In A Familiar Pocket

August 24, 1994|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore CFLs quarterback John Congemi shared his shower shoes with Tracy Ham after yesterday's practice.

This week against Hamilton, Ham might be sharing his quarterbacking duties with Congemi. Ham, who slightly tore his right quadriceps muscle in Saturday's loss to the Toronto Argonauts, watched practice in sweat pants, a white turtleneck and a baseball cap.

Congemi took most of the snaps with the starting unit but said he does not care who plays Saturday. This season, Congemi has shared in Ham's success.

"Even if you don't play, Tracy's out there, but he's also got a part of me out there, too, because we're helping each other," Congemi said. "I hope when I play, he feels the same way because we're all trying to strive for one thing, and that's to win as a team."

Baltimore coach Don Matthews said he has not decided who will start Saturday. But it sounds as if Ham, who spent the afternoon running in the swimming pool, can play if needed.

"We won't know for a while. He throws OK, but he hasn't run," Matthews said. "He's getting better every day in treatment. He's got a chance for this one."

It's not as if Matthews is uncomfortable with Congemi, a seven-year veteran who played for Matthews in 1990 with Toronto.

Congemi connected on two touchdown passes and almost rallied Baltimore from a 27-10 deficit last week against Toronto. A victory would have been sweet for Congemi, who held out all of last season because of a salary dispute with the Argonauts.

Last week, he heard taunts from, of all people, his former roommate of three years, defensive tackle Rodney Harding. "As soon as Tracy went down, I went out on the field for a field goal, and he yelled, 'Hey, Ace, I've been waiting 10 years to hit you,' " Congemi said.

Congemi has come in during tougher situations. As a redshirt freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, Congemi replaced hometown hero Dan Marino and broke a lot of Marino's records.

Unlike Marino, who recovered from knee injuries in time for NFL stardom, Congemi suffered a back injury that caused him to miss the last three games of his senior season and to fail his physical at the NFL scouting combine.

Since he passed his CFL physical in Toronto, Congemi planned to play for the Argonauts for a few seasons and then return to the NFL. But the days of Pat Haden-sized quarterbacks were over.

Congemi, who is 5 feet 11, said he can play in the NFL.

"Actually, it'd probably be easier to play in the NFL because they're more drop-back quarterbacks," said Congemi, who received an offer to try out for the Pittsburgh Steelers the day after he signed with Baltimore. "You make your read, and then you get rid of the football. That's the type of quarterback I am."

NOTES: Defensive end Elfrid Payton, who led the CFL with 22 sacks last season, was impressive in practice yesterday. The erstwhile member of the expansion Shreveport Pirates will take O. J. Brigance's spot on the strong side of the field. Brigance, who had one fewer sack than Payton last season, moves to the short side.

Lineman Scott Miller has switched from offense to defense, his natural position, Matthews said. The acquisition of another long snapper, John Earle, who is also the new starting center, makes Miller's switch possible. Earle's twin brother, Guy, might start at left guard.

Matthews also said he will continue to upgrade his practice roster as NFL cuts are made. One practice player, Reggie Brown, is challenging Joe Washington for the backup wide receiver slot.

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