RED DEER, Alberta -- The Baltimore Stallions practiced yesterday for the second straight day in Red Deer, a town of about 60,000 located halfway between Edmonton and Calgary. Approximately 80 locals watched the Stallions file off two school buses at Lindsay Thurber High School, where a two-hour workout featured another new face.
The team signed Norris Thomas, a 6-foot, 190-pound defensive back who will serve as a backup in tomorrow's road trip finale in Calgary. Thomas, who was released by Winnipeg last month after playing a little more than a season with the Blue Bombers, played at Wisconsin-LaCrosse, where he intercepted 11 passes in 1992, the year that school won the Division III national championship.
The addition of Thomas was necessitated by injuries that have weakened Baltimore's secondary during this three-game, 10-day road trip. The Stallions have lost cornerbacks Gary Wilkerson and Corris Ervin to pulled left hamstrings. But the biggest loss was free safety Lester Smith, who broke his left ankle returning a punt in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 19-12 victory over Edmonton.
Smith has flown back to Baltimore, where he will have surgery on Monday. He is lost for the season, joining cornerback Karl Anthony (knee) in that category.
The Stallions will activate defensive back Kareem Bacon from the practice roster and start him in Smith's place tomorrow. That move leaves the Stallions with two healthy players on their practice roster. Baltimore began the trip last weekend with seven on the practice squad.
"This is an unusual amount of injuries for one of my football teams," Baltimore coach Don Matthews said. "But we have no reason to think we're not going to keep doing well. We're not making an issue out of it."
Smith's kick returning duties will be taken over by running back Mike Pringle, who returned kicks all last year. Rookie sensation Chris Wright, who leads the CFL with 1,073 all-purpose yards, took that job.
Ham to start
The condition of quarterback Tracy Ham, who suffered a sprained left foot while scrambling against Edmonton, is improving. He threw lightly at yesterday's practice.
Although backup Shawn Jones has taken the most repetitions at quarterback for the past two practices, Matthews said he plans to start Ham against Calgary.
"[Ham] will probably take a few reps tomorrow [today]," Matthews said. "And they can inject his foot for the game so he can play. He's been around the league. He knows what it takes to compete in the CFL. It's a small roster, and you've got to play."
Another Stallion goes to Dogs
Safety Michael Brooks became the second former Baltimore player to wind up with Memphis, after Brooks signed with the Mad Dogs earlier this week.
Brooks, an All-CFL safety last year, was cut by Baltimore in June. Brooks joins former Baltimore kicker Donald Igwebuike on the Memphis roster.
The Mad Dogs also are pursuing former Baltimore receiver Mike
Alexander and offensive lineman Keith Ballard.