Toronto celebration may have been premature


October 30, 1994|By KEN MURRAY

The Toronto Argonauts were feeling frisky after beating the Edmonton Eskimos, 23-6, last week.

But they were acting foolish.

Clinching the third-place playoff spot in the East, the Argos celebrated by insulting the Baltimore CFLs, a prospective postseason opponent. (The third-place team plays at the second-place team on either Nov. 12 or 13.)

All over the locker room, players were rooting for a first-round matchup with Baltimore, not Winnipeg. Mike "Pinball" Clemons was the most eloquent.

"I know football players aren't supposed to come out and say this, but I'd really like to play Baltimore," he told the Toronto Globe and Mail.

"First, we proved we can beat Baltimore when we beat them on their home field earlier this year. Second, there's better weather in Baltimore than in Winnipeg. And third, you don't want to fool with [Winnipeg quarterback Matt] Dunigan unless you have to.

"Most importantly, though, is the fact that there's a buzz in the air in Baltimore. When you play there in front of all those people, it makes you feel big-league. The fans would psych us up as

much as they would psych up their home team."

Even coach Bob O'Billovich jumped in with both feet by saying, "The only way I'd prefer the Bombers is if we can knock Matt Dunigan out in the last game of the regular season [next Sunday]."

Ah, yes, diplomacy. But the most searing words came from defensive tackle Rodney Harding.

"Until now, we hadn't beaten a quality team," Harding said.

If the Toronto-Baltimore matchup comes to pass, those could be fighting words. Toronto lost to Baltimore, 28-20, in the season opener, then won in Memorial Stadium on Aug. 20, 31-24. The Argos would do well to remember why they won here.

Because Tracy Ham missed the second half with a thigh injury. Because Mike Pringle, fresh off arthroscopic knee surgery, was held to 15 yards on nine carries. Because Joe Washington dropped a critical pass to nip a budding comeback. Because newly signed Elfrid Payton was on the sidelines in street clothes, not at rush end. And because quarterback Reggie Slack (since traded) scrambled for 102 yards.

Of course, Baltimore's win over the Blue Bombers yesterday may make it all moot. If the CFLs win their finale next week at Sacramento they clinch first place and the Argos will play their first-round playoff game in . . . Winnipeg.

It's a circus out there

Defensive tackle Ben Williams may have had the best preparation of anyone for playing with the Shreveport Pirates. He worked with Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey before joining the CFL last spring.

"I didn't work with the circus," he said. "I worked with Gunther, the guy who trains the tigers and goes into a cage with them. He brought me in, showed me how to do it. It was scary.

"I thought they had all kinds of guys with rifles [outside the cage], but they just had one guy with a little handgun. I don't think a handgun would do very much against 16 tigers."

Air Roughrider?

The negotiating list of several CFL teams inadvertently was released to the media last week. The Saskatchewan Roughriders, for instance, hold the league's negotiating rights to Heisman Trophy favorite Steve "Air" McNair. The Shreveport Pirates hold rights to Maryland quarterback Scott Milanovich.

Baltimore's list was strong on quarterbacks and running backs. QBs on the CFLs' list are Chad May of Kansas State, Paul Justin of Arizona State and Matt Rodgers of Iowa (Rodgers practiced with the team last week and is close to a contract agreement.)

Running backs on the list are Ricky Powers of Michigan, Arnold Mickens of Butler, Deon Struther of USC, Lindsey Chapman of Cal, Randy Cuthbert of Duke and former Boston College back Chuckie Dukes.

Jim Popp, Baltimore's director of player personnel, said he expects the CFL to scrap the negotiating list and go to an American draft if U.S. expansion takes hold.

He's in demand

Joe Barnes, Baltimore's quarterback coach and longtime CFL star, has been targeted as a head coaching candidate in San Antonio if the Alamo city gets a CFL team. Other possibilities include Bill Bradley, a Sacramento assistant, and Mike Riley, offensive coordinator at USC. . . . Edmonton had 54 pass attempts and only five rushes (for minus 10 yards) in that loss to Toronto. Coach Ron Lancaster benched Rickey Foggie during the game and said it was time for injured Damon Allen to get back to work. "He's had the bad shoulder, the bad back, but just forget it," Lancaster said. "It's time for him to play football."

Cashing out at Vegas

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