Money talks, but Tracy Ham won't walk when the Baltimore Football Club opens training camp in May.
The veteran Canadian Football League quarterback said he asked the club to renegotiate his three-year contract, and after being rejected, briefly considered not reporting.
"I discussed something about renegotiation," Ham, 31, said yesterday. "But I am coming to camp."
Ham is due to make a base salary of $240,000 in 1995 -- not counting incentives and perks -- as the team's marquee player. That ranks him no higher than sixth among returning CFL quarterbacks, behind even Billy Joe Tolliver, an NFL reject who signed with the Shreveport Pirates this month for $310,000 in base salary.
Ham's contractual dissatisfaction grew out of this season's bonanza for free-agent quarterbacks. Matt Dunigan, formerly of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, signed earlier this month with the expansion Birmingham Barracudas for a base of $600,000 with incentives that could earn him as much as $1 million.
And Damon Allen, a former Edmonton Eskimo, will play for $850,000 with the Memphis Mad Dogs this year.
Calgary's Doug Flutie previously led the quarterback salary list with a contract worth $1 million Canadian, or approximately $700,000 in U.S. currency. Kent Austin of the B.C. Lions made $500,000 Canadian last year, and free agent David Archer, who is close to re-signing with the San Antonio Texans, made $500,000 American.
After talking with his wife, Valerie, and his Toronto-based agent, Dan Lawson, Ham decided against a holdout.
"When my wife and I talked about it, we decided it was not best for myself and the club," he said. "A lot of other guys are playing out their option who deserve more money. I didn't want to do business like that."
Lawson made the renegotiation request to coach Don Matthews.
"I told him the club's position, that we were financially unable to renegotiate," Matthews said. "Under no circumstances would we renegotiate."
Team owner Jim Speros doesn't anticipate a problem. "I have all the confidence in the world he will live up to the contract," Speros said. "I'm looking forward to him having a better year than last year."
Ham threw for 30 touchdown passes in 1994, leading Baltimore's expansion team to the Grey Cup, where he played poorly and the team lost, 26-23, to B.C.
Lawson said he had a gentleman's agreement with Speros and Matthews last year that if Ham played well, he would get a new contract. Ham played for $225,000 last year with a signing bonus of $50,000, and got use of a car and a townhouse.
"In fact, this matter really has little to do with money, and everything to do with respect," Lawson said.
Lawson also said that he did not threaten a holdout in his conversation with Matthews, but suggested it as a warning. "The Colts will never have it so good," he said. "I don't think they realize how good they have it. Someday, maybe they will."
NOTES: Speros will meet with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke today in Annapolis on his bid to get $10 million over four years for Memorial Stadium renovations. . . . CFL commissioner Larry Smith has been in Jackson, Miss., since Sunday night trying to salvage a deal to move the Las Vegas Posse and preserve plans for a North-South divisional alignment. Meanwhile, the Canadian Press reported that Virginia businessman Bill Collins is leading a group interested in purchasing the beleaguered franchise. It is not known whether Collins wants to move the Posse to Jackson or another U.S. city.