Dream come true: Jones to start

September 03, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Out of exile and off the bench, Shawn Jones greets his TC quarterbacking future tonight in his first professional start for the Baltimore CFLs.

Forget that it's the Canadian Football League, that it comes against the woeful Shreveport Pirates, and that only a small crowd is expected to witness his starting debut at Shreveport's Independence Stadium.

This is the moment he has waited for, hoped for, even prayed for. After a year of exile in the Minnesota Vikings' secondary, Jones, 24, has an offense to call his own, if only for a night.

"I had the feeling, and the faith in God, that once I got through [last] season, I'd be playing quarterback again," Jones said.

"Things are working out for the best."

Jones became the new trigger-man for the CFLs (5-3) by process of elimination.

Two weeks ago, Tracy Ham partially tore his right quadriceps muscle on a rollout. Last week, Ham's replacement, John Congemi, was forced from a game at Hamilton with bruised ribs on his left side. Ham played nearly three quarters in a 28-17 victory.

Coach Don Matthews says he expects Ham to play next week at home against Sacramento. "We're going to try very hard not to play Tracy at all this week," he said.

So, for now, the job belongs to Jones, who led Georgia Tech to a share of the 1990 national title with an 11-0-1 record.

Jones jumped leagues and joined Baltimore in May. He won the team's third quarterback job because Matthews thought he would adapt well to the CFL and its more wide-open offense. Namely, Jones not only can throw the ball, but he can drive defenders dizzy running it, too.

"He runs the ball so well," Matthews said, "we put some things in for his abilities.

"He has good command of the offense. He's comfortable with the no-huddle and with all our formations. I anticipate him playing very well."

Joe Barnes, the quarterbacks coach, said Jones is probably the best athlete on the team.

"He's got a quick release," Barnes said. "If people are covered or the pocket collapses, he can take off. He makes people miss.

"You wonder how he'll handle the pressure, but he did very well in the two games he's played for us. He was very poised."

Jones pulled out an overtime victory over Winnipeg in the preseason, then completed two of four passes for 23 yards and one interception against Las Vegas in Week 5.

Shreveport (0-8) has even less experience at quarterback after cutting the top two players at the position this week. The Pirates' starter, Robert Hall, has been with the team three weeks and is 3-for-3 for 37 yards. Backup Robert Cobb has been with the team a week.

More than experience, Jones' teammates are eager for him to put mobility back into the offense.

"At this point, with the injuries we have, Shawn will be a great addition," said right tackle Neal Fort. "He's the only quarterback who has any mobility. John can't throw good enough, and Tracy can't run."

Jones will operate with a full "menu," as Matthews calls it. There have been some subtle adjustments to the scheme but no overhaul for the rookie starter, who will call his own plays.

"Not a lot is going to change," Jones said. "Looking from the outside in, you may say it's a little different because of style.

"[But] it's the same offense. This is a big package, and everybody chooses what they like to do."

What are Jones' expectations?

"I expect to do well," he said. "I expect to move the ball and score a lot of points. We've been waiting for the offense to explode."

Baltimore vs. Shreveport

Site: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.

When: 8:30 tonight

TV: Ch. 2

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)

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