QB Ham hurting, hoping

August 27, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

HAMILTON, Ontario -- As Tracy Ham limped out to his car at Memorial Stadium after practice one day this week, he talked about playing in pain.

"It's important each individual understands that with a limited roster, you have to play with nicks," he said. "I'm no different than anybody else."

That's why Ham wants to start at quarterback for the Baltimore CFLs (4-3) when they face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2-5) tonight at Ivor Wynne Stadium, seven days after he suffered a slight tear of his right quadriceps on a rollout.

It's why there is still a question of who will be the CFLs' quarterback tonight, when, for most players, there would have been an answer.

"Tracy Ham is one of the most competitive people you'll find," coach Don Matthews said of the eight-year veteran.

Matthews will make the call today after meeting with Ham and team trainers. Among the factors he will consider is how much risk there would be to Ham.

"It's going to be a gut feeling," Matthews said. "I'll listen to what he says, I'll listen to the trainer and I'll make my own decision.

"I've got to weigh it all and decide what he means when he tells me he can play."

Logic suggests that John Congemi, a seven-year veteran, should be the starter against a team the CFLs hammered two weeks ago in Baltimore, 30-15. In a pinch, Ham still could play if necessary.

In yesterday's dress rehearsal here, Congemi took all the reps while Ham watched.

Matthews said that Thursday's practice, when Ham split reps with Congemi, had taken its toll on Ham.

"Tracy is a little sore," he said, "so we decided to keep him off it today."

Ham has worn a groin wrap this week to protect the thigh muscle in his right leg and prevent further damage. But it is restrictive for a quarterback who relies on his legs to buy time for his receivers.

"What affects the decision is how I'm feeling, where I am at game time, so I don't jeopardize myself or my teammates," he said.

"Certainly, I'd be limited. If I do play, I will have to do what I do [normally]. I won't be 100 percent, but I've got to have that threat [to run]."

If Ham can't go, it will be Congemi's first start since 1992. He sat out last season rather than accept a nominal salary from the Toronto Argonauts.

Congemi, the holder on placekicks, has played quarterback in four games for the CFLs. His most meaningful time came last week after Ham was injured early in the second half of a 31-24 loss to Toronto.

Congemi completed nine of 20 passes for 184 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. For the season, he is 12 of 27 for 209 yards.

"If they put me in, I'm ready," he said. "If not, fine.

"The main thing I want to do is win the game, whether I start, play a quarter or don't play at all. That's the primary thing on my mind."

On Aug. 10, the CFLs rolled up 589 yards in total offense against Hamilton. Ham threw for 442 yards, and running back Mike Pringle ran for 172.

"We had good success running the first time," said tackle Shar Pourdanesh. "I don't call the plays, but I imagine we'd try to run at them and wear them down."

Pringle has since had arthroscopic knee surgery and rushed for 15 yards on nine carries in the Toronto loss.

"I didn't have a lot of strength," Pringle said. "But I'm not going to blame my performance on the surgery. I have to make plays. My job is to make something happen."

This is a game the CFLs need to win to stay close to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6-2). The Bombers beat the Sacramento Gold Miners, 31-28, Wednesday, but lost their second quarterback in as many weeks when Sammy Garza suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Last week's loss was easily the low point of the season for the CFLs. Pourdanesh described it as a wake-up call.

"After that game, we were saying, 'How did that happen?' " he said. "It was definitely a humbling experience.

Said Matthews: "A lot of people did a lot of soul searching after that. The good thing about this group is, they look at themselves and try to find a way to get better."

Including Tracy Ham.

"We didn't go out with the attitude to win last week," Ham said. "Why? I can only speak personally. I didn't make the plays I normally make. I've got to be able to do those things."

Tonight, he's willing to do them in pain.

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