CFLs enhance unity, have a brawl doing it

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

In search of a team identity, the Baltimore CFLs finally may have found a fitting theme yesterday.

Call them the Baltimore brawlers.

Then get out of their way.

It was Wednesday afternoon at the fights when the CFLs practiced in pads at Kirk Field. Defensive team drills were interrupted three times by fights that spilled domino-like across the field.

It was literally the offense against the defense with a lot of pushing, a few body punches, and no blood. In the locker room later, both sides said it was just what they needed.

"It was good because the intensity picked up," said nose tackle Jearld Baylis, no peacemaker on this occasion.

"I hope it gives us an identity. We can play hard and be [mad] all at the same time. You get some team unity out of something like that."

In the end, the skirmishes may have produced team unity. But for a few frightful moments, they looked more like team chaos.

The trouble started when rush end Elfrid Payton got trigger-happy in a no-tackle drill and put Mike Pringle on his back. An offensive line that played poorly in Ottawa took umbrage.

Soon after that, Payton and guard Guy Earle tangled and had to be pulled apart. On the next play, Payton jumped offside and rammed into Earle. Wrestlemania broke out.

"He hit our running back, and we stick up for Pringle," Earle said. "As linemen, we have to stay together.

"We were told to step up our game this week. We came out with the mind to set the tone now. There was definitely a sense we picked it up a notch."

Payton spoke with Earle a few minutes later on the field and soothed raw nerves.

"I was just getting some hard work in," Payton said. "Nothing personal. I'm glad it happened. I had a good time out there. All my teammates, we love each other. And nobody got hurt."

There were incongruous scenes all through the defensive period.

There was rush end O. J. Brigance running into -- then somersaulting over -- tackle Shar Pourdanesh, a move that would be hard to duplicate.

There was Baylis, the defensive leader, shouting a challenge across the line of scrimmage to the offense, "OK, then, bring it on."

There was linebacker Matt Good win grappling with running back -- and next-door neighbor -- Sheldon Canley.

And then there was 330-pound tackle Neal Fort giving chase to the athletic Payton after a hit-and-run move by the rush end.

"I got upset when Elfrid hit Mike -- and hit him so hard," Fort said. "We were laughing about it right after. . . We only have one day of pads this week, so we might as well make it fun."

Guard John Earle, Guy's twin brother, said even the huddles were electric.

"Every play was intense," he said. "They'd call a running play and the coaches would go, 'Uh-oh.' "

Pringle had seen this before, in camp with the Atlanta Falcons.

"I played for Jerry Glanville," he said. "This was an everyday occurrence in Atlanta. Not having a fight was out of the ordinary there."

But does it promote team unity?

"As long as it's not an everyday occurrence, and they leave it out on the field," he said.

There was no trace of animosity in the locker room afterward. Offen

sive and defensive players watched the tape of the fights together. And coach Don Matthews dismissed them as "good spirit, [but] of no consequence."

Still, there was a personality trait floating just beneath the surface, it seemed.

"When it comes down to Saturday or Sunday, we're all wearing blue," Goodwin said. "If we get in a fight then, we'll all be together. It got everybody hyped up."

The Ottawa Rough Riders, in town Saturday night, should be forewarned.

NOTES: Matthews delayed a decision on his new place-kicker, but sent one candidate, Daron Alcorn, home after a closed morning workout. That leaves Don Silvestri, who nailed 12 of 14 field-goal attempts, and punter Josh Miller, who hit 10 of 14. . . . Defensive tackle Robert Presbury was sent home for the second straight day with a sore throat. . . . Pringle, who rushed for 176 yards in a 42-27 win over Ottawa, was named CFL Offensive Player of the Week. Goodwin was named Defensive Player of the Week for scoring two touchdowns off botched kicks. . . . The CFLs released rush end Chris Thompson (Bowie State) from the practice roster.

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