It was an unlikely streak that could not last much longer. In their inaugural 1994 season, the Baltimore Stallions' entire defensive backfield started all 21 games, including the playoffs.
The only one whose playing time has continued uninterrupted is halfback Ken Watson.
The streak was broken before the season opener, when free safety Michael Brooks was released. Then, in the season opener at British Columbia, cornerback Karl Anthony went down with a season-ending knee injury. Seven weeks ago, halfback Charles Anthony missed Baltimore's 41-14 victory in Hamilton to be with his wife when she delivered the couple's first child.
Cornerback Irv Smith is the latest casualty. He injured a rotator-cuff muscle in his left shoulder two weeks ago against Saskatchewan and probably will not return until the first playoff game Nov. 4.
"It's not a full separation or a full tear of the rotator cuff. Rehab is going real good," said Smith, who watched Douglas Craft move from right cornerback to fill in at left cornerback last night against British Columbia.
"I'm going to have exploratory surgery done on it after the season. My instincts want me to get back as soon as I can. But logically, it's best to rest it, get it strong, wait another week so I can go from 80 to 100 percent, then play three solid games in the playoffs."
Three months ago, Karl Anthony was one football player. He had just had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and he was staring at a season of inactivity.
Anthony is getting better, physically and mentally. Recently, he started doing some light running on a treadmill. Earlier this week, he began lifting weights to strengthen his leg. Shortly after the season, Anthony plans to begin running outdoors.
"I won't be able to run outdoors until I get a brace for the knee, and I'll get fitted for the brace once my quad muscle comes back," Anthony said.
"The [recovery] process is so slow. If I don't see progress, it doesn't look like there is any. Now I can see some progress. My spirit is up now."
Anthony could become a free agent in February. Whether he ends up in Baltimore, rest assured he won't be late for training camp.
Wright ties record
Baltimore rookie Chris Wright last night tied the CFL record for return yards in a season with 2,202, set by Edmondton's Gizmo Williams in 1991. Wright initially broke the record, but lost 4 yards on his next return to fall back into a tie.
In addition, Wright broke a CFL record, also held by Williams, with his fifth game in a season with 100 yards or more in return yards. He had 176 last night.
"I'm not going to take all the credit," said Wright. "It's been a team effort. We've worked hard all season and I hope they enjoy it, too."
Stallions running back Mike Pringle said Wright deserves the attention the record gives him.
"He's unbelieveable," Pringle said. "Anytime he touches the ball he has a chance to go the distance. He's hard to catch up to, and that's what makes him such a threat."
Armstrong over 1,000
Baltimore slotback Chris Armstrong went over 1,000 yards in receptions for the second straight year. Armstrong, who had six catches for 120 yards last night, has 1,067 yards.
"It feels good," said Armstrong. "As a receiver, I set this as a goal at the beginning of the season. This shows people I'm for real. I just try to be consistent throughout the year, and let the stats take care of themselves."
Caravatta fills in
Since quarterback Danny McManus sat out last night's game with an injured throwing hand, the Lions turned the ball over to backup Giulio Caravatta.
Caravatta, who made the first start of his five-year CFL career, was 16 of 31 passes for 141 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
He also became the first Canadian-born quarterback to start a game since October 1993, when Bob Torrance started for
The Lions clinched third place in the Northern Division before last night's kickoff. Earlier yesterday, Ottawa upset fourth-place Hamilton, 30-9. The Lions will play in the first round of the playoffs at Edmonton, which blew out B.C. in back-to-back games last month. . . . Last night's game will be shown on tape delay by ESPN on Thursday at 8 p.m. and Friday at 3:30 a.m.
Next for Stallions
Opponent: Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Site: Memorial Stadium
When: Oct. 29, 2 p.m.