest plays.

"He was not supposed to come out of the end zone if the kick was over 10 yards deep," Matthews said. "It was 16 yards deep. Today I told him if he screws up again, he better make sure to go 91."

Culver's big run was highlighted by a tantalizing spin move at the 25-yard line before he was run down by Pierre Vercheval.

"I thought I was OK to bring it out," Culver said. "I was trying to make something happen. Now I want to lock up the special teams return man as my job. And I'm trying to work on regaining the wide receiver job."

Culver finished with 119 yards in missed field-goal returns and 12 yards on three punt returns and caught one pass for four yards. Across the way, he watched one of the CFL's premier punt returners, Mike "Pinball" Clemons, run two kicks back for touchdowns, one of which was lost to a holding penalty.

"Once I learn the game like Pinball knows the game, I think I'll do some damage," Culver said. "I want to work hard and prove to Coach Matthews that I can be a big-play man in this league."

He may get the chance sooner rather than later.

"Professional football is a game of production," Matthews said. "Time is not on anybody's side. That position has to get better."

NOTES: In a time change, the team will hold its Fan Appreciation Day at Memorial Stadium today from noon until 4. O. J. Brigance, Karl Anthony, Donald Igwebuike and John Congemi will be among the players available for autographs. . . . Matthews gave his first weekly special teams award to Matt Goodwin, who blocked a field goal and batted a fumbled punt out of bounds to give Baltimore possession. . . . Matthews said he wants to use defensive tackle Tom Fuhler more to help keep Jearld Baylis and Robert Presbury fresher. . . . Middle linebacker Earnest Fields led the team with nine tackles, intercepted a pass and knocked another one down. . . . Matthews will give the team the weekend off, then begin preparations Monday for Saturday's home opener.

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