When Baltimore challenges the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for first place in the CFL's Eastern Division Saturday, it will shuffle its defensive deck.
Free safety Michael Brooks, who played the second half of Saturday's 48-31 win over the B.C. Lions with a broken right hand, is out.
Nose tackle Jearld Baylis, who left the Memorial Stadium on crutches, is doubtful this week with a partial tear of his right calf.
And linebacker Ken Benson, who had a sack against B.C., was to have the metal plate removed from his previously broken right ankle because three screws came loose. He is expected to practice Wednesday and should play Saturday.
If it was not the best of injury news for Don Matthews, the Baltimore coach chose not to dwell on the negative yesterday as he began preparations for quarterback Matt Dunigan's high-powered passing game.
"I'm not going to make an issue of it," Matthews said of the injury situation. "Our job is to go out and play. We've played without Baylis before."
But that was in Week 9 against Shreveport. This is for home-field advantage through the playoffs. As it is, Baltimore must beat the Blue Bombers by at least eight points to take the tie-breaking edge in the East.
The revamped lineup will have Lester Smith making his first start of the year at free safety. If Baylis can't play, defensive tackle Robert Presbury will move to nose tackle and Malcolm Showell will take Presbury's position. Scott Miller will spell both of them.
"Jearld Baylis is Jearld Baylis; he's the defensive player of the year," Showell said. "You can't replace him unless you replace him with the defensive player of the year. We'll do the best we can."
Baylis said he tore his calf muscle as he planted and turned -- without contact -- in the final minute of the first half.
"I could have sworn somebody threw something out of the stands that hit me," he said. "I started looking around. I thought I was hit with a rock."
When he returned to the sideline in the fourth quarter, it was on VTC crutches. Presbury played Baylis' spot in the second half, and Showell alternated with Miller.
Brooks broke a bone on the top of his hand making a tackle on a kickoff early in the second half. "I got up and something felt loose in there," he said.
He played the next defensive series, then had the hand put in a cast on the sideline.
Twice after that, he dropped potential interceptions when the ball bounced off the cast.
Brooks had surgery to repair the break yesterday. If need be, he said he might return for the Nov. 5 game at Sacramento. But Matthews expects him to miss that game as well. His roster spot will be taken by Stan Petry.
The switch at safety will be the first change in Baltimore's secondary this season. Smith, the team's punt returner, has played sparingly on defense.
"He's a good safety -- that's why he's here," Matthews said. "It's his natural position."
There was one positive note on the injury front. Linebacker Tracey Gravely's blurred vision cleared overnight. He suffered vision impairment in his left eye when his head hit the ground after a scintillating 41-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.
"I went to the doctor [Saturday] night and got some eye drops," Gravely said. "I'm fine today."
Monday at the movies
Matthews said he'll make another film on inconsistent officiating and submit it to the league this week.
Baltimore was tagged for 10 penalties worth 115 yards, while B.C., the most penalized team in the league, had nine for 77.
"It's not consistent," Matthews said of the officiating after reviewing game film. "I certainly have some questions to ask the officials."
Last week, Matthews sent in a film clip questioning 22 no-calls against Edmonton.
Immediately after Saturday's game, Matthews said: "I'm not sure if it's an overreaction to [his] criticism last week or not."
It's not too early to think about next year. That's why Baltimore has signed former Iowa quarterback Matt Rodgers to its practice roster. Rogers, the son of former Boston Celtics coach Jimmy Rodgers, will practice with the team this week.
Matthews wants Rodgers to compete for a backup job next summer. Because training camp is only two weeks long for non-expansion teams, he wants to give Rodgers some exposure to the system now.
"He's here for no other reason than to learn what we're doing," Matthews said.
Baltimore signed rush end Grant Carter of Pacific last week to the practice roster, and he'll be joined this week by linebacker/defensive back Brad Clark of BYU. One of them will replace Baylis on the active roster to play special teams.
Also expected in is running back Ricky Powers of Michigan, who'll compete for a spot next summer.
The team is off today.
Baltimore's big hitter
Alvin Walton was selected special teams' player of the week with five tackles "and two de-cleaters -- blocks knocking a guy off his feet," said special teams coach Daryl Edralin. The award, Walton's second of the year, earns a $300 gift certificate to a local clothier.
Running back Mike Pringle was offensive player of the week with 216 rushing yards and Irvin Smith the defensive player with a diving interception (his fifth of the year) and five tackles.