CFLs' rush passes test for a change

August 29, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Don Matthews finally found a pass rush he could live with Saturday night, but that doesn't mean the procession of fresh bodies will stop this week for the Baltimore CFLs.

When it comes to pass rushers, the Baltimore coach can't get enough.

"We've got a lot of people on our practice roster," Matthews said yesterday. "It's a very competitive situation. I'd like not to make any more roster changes, but it's a reality of life."

Last week, he added Elfrid Payton, the Canadian Football League's premier pass rusher of 1993 for Winnipeg, who was cut this summer by the Shreveport Pirates.

In a 28-17 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Saturday, Payton was chosen the team's defensive player of the game with one sack, three hurries, and a forced fumble with the recovery.

This week, there may be one or more changes on the rush line, Matthews said. In part, that's because his two inside rushers, Jearld Baylis and Robert Presbury, are hurting. Baylis, who has a tender left knee, tore his biceps in the first half against Hamilton. Presbury injured his knee a week ago.

"We might rest one of them this week," Matthews said of Saturday's game in Shreveport.

The new options include newly signed Mike Kerr from the New England Patriots camp, Tommy Fagan from the Miami Dolphins and Malcolm Showell, a Dunbar alumnus who was in the Green Bay Packers camp.

Matthews was happy with the defensive push the CFLs (5-3) got against Timm Rosenbach and Todd Dillon Saturday. One rush line that clicked had Presbury and Payton at rush ends and Scott Miller and Baylis at tackle.

"We had way more pressure," Matthews said. "We were more disciplined in our lanes, we collapsed the pocket. All the things we were looking for, we got.

"O. J. [Brigance] had a better day than he's been having. The rotation was beneficial. We gave them different looks and rested some of our people."

Brigance actually shared in the sack of Rosenbach with Payton, and another time stripped a ball carrier from behind for a fumble.

Baylis accounted for the team's other sack, a coverage sack.

The benefits of the new rush were evident: four interceptions, including a critical one by cornerback Irvin Smith in the end zone when Hamilton had a 17-15 lead in the third quarter. Smith also had three knockdowns.

Yesterday's injury news on offense was as good as it could have been for the CFLs.

Matthews said that quarterback Tracy Ham had not further injured his torn right quadriceps and should be able to play at Shreveport. Quarterback John Congemi, Saturday's starter who came out with bruised left ribs, will miss most of the week. "But he was not as bad today," Matthews said.

Guard Keith Ballard suffered a third-degree sprain of his right ankle, an injury that at first was feared to be a break. Matthews said he'll miss this week's game at least.

Ballard's injury will prompt another shuffle in the offensive line. Nick Subis will come back from the practice roster to play center, and John Earle will move to guard. Guy Earle and Diego London will compete for the other guard spot.

One more possibility in the line is Craig Hendrickson, who played for Matthews in Saskatchewan last year. He was waived by the Buffalo Bills yesterday, and the CFLs are interested. With time off from Buffalo Saturday, Hendrickson drove to Hamilton to see the CFLs game.

Finally, there is one more change that is likely to happen. The CFLs signed wide receiver Mike Alexander yesterday. If he is activated, one receiver will have to go.

The one-time Penn State receiver played 19 games (Los Angeles Raiders in 1989, Bills in 1991) in the NFL and recently was cut for the third time by the Raiders.

All that roster activity may preclude a letdown this week, when the CFLs prepare for the Pirates, who are 0-8 and absorbed a 67-15 drubbing against the British Columbia Lions Saturday.

"We'll worry about us," Matthews said, "and about playing our best football game."

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