Jearld Baylis has been down this road before. He knows the detours and the dead ends, the bright lights and the lure of the next stop.
One thing Baltimore's nose tackle hasn't known, though, is the exhilaration of winning a Grey Cup.
Baylis hits the playoff road again Saturday in search of that elusive high. First stop is Memorial Stadium, where the CFLs face the Toronto Argonauts in an Eastern Division semifinal.
A veteran of nine playoff games in seven CFL seasons, Baylis is the voice of experience. Here is what he tells Baltimore's first-timers:
"This is totally different than anything you've ever been into. It's a one-time opportunity. The longer you play, the more money you put in the bank. It's an opportunity to get the ring."
Baltimore's expansion team, the first U.S. entry in the CFL playoffs, is not without a playoff past. Baylis heads a list of 10 players who have participated in 49 playoff games, including eight Grey Cups.
Still, it pales in comparison to the Argos. Toronto has 21 players who have participated in 103 playoff games.
Will the CFLs' experience deficit matter come Saturday?
"We've got to play 60 minutes with the players we've got," Baltimore coach Don Matthews said, reaching for his bottom-line perspective.
"I don't think it will," said rush end O. J. Brigance, "not for this particular team this year. We jelled and played consistently for the better part of the season.
"We see the playoffs as starting a new season, and we have a better team now than we did in the beginning."
The CFLs not only have Baylis to spread the playoff gospel, but Grey Cup winners like Ken Watson and Karl Anthony. The two defensive backs played together on the Calgary Stampeders' 1992 Grey Cup champions.
Their theme is to treat the playoffs just like any other game. The playoff atmosphere, they said, will take care of itself.
"Emotions are higher than in a regular-season game," Anthony ++ said. "But you want to play the same way you do during the season."
Watson, a six-year veteran, cautioned rookie linebacker Matt Goodwin yesterday about being overzealous early in the week.
"We had a talk this morning and one of the younger guys got up, and he seemed all fired up," Watson said. "What I said was, 'Don't get too fired up this early. Sooner or later you've got to come down, and sometimes guys come down on game day.' "
The Goodwins -- Matt and Malcolm -- are among the more emotional players on the team. On game day, Watson feeds off their energy.
"When they get hyped, it helps me out," he said.
Alvin Walton, a part-time linebacker and full-time special teamer for the CFLs, knows his way around the playoffs, too. He played six seasons with the Washington Redskins and went to two Super Bowls, winning one.
Whether NFL or CFL style, the playoffs are the same breed of game, he said.
"I think the intensity picks up in the playoffs," Walton said. "You might say you play the same, but you try not to make as many mistakes. You see more intensity during practice.
"You play for the same thing at the end, to get the ring and to get to say you're the best."
That's what Baylis wants. He played in the 1987 Grey Cup for Toronto, and lost, 38-36, to Edmonton. This week, he'll revisit some of his playoff memories.
"I'll look back on some teams I've been on, some of the things that hurt us and some things that helped us," Baylis said. "I've been on young teams in the past where some guys didn't take it serious enough. The older guys gave them info and they didn't listen.
"This team isn't like that."
NOTES: Guard Marc Borrelli will go on the active roster as the sixth offensive lineman in place of injured Keith Ballard. Diego London, cut twice this season, declined to take a practice roster spot and left the team on Tuesday. . . . Owner Jim Speros, the Colts Marching Band and the CFLs' cheerleaders will participate in a pep rally tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the Harborplace Amphitheater. . . . The band will unveil its new uniforms at halftime Saturday.
Toronto defensive tackle Swift Burch, a native of Washington, requested 50 tickets for the game. . . . The last time a visiting East team won a playoff game was 1989, when Winnipeg beat the Argos in Toronto, 30-17. Toronto coach Bob O'Billovich lost his job because of the loss, but regained it last season. . . . Channel 2 will broadcast a live special from 1 to 1:30 Saturday afternoon at the stadium.
CFL playoff appearances by CFLs players:
Player ......... Year .... Games
C. Anthony ...... 4th ..... 2
K. Anthony ...... 5th ..... 7
Armstrong ....... 3rd ..... 1
Baylis .......... 8th ..... 9
Beals ........... 4th ..... 4
Brigance ........ 4th ..... 2
Congemi ......... 7th ..... 6
Ham ............. 8th ..... 8
Payton .......... 4th ..... 4
Watson .......... 6th ..... 6
Toronto at Baltimore, 4 p.m.
B.C. at Edmonton, 4 p.m.
Ottawa at Winnipeg, 3 p.m.
Saskatchewan at Calgary, 3 p.m.