After losing two receivers to injuries last week, the Baltimore Stallions got a lot healthier at that position yesterday, when they signed former Winnipeg standout Gerald Alphin.
Alphin, an eight-year Canadian Football League veteran who caught a career-high 18 touchdown passes for the Blue Bombers in 1994, had been a free agent since Sept. 1.
That's when Winnipeg decided to release him, rather than pay the remainder of Alphin's 1995 salary. Under the terms of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the CFL Players Association, a team must pay a full season's salary to a player who has at least six years of experience and is with that team after Sept. 1.
The Blue Bombers are in sixth place in the CFL's eight-team, Northern Division with a 4-10 record, and have an outside shot at making the playoffs. Before releasing him, they tried to trade Alphin.
"It's one of those strange things that happens in football now and then," said Alphin, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound slotback. "I was the highest-paid, non-quarterback on the team, we were taking our knocks, and management asked me about a pay cut. I felt it was unjustified. I took a stand, and things happened from there."
The expansion Birmingham Barracudas also pursued Alphin, but said the chance to play for a championship contender weighed heavily in his decision. The Stallions (11-3) have won a franchise-record six straight games and can clinch the Southern Division title -- and home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs -- with two more victories.
"One of the things we liked about him [Alphin] is he's got a lot of experience, and at this time of the year, that's important," Baltimore coach Don Matthews said. "He's big, he ran an excellent time when we tested him [in the 40-yard --], and he understands the Canadian Football League game. He was an easy choice."
Alphin, 31, comes in handy, as the Stallions recover from the loss of wide receiver Robert Clark and slotback Reggie Perry. Clark sprained his right ankle early in Baltimore's 42-32 victory over Shreveport. Perry later suffered a sprained right knee.
Both could be lost for the remainder of the regular season.
Alphin played in nine games this year for the Blue Bombers and caught 32 passes for 417 yards, although he did not score a touchdown. He had six receptions for 76 yards in Winnipeg's 43-7 loss to the Stallions at Memorial Stadium on July 22.
In his 104-game career, Alphin has caught 405 passes for 7,186 yards and 49 touchdowns. Four times, including three straight seasons in Ottawa (1987-89), Alphin has recorded over 1,000 receiving yards. Last year, he set a Winnipeg record with 18 touchdowns.
Along with mainstay Chris Armstrong, Alphin lends a veteran presence to a Baltimore receiving corps that now includes three rookies in Shannon Culver, Mark Orlando and Toby Cates. Culver returns for Sunday's game in Saskatchewan after missing a game with a neck injury.
"I'm being fed the [Baltimore] system now, trying to digest a lot. I know I can play in this league," Alphin said. "I'm looking forward to making some plays. It's good to be with a winning team again."
NOTES: The Stallions also signed receiver Curtis Thomas to a practice-roster contract yesterday. Thomas, 6-2, 185, caught 44 passes for 823 yards and eight touchdowns at Delaware State last year. . . . After missing the Shreveport game with the flu, Mike Withycombe returns this week at left guard. . . . Right guard John James will probably miss one more game with a sprained ankle. Mark Dixon will start again in James' place. . . . Rookie linebacker Jason Bryant, coming off a 12-tackle effort against Shreveport, likely will start his second straight game in place of Matt Goodwin, who continues to nurse a pulled hamstring. . . . Free safety Chris Johnson, a four-year starter at San Diego State who signed a practice-roster contract last week, will start in Saskatchewan.
/%Yr. .. Team .. Rec .. .. Yds .. TDs
'86 .. Mon. ... 20 .. .. 409 .. . 2
'87 .. Ott. ... 67 .. . 1029 .. . 8
'88 .. Ott. ... 64 .. . 1307 .. . 5
'89 .. Ott. ... 68 .. . 1471 ... 10
'92 .. Win. ... 26 .. .. 507 .. . 2
'93 .. Win. ... 55 .. . 1052 .. . 4
'94 .. Win. ... 73 .. .. 994 ... 18
'95 .. Win. ... 32 .. .. 417 .. . 0
Tot. . .. . .. 405 .. . 7186 ... 49