Three weeks ago, the Las Vegas Posse quietly agreed to pay the Winnipeg Blue Bombers $100,000 for short-term rights to Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward.
In a calculated gamble, the Posse also agreed to pay another $100,000 if it was able to sign the former Florida State standout before its July 8 opener in the Canadian Football League.
But after Wednesday's NBA draft, it appears unlikely the Posse will get its man. When Ward went to the New York Knicks on a late first-round draft pick, his fate was virtually sealed. Unless he wants to be a two-sport professional, Ward will be a point guard in the NBA in 1994, not a quarterback in the CFL.
Privately, Posse officials are saying they don't believe they can beat the Knicks' salary offer because of Ward's first-round status. They had hoped to land him with an offer of $700,000.
That means that, at least for now, Anthony Calvillo, a rookie from Utah State, will be the starting quarterback for Las Vegas. And Steve Arnold, the team's director of player personnel, said Calvillo, though not a running quarterback, has the skills to win in the CFL.
"He knows when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em," Arnold said. "That makes a better quarterback than [the Edmonton Eskimos'] Damon Allen, who runs all the time, or [the Sacramento Gold Miners'] David Archer, who will never run unless his life is in jeopardy. Both of them are great quarterbacks, but he's got one extra ingredient of knowing when to move."
Baltimore, by many
Baltimore's attendance of 28,798 at Wednesday's exhibition game in Memorial Stadium was easily the high-water mark of the league's three new expansion teams. Las Vegas drew 6,280 to its home debut at Sam Boyd Stadium on Wednesday night, when it beat the defending champion Eskimos, 22-11. Contributing to the low crowd was a daytime high of 115 degrees in the desert.
Shreveport announced an attendance of 19,000 for the Pirates' home exhibition opener against Baltimore two weeks ago, but the actual crowd appeared much smaller.
Even though Baltimore led the expansion parade, the crowd of nearly 29,000 was less than team owner Jim Speros expected. "I was expecting 30,000-plus," he said. "For whatever reason, we didn't get as many people. For the [regular-season opener against Calgary] on the 16th, I'm hoping to get around 40,000. But I'm keeping it all in perspective. This was a preseason game in the middle of the week."
The Saskatchewan Roughriders' 19-4 preseason win over Sacramento on Wednesday was called with 3:25 left when lightning knocked out the power at Taylor Field in Regina. The Miners' backup quarterback, Kerwin Bell, from Florida, had the best line on a storm that featured hail, lightning and 60 mph winds.
"In Florida, I was telling the boys, we call this a hurricane," Bell said.
Don Matthews had an unusual answer for stress management as a CFL coach in Saskatchewan the past two years. When he felt the walls closing in, he'd climb on his Harley-Davidson '92 Heritage Classic and motor into the open spaces. In Regina, there was plenty of open space.
"They have some long, straight roads in Regina," said Matthews, 54, the first-year Baltimore coach. "No traffic. One time I was going on this road toward a lake, going about 100 mph for about 20 minutes. When I came back, I felt really good and everything seemed clear. When I don't have an answer, I have to clear my mind, and that was one way I do it."
Matthews sold his motorcycle before he came to Baltimore. "I will get another Harley, but I don't have time now," he said.
At 34, the Toronto Argonauts' Mike Kerrigan is the oldest starting quarterback in the CFL this season. He's starting against Baltimore on Thursday because Reggie Slack had arthroscopic surgery on his knee two weeks ago and rookie Marvin Graves, out of Syracuse, threw four interceptions in little more than two quarters in the preseason. . . . The Posse's Arnold says Tamarick Vanover, who will make $800,000 over four years with Las Vegas, "will break every record the CFL ever had as far as average yards per catch. And I think he'll be every bit as good as Gizmo [Williams of Edmonton] as far as punt and kick returns."