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Trying to be best on the block


Thrown together eight weeks ago, Baltimore's big, young offensive line is learning on the run this summer.

That's because the no-huddle offense -- Baltimore's best offense so far -- keeps them on the move.

"There's a huge burden on the offensive line when you don't huddle up," said offensive coordinator Steve Buratto. "Communication is difficult."

For tomorrow night's game against the Shreveport Pirates here, Baltimore's offensive line will average 298 pounds, 25 years of age and 1.6 years of professional experience.

Left tackle Shahriar Pourdanesh, from Tehran, Iran, has made perhaps the smoothest transition. He was a four-year starter at Nevada-Reno who once went 38 straight games without allowing a sack -- on a team that averaged 45 passes a game.

"I felt like a CFL lineman from the beginning," Pourdanesh said yesterday. "In college, we threw 40 to 50 times a game. I like to pass block. That's my specialty. I'm much more comfortable here than in the NFL because of the style of play."

In the no-huddle offense, Pourdanesh said the line calls are made a "split second" before the snap. "The more we play next to each other, the more we know what each other is thinking," he said.

Pourdanesh, 24, was cut by the Cleveland Browns in training camp a year ago.

He signed with the CFLs over the Las Vegas Posse because "Baltimore seemed more interested."

Right guard O'Neil Glenn, 26, who played at Maryland, arrived in Baltimore after two tryouts in the NFL and one stint in the World League. He has had a tougher transition, due mostly to two leg injuries -- a strained Achilles' tendon and a sprained ankle.

In a league that features the pass, he's probably a better run blocker. "But my pass set is coming," said Glenn, who practices at home in front of a mirror.

Buratto was not happy about the number of missed assignments in last week's 42-16 loss to the Calgary Stampeders. He took the blame himself, however.

"If they don't block the right people, I haven't done a good job," said Buratto.

"If they get beat physically, that's their responsibility. It was not a good effort. The encouraging thing was we moved the ball. We just didn't get it in the end zone. The fact we did not score was not [solely] a problem of the offensive line."

Most glaring of the broken assignments was an offside penalty against Glenn on the Calgary 1 that snuffed a game-opening drive.

"I told the players it's better to die in infancy than jump offside on the goal line," said Buratto.

Still, quarterback Tracy Ham said the offensive line play "was probably the best part of our offense so far."

There were signs of improvement last week from a starting unit that also includes guard Keith Ballard, center Nick Subis and tackle Neal Fort. The CFLs' running game jumped from 62 yards against Toronto to 127 against Calgary.

"We're getting it together," Glenn said.

"The five of us are working to get a good running game going."

Said Pourdanesh: "If we play to our full potential, there's no way anybody in the league will stop us."

NOTES: Yesterday's practice, which was cut short after 40 minutes by heavy rain and lightning, was the last for the team at Towson State. They'll practice next week either at Memorial Stadium or Kirk Field, said spokesman Mike Gathagan. . . . Nose tackle Jearld Baylis practiced before the rain came and said his injured knee passed the test.

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