Ham shows he's on road back to being fully mobile

September 11, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

The names have changed from time to time, but the numbers say that Baltimore's offensive line is the best in the Canadian Football League at protecting its quarterback.

Last night, it needed to be that good.

Tracy Ham couldn't afford to spend much time on the run. Or on his back.

Ham has suffered sprains to his right ankle and left foot. Most recently, he has tried to play through the pain of a partially torn right quadriceps muscle.

He may have thrown the fewest interceptions in the CFL going into last night, but he probably leads everyone in injuries.

You've heard of the walking wounded? Ham is more likely to limp.

Having sat out last week's game in Shreveport to give himself additional time to mend, Ham was back at the controls against the Sacramento Gold Miners.

He said his right leg, injured three weeks ago against Toronto, didn't cause many problems. He could roll out to either side, and he could run when necessary.

It appeared that he also would produce a win, but a 47-yard field goal by Roman Anderson with no time showing gave Sacramento a 30-29 win at Memorial Stadium.

Until then, it looked as though Ham's 14-yard touchdown pass to Chris Armstrong with 3:41 remaining would be the difference.

"That one hurts. We were in a position to win the ballgame, and in this league that's what you try to do," said Ham, who completed 24 of 42 passes for 341 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

He didn't always appear comfortable, even if the leg felt fine. Early on, he often delivered passes off the wrong foot and looked awkward in his throwing motion.

The result was balls that sailed over his receivers, and a smattering of boos from a crowd that came to see points, not punts.

"I was a little rusty. I wasn't as crisp as I could have been. I had to work out the kinks," Ham said.

Ham didn't get Baltimore in the end zone until the second play of the second quarter, but any notion that he would be reduced to a pocket passer was dispelled much sooner.

On Baltimore's first possession, he rolled to his left on one play, and was forced out of the pocket on another.

Neither pass was completed, but at least the doubts about Ham's mobility were erased.

That freedom of movement led to a third-quarter field goal that reduced Sacramento's lead to 20-14.

On second-and-10 from Sacramento's 42, Ham stepped up to avoid the rush, veered to his right and found Peter Tuipulotu down the sideline for 36 yards.

He went 5-for-5 in a fourth-quarter drive that ended with an 8-yard scoring pass to Armstrong that gave Baltimore a 21-20 lead. And after the Gold Miners had moved back in front, Ham took the CFLs 97 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

On the pass to Armstrong, Ham was hit late as he released the ball and ended up on the seat of his pants.

It was one of the few times someone got to him behind the line.

"They didn't really put a lot of pressure on us," said right tackle Neal Fort, part of a unit that has allowed only 14 sacks this season, including one last night.

"It wasn't like a quicker defense that we usually face. They were more of a read-type defense, so that helped us a lot, and Tracy did a heck of a job evading certain tacklers."

Ham isn't back to full strength -- he only ran for 26 yards -- but it's coming.

"I was missing about a couple of steps. I couldn't pick it up," he said. "It didn't hurt, but I just couldn't pick it up like I normally do. I've just got to continue to work it to get it back to where it was."

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