Mills' homecoming cut short by injury

October 02, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Jim Mills wanted a slice of nostalgia last night, but a knee injury kept him from going back to the future.

Mills was the right tackle on the 1983 Baltimore Colts team that stole away to Indianapolis in the middle of the night in March 1984.

Now he's a nine-year Canadian Football League veteran with the Ottawa Rough Riders, albeit an injured one at the moment.

The 6-foot-9, 280-pound native of Canada had hoped to return to Baltimore for last night's game with the CFLs. But a knee injury suffered three weeks ago precluded Mills' first visit to Memorial Stadium since he followed the Colts out of town 10 years ago.

"I wanted to play on that turf one more time," Mills said from Ottawa last week. "I have a lot of memories being out there. I remember I had to do the limbo to get through the locker room door.

"It's weird to think about. It's like another life."

In his CFL life, Mills is a two-time Most Outstanding Lineman and a five-time All-Star. In a brief NFL career, he was injury-plagued.

He won a starting job under Frank Kush as a ninth-round draft choice in 1983. But he hurt a knee in the eighth game and missed the rest of the year.

"I missed three games the next year in Indianapolis, and the third year I blew out my shoulder," Mills said.

"They thought I was made of balsa wood. I asked to be traded."

He wound up in the Denver Broncos' camp in 1986. After he was cut, he returned home to Vancouver, British Columbia, to play for the Lions. He remained a Lion -- and one of the league's top players -- until he signed as a free agent with Ottawa before this season.

Mills said he called Baltimore coach Don Matthews, for whom he had played in B.C., when the CFLs were being assembled last spring. But Matthews was committed to going with inexpensive American linemen. "And that was smart, because there are so many [competent] linemen in the States," Mills said.

The difference in style in the Canadian game helped Mills last a dozen years as a pro.

"This game is a lot easier on the body," he said. "This is a more athletic game."

Unless something happens to change his mind, Mills said this will be his final CFL season. He plans to retire to British Columbia and join a family business.

There is the chance, however, that Mills still might get a chance to play at Memorial Stadium. Ottawa is in contention for an Eastern Division playoff spot, and Baltimore is a virtual lock to play host to a game. Another Ottawa-Baltimore matchup is not out of the question.

CFLs eye TV change

Baltimore owner Jim Speros said he would be willing to switch his Oct. 29 home game with Winnipeg from day to night to accommodate Canadian television.

Because of the NHL lockout, CBC will be missing six hours of hockey programming on Saturday nights. At the moment, CBC, which has Satur day exclusivity in Canada to the CFL, is scheduled to show Sacramento at Edmonton.

Last week, though, Don Peppin, executive director of CBC Sports, said he would be interested in televising the Baltimore-Winnipeg game, scheduled for 2 p.m., at night. HTS will televise the game here.

"If I had to, I'd do that," Speros said said of moving the game to night. "I'd like to see that game televised. It'll be a big game, better than Edmonton-Sacramento, which has no bearing on the playoffs. We're looking into it."

Pringle's power game

With a league-high 1,311 rushing yards, Baltimore's Mike Pringle is on pace to gain 1,815. That would come 81 yards shy of Willie Burden's 1975 league record of 1,896.

Going into last night's game, Pringle, who turned 27 yesterday, also led the CFL in yards from scrimmage (1,540) and all-purpose yards (2,071), and is second in kickoff return yards (531).

Failure to communicate

Baltimore offensive coordinator Steve Buratto called last week's game in Ottawa the worst of the year for his offensive line. The problem was one of recognition.

"We didn't communicate in our line calls," said guard John Earle. "When a team blitzes and stunts, you need to communicate."

Guard Keith Ballard lost his starting job as a result. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Guy Earle last night. Buratto said he was unhappy with both guard spots and the center a week ago.

Miscellaneous

The CFLs have placed reserve receiver Joe Washington on the suspended list for arriving late to Friday's practice. He was replaced on the active roster last night by Reggie Perry. . . . Orioles Hall of Famers Earl Weaver and Jim Palmer were inducted into the Memorial Stadium Ring of Honor at halftime last night. . . . Defensive tackle Malcolm Showell, a member of the CFLs' practice roster, turned 26 yesterday. . . . Starting with last night's game, the CFLs' final six games are on grass, where they are 4-3 this season. On turf, they're 5-1. . . . Westminster native Urban Bowman, defensive coordinator for Ottawa, has a sister (Janet Zsebedics) living in Bel Air, and two daughters (Polly Perrone, Westminster, and Paige Leven, New Windsor) in the area.

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