Could quarterback Doug Flutie, the highest-profile player in the Canadian Football League, become a Baltimore Stallion?
It's possible, although not probable.
As his surgically repaired right elbow heals and while his backup, Jeff Garcia, continues to lead the Calgary Stampeders to the CFL playoffs, the future of Flutie, the league's four-time Most Outstanding Player, is uncertain.
Will Flutie return in 1996 to resume control of the Stampeders' offense? Or will Calgary owner Larry Ryckman, who expects to lose around $1.5 million (Canadian) this season, deal Flutie and his $1 million salary elsewhere?
Flutie, who has a no-trade clause in a five-year, $5 million contract that includes a club option year in 1999, told the Calgary Herald that he would consider going to one of three teams -- Toronto, San Antonio or Baltimore. Flutie was born in Manchester, in Carroll County.
While recognizing Flutie's wide appeal, Baltimore owner Jim Speros said he expects the Stallions to exercise their 1996 option on quarterback Tracy Ham, who is trying to lead Baltimore to the Grey Cup championship game for the second straight season.
"As of right now, I'm not looking for a quarterback. Tracy Ham is our quarterback," Speros said. "He's been our leader since the day he walked in the door. He's a mature quarterback who has helped develop our team. We built our offense around him.
"After the season, we'll re-evaluate players at every position," Speros added. "Who wouldn't be interested in Doug Flutie? He'd sell tickets wherever he went. He's the biggest name in our league. His CFL career has been phenomenal. But how much football does he have left in him?"
Ryckman said he thinks Flutie, 32, has "four or five good years left." He added that dealing Flutie would not automatically remedy the Stampeders' financial squeeze.
"Clearly, Doug would be a big draw in U.S. markets, but before I'd even consider letting him go, I'd have to consider what it would do to my season ticket base and corporate sponsorship," Ryckman said. "Doug does cost the team a lot of money, but he brings in a lot of people and a lot of revenue. The simpleton's view is I'll save a million dollars a year [by letting Flutie go]. That's baloney.
"Ideally, I'd like to keep them both [Flutie and Garcia]. But I'll assess all of this at the end of the year."
A month ago, Flutie had surgery to re-attach a torn tendon in his elbow. Since taking over for Flutie, Garcia, whose salary is about one-tenth of Flutie's, has led Calgary to six consecutive victories.
NOTES: It didn't take long for veteran slotback Gerald Alphin to get comfortable in the Baltimore offense. Alphin, signed last week after getting released by Winnipeg, caught three passes for 57 yards in the Stallions' come-from-behind 28-24 victory in Saskatchewan on Sunday.
Alphin caught two passes over the middle during a second-quarter scoring drive. His 20-yard catch put the Stallions on the Roughriders' 4. On the next play, Mike Pringle scored his second touchdown of the game.
"It felt good to be back in a uniform and with a winning team," said Alphin, who has 49 career touchdowns but none this year. "I really wanted to get into the end zone on that play. The bottom line is we got in the paint."
The Stallions, who face Saskatchewan at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, came out of Sunday's game with a few bruises. Linebacker Maurice Gravely sprained his left knee. If Matt Goodwin returns after missing two starts with a hamstring injury, Gravely would go back to the practice roster. . . . Alvin Walton, the team's special teams tackles leader, has a slight fracture of his left thumb, but expects to play this week. . . . Defensive tackle Robert Presbury, released by Baltimore two weeks ago, has signed with Winnipeg. . . . The Stallions have dressed 59 players in 1995, the same total for all of last season. . . . How is this for offensive balance? The Stallions have run and passed 397 times.