Elfrid Payton's impact on the Baltimore Football Club has been measured. After joining the team in midseason last year, Payton energized the pass rush from his rush end position and turned the defense into a formidable unit.
In 11 games, Payton had 27 tackles, three sacks, forced three fumbles and recovered three fumbles. He was a huge reason the defense allowed only 309 yards per game. Before Payton's arrival, Baltimore gave up 400 yards per game.
One week into camp, Payton looks every bit as menacing, particularly in one-on-one drills. Blending an explosive first step with excellent hands, along with some attitude, he has given offensive tackles fits.
"You have to have a knack for pass rushing. You can't teach it," said Payton, 6 feet 1, 230 pounds. "I always come up to the line knowing, not thinking, that I can beat them [tackles]. I don't really believe there's anyone out there who can block me. I feel I'm going to win the battle every time. And if I don't, I figure it's just luck, or I made a mistake."
Cooke changes mind
Rookie defensive tackle Jeff Cooke, who is battling veteran Robert Presbury gamely for a job, did not practice yesterday afternoon. He surprised defensive line coach Marty Long after lunch by announcing that he was leaving camp. By the middle of the late workout, however, the word was that Cooke would return today after all.
"He's just confused. Training camp is a very tough thing. It can wear on your mind sometimes," said assistant general manager Jim Popp, who talked with Cooke. "The guy is vying for a starting position on our team. He's doing very well. It's just a state of confusion, and all he's done is miss one practice. Right now, it's not even an issue."
"The good part about it is he took one practice to think about things, and he's coming back," added coach Don Matthews. "He's got a chance."
Cooke, a 6-1, 270-pounder out of East Carolina, was cut from the New York Jets camp last year.
Cornerback Karl Anthony sat out the late practice with a strained calf muscle. Wide receiver Walter Wilson missed the morning workout with a sore hamstring. Quarterback Tracy Ham also did not participate in the afternoon drills. . . . Kicker Carlos Huerta has shaken the slump that frustrated him early in camp. Since Monday, when Huerta booted 15 of 18 field goals from 47 yards out, he has kicked well. . . . Starting today and every Saturday throughout the season, owner Jim Speros will be a guest on WBAL-TV's morning news show from 8:50 to 9:15 a.m.