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Off-season accident gives Clark new perspective on training camp


One veteran who is especially glad to be back in the Baltimore Football Club camp is wide receiver Robert Clark.

After starting nine games and catching 16 passes for 294 yards last year, Clark's off-season got off to a disastrous start. About two weeks after Baltimore's Grey Cup loss, Clark drove home to Pittsboro, N.C. A few minutes from home, he swerved to avoid hitting a car that had suddenly stopped in front of him, lost control of his truck, rolled it and woke up in the hospital with a dislocated hip.

"I thought my whole body was broken," said Clark, who was saved by wearing his seat belt.

By early January, Clark was back in Baltimore to begin his rehabilitation. He didn't start running until April, but judging by the excellent pass routes and sure hands he has displayed since reporting to camp a week ago, Clark is sound.

"On the first day of camp, I wasn't coming off my cuts like I normally do, but I hadn't run a route since the

last game of the season," Clark said. "Right now, I feel just as quick as I normally am."

Setting the tone

Veteran cornerback Irvin Smith is coming back from a terrific season, in which he was named to the All-CFL team after starting all 18 regular-season games with Baltimore. Yesterday, Smith helped get the morning workout off to a rousing start.

Smith was covering rookie wide receiver Shannon Culver on an inside route, and as quarterback Tracy Ham delivered a well-thrown pass to Culver, Smith reached in and got his hand on the ball.

The entangled pair hit the ground and began battling for the ball. About 15 seconds passed, while Ham yelled, "Let it go!" and lineman Mike Withycombe and free safety Michael Brooks tried to separate them.

Finally, Smith emerged with the ball, and spiked it at Culver's feet. After the cheers subsided, everyone went back to work.

"There was no way he was coming up with it. He doesn't weigh enough," Smith said of the 165-pound Culver. "I hope that set the tone for practice. It's the mentality we have to go in with. We're not going to give up on any play."

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