Cold wind of the 2nd half

September 04, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

SHREVEPORT, La. -- Reinforcements have been arriving for weeks; more could be on the way.

It's the NFL season in the Canadian Football League.

This is the time that CFL teams traditionally stock up with NFL cuts. It's time for the second-half playoff run.

It's also time to start thinking about the cold-weather element in the CFL.

As the Baltimore CFLs approach the halfway mark of their inaugural season, it's time to look ahead.

In the past two weeks, Baltimore coach Don Matthews signed a number of NFL cuts to strengthen his offensive and defensive lines.

Two of those signees -- John and Guy Earle -- started at guard last night against the Shreveport Pirates. Two more -- Malcolm Showell of Dunbar and Mike Kerr -- were activated as reserves for the defensive line.

Then there was Mike Alexander, the former Penn State receiver who was cut three times by the Los Angeles Raiders. Alexander was to make his CFL debut last night.

Matthews isn't finished with his roster revision, either. He's talked with offensive lineman Craig Hendrickson, cut last week by the Buffalo Bills. And he's interested in cornerback Barry Wilburn, the one-time Washington Redskin who resuscitated his football career last year with Matthews' Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Wilburn was cut last week by the Kansas City Chiefs. Hendrickson and Wilburn were awaiting possible NFL offers before making a CFL decision.

Both, most likely, would choose Baltimore if they take their CFL option.

What would that do for Baltimore? In a division where only one other team figures to be above .500 this season, it leaves the CFLs sitting pretty.

They have Sacramento at home next week, then rendezvous in Regina, Saskatchewan, Matthews' previous coaching stop.

After that, Baltimore plays back-to-back with the Ottawa Rough Riders, and a home game against the Las Vegas Posse -- assuming the Posse is still riding in October.

Then it gets interesting: Three of the last four games are against Western Division teams, wrapped around what promises to be a critical Eastern Division showdown with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

By then, the weather on the Canadian prairies will turn cold and offenses will have to operate in a deep freeze.

The good news for Baltimore, though, is that only one game -- the Oct. 16 game at Edmonton -- is likely to be influenced by the cold. Wind could influence the games at Saskatchewan and Ottawa.

"It's the wind that changes games," Matthews said. "The second half of the season is tougher on offense. Scores are down, the defense is in tune with what offenses are doing."

"You'll still see some big scores, but the passing yards will go down. A lot has to do with being in Canada.

Weather will play a bigger role for other teams, though. The Calgary Stampeders, for instance, started 10-0 last season, then lost three of four games to Edmonton's appropriately named Eskimos.

The Stampeders are viewed in Canada as a warm-weather team. LAst year. they had the best overall record in the league (18-3), but didn't get to defend their Grey Cup title because they lost the West final to Edmonton in extremely bitter conditions.

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